Playing with Pumpkin: a worthy recap

Pumpkins are everywhere! Everywhere, that is, except in my kitchen, where they are disappearing into the oven almost as soon as they arrive. Once taken from their roasting pan, they are mashed, creamed or blended up and disguised as all kinds of autumn treats.

Yesterday I slow cooked three of these gorgeous orange orbs with a sac of apples and some spices to make a succulent Pumpkin-Apple Butter with Vanilla Bean. Now I have 17 pretty jars lining my pantry shelf–mementos of fall and its produce. (Recipe to come)

I couldn’t resist highlighting some other ways we like to enjoy pumpkin around here. These recipes are from a series I did last fall as a result of playing with pumpkin. Plenty of fun, plenty of treats–who needs Halloween?!

Pictures above is the oh-so-memorable Pumpkin Spice Cake. I’ve been dying for a good reason to make this cake again, but with all the pie leftover from Thanksgiving, we really don’t need any more sweets. This recipe also makes killer cupcakes: moist, tender and spicy.

Wait a sec…I do have that cupcake event coming up soon. Maybe I’ll get my chance to make Pumpkin Spice Cake after all.

Alright, some people loved this Pumpkin Pie Fudge, some people didn’t. It’s subjective to personal taste. What do you think? Are you a pumpkin pie fudge kind of person or not??

Everyone –my picky preschooler included