November 22, 2011

Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Filling

Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

A recipe arrived in my inbox on Friday that could only make magic with that one last pumpkin perched on my counter.  My favorite newsletters/blog from was highlighting the joys of Thanksgiving treats, namely pumpkin-derived treats.  And standing out in their collage of autumnal food porn was the Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pie from Brown Eyed Baker.  It was destiny.

Now I'm including the recipe below because I made some modifications - as usual.  So what happened?  Well, the first problem was that I ignored the keyword "chilled" in front of "pumpkin puree".  I literally steamed my pumpkin, pureed and dumped it directly in with the wet ingredients.  The sugar melted from its fluffy state and became an egg-sugar-pumpkin soup.  There was really no recovery from its liquid state, so I tossed in the dry ingredients to see how bad the damage was.  It was bad.  It was like cake batter, not cookie dough.

Melted sugar-egg-pumpkin batter
Lesson:  Don't be so impatient! Cook and chill pumpkin before starting the recipe.

So if, in spite of my warnings, you do this anyway, this was my solution:  Add another egg.  Add another cup of flour.  Add 1/4 cup of sugar.  So the recipe below is the Oops! recipe.  I did test out some of the liquid batter to see how it baked compared to the Oops batter, and I saw little difference, honestly.  The added egg/flour only managed to fluff it up by a mere 1-2mm.  No where near the fluffiness of the ones on the BEB blog.  The flavor was not compromised.


You'll also note that I halved the filling.  I seriously had 1/2 bowl left from the original recipe, so unless you want to get diabetes in one sitting or toss out half your food stuffs, stick with the recipe below.  I also felt that the tart cream cheese heavily overwhelmed the maple syrup, so I kicked the maple up a notch.

Maple cream cheese filling whipped up in the KitchenAid

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie Dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Maple-Cream Cheese Filling

1.5 cups powdered sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  You can brush and flip the parchment to cycle through, since I ended up putting 6 professional-sized baking sheets-worth of cookies inside and ran out of parchment.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In your mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, and oil together. Next add the pumpkin puree (when its chilled!), eggs and vanilla.

4. Lastly, gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture.  You may want the shield on your mixer bowl since it tends to splash up a lot of flour in the process of mixing.

5. Use a small cookie scoop to deposit mounds of dough on the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  They'll puff up a bit and look a little golden on the edges.  If you lift the underside of a cookie, it will be just beginning to color.  You may want to test a cookie at this point also, just to make sure it's baked thoroughly.

Now I brought these puppies into work, since that's where I pawn off all my treats before I gluttonously eat themself.  Best response yet!  Here is a selection of the e-mails and verbal comments I was made!

"I went home last night feeling so terrible because I didn't tell you how amazing the whoopie pies were!"  "Me too!  I meant to e-mail you and felt so bad that I didn't give you feedback!" - Meridith + Dov
"You should seriously consider opening your own bakery. They are delicious. Thanks for sharing." -David
"Your pastries were SO delicious yesterday." - Chris (and I don't think he was just sucking up to me because I'm his new boss)
"I went back for seconds but... they were all gone!" and holds up the empty tupperware container with a sad look. - Mitchell

November 6, 2011

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

I'm completely serious when I tell you that I still have those sugar pumpkins in my kitchen just waiting for me to make use of them.  And now that I'm no longer eating vegan (did I mention this?  I started November as a regular vegetarian again), it was clear that I had to indulge in the most decadant of dairy comfort foods: macaroni and cheese.

But what about pumpkin macaroni and cheese?  It's been done.  It's been in Gourmet, Better Homes and Gardens, the Food Network, a million food blogs, but not by me!  And surely that's a massive oversight.  I love pumpkin.  I love cheese.  Marrying the two together in a creamy, spicy autumn dish sounds like just the ticket to heaven.

And fat thighs.

So rather than try to make this dish healthy (because really, can you?  I think not), I just dropped down the serving size to reduce the temptation to overindulge.  This is a two serving recipe that you should be able to double if you're serving more than one or two.

Some notes on the recipe before we get started.  I only had vanilla soy milk in the house, so where I would normally use milk in the cheese sauce, I ended up using plain greek yogurt. I'm quite pleased with the results and will likely continue to use it in the future. I also only happened to have Four Cheese Mexican shredded, which I'd hesitate to use as my cheese base - opting for an American or Gruyere, something super melty, but this actually turned out fairly well once creamed with the yogurt and butter.

Now I left the house while roasting my pumpkin and remember, in a panic, two hours later that it was in the oven.  My pumpkin was a bit brown on the skin and the underside blackened on the surface, but the great part is that the skin peeled off instantly, as did the crusty edge, leaving a rich, flavorful well-roasted pumpkin interior.  Lesson learned: None.  Without proper ramifications, I will continue my spree of nearly burning down the house via the oven/stove.

 My last note is that I love adding a spicy kick to pretty much every savory dish.  My most frequently used spice is cayenne pepper.  Add this, or not.  I put it in both the cheese sauce and the crumb topping.  I highly recommend including, but I do recognize that cayenne in every single dish isn't for everyone.  I'm thinking next time that I might toss in some chipotle in adobo sauce to kick things up a notch as well. 

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

3/4 cup of roasted sugar pumpkin
1 cup of Ezekial 4:9 rotini (or other pasta)
1 cup of shredded cheese (use what you have or love)
2 Tbsp of plain greek yogurt
1 Tbsp salted butter
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 Tbsp of butter, diced
1/4 cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

The first step is roasting the pumpkin.  I pretty much exclusively roast vegetables.  It is a slow cook method that caramelizes and brings out the richest flavors.  To do this I halved the sugar pumpkin, chopped off the stem, cleared out the seeds and lay it face down on an olive oil-greased pan. Place it in the oven until the flesh is tender, the edge caramelized (or go shopping and leave it in the oven for two hours until it's burnt and just scrape off the toasty parts).

Pumpkin Mac and CheesePumpkin Mac and Cheese

The next step is cooking up the pasta.  I exclusively eat Ezekial 4:9 pastas, which are rich and dimensional in flavor with high protein content and wide nutritional profile.  This pasta cooks a bit quicker than your average pasta, so if you go with it, make sure to test for readiness after 6 minutes or so.  Once done, drain and set aside.

Pumpkin Mac and CheesePumpkin Mac and Cheese

The cream sauce is quick and easy.  In a saucepan, toss in your garlic along with the cheese, butter and yogurt.  Cook on low and constantly stir until creamy.  Add pumpkin.  Once combined, toss in any spices just as you take it off the stove.

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Fold sauce into the pasta.  Top with a combination of bread crumbs, salt and spice.  Then pop into the oven until the top is a golden brown and the sides are bubbling.  Eat.

Pumpkin Mac and CheesePumpkin Mac and Cheese

Bonus:  Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Using up all the parts, I threw my pumpkin seeds in the oven with some olive oil, salt and chilli powder.  I totally do not recommend using any oil.  I don't know why I did.  The wet pumpkin guts are enough to stick the seasoning to the seeds.

Pumpkin Seeds Pumpkin Seeds
One sugar pumpkin down!  One last pumpkin to go.

November 1, 2011

Bloody Broken Glass Cupcakes

Bloody Shattered Glass Cupcake
Bloody Broken Glass Cupcake

Halloween is my favorite holiday of all time.  I actually think that it should be a national holiday that gives people that day off from work.  That way we can spend our day putting on costumes and hosting lengthy themed parties.  Parents will easily be able to take their kids trick or treating mid-day rather than rush home after work.  We get time off for religious observances, right?  Can Halloween be my religion?

This year I decided that I was stepping my Halloween cupcakes up a notch.  I always stick with cupcakes, since they're easy to grab at parties.  There can be individuality to each cupcake as well.  Usually I do frosting-and-candy based monsters and creepy creatures.  But this year, I came across a pin on pinterest that took my breath away.  Bloody shattered glass stabbing into a perfectly pristine white cupcake.  Gruesome.

Not only do they look impressive, but easy on an effort scale.  I mean, individual monsters actually cost me more time than bringing sugar to the hard crack stage, and whipping up a batch of syrupy blood.

I consulted multiple sources for the concoction of realistic looking blood and the easiest, clearest sugar glass recipe.  In the end, I adapted a Martha sugar glass recipe for similar cupcakes and followed a great tutorial on edible fake blood from the Clockwork Lemon blog.

Bloody Broken Glass Cupcakes  
Bloody Broken Glass Cupcakes

Classic buttercream topped vanilla cupcakes

This is all up to you. Homemade, box, whatever. Just put together your classic white cupcakes. White so that the blood shows in stark contrast. I also recommend picking up some black cupcake liners, or thick premium white liners. The regular store bought white liners tend to discolor with the cupcake.

Bloody Broken Glass Cupcakes

Sugar Glass
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup

For the sugar glass, combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan set to medium-high and clip your candy thermometer onto the side. Bring the mixture to a boil, drop the stove temperature down to medium and simply stir. And stir. And stir. Seriously, stir for like 45 minutes until the water evaporates off and your thermometer reaches 350F. Once your sugar reaches temperature, remove it immediately from the heat and pour it in a thin layer into a greased baking metal baking pan. I used butter to grease mine with, which was a poor plan. It turns your glass yellowish. So make sure to use something clear like shortening to avoid yellow swirls and cloudiness in your sugar glass. Allow to set until hard. Twist the pan to pop out the sugar glass and crack as desired.

Edible Fake Blood
1/4 cup corn syrup
Wiltons no-taste red gel dye
Wiltons black gel dye
Hot cocoa powder

Bloody Broken Glass Cupcakes

You don't really need much of this, so my recipe creates only a small amount of this fake blood. I found that the Wilton gel dyes created a much stronger color. Make sure to mix the dyes and syrup in Pyrex or other glass because it will otherwise stain plastics. I used the tiniest dot of black (it goes a looooong way) and quite a bit of red. Experiment. You can use the cocoa powder to create opacity in the blood. Just make sure to mix well so that it doesn't look gritty.

The final product can be styled in a most gruesome fashion to wow all of your friends and coworkers!

Bloody Broken Glass Cupcakes Bloody Broken Glass Cupcakes Bloody Broken Glass Cupcakes
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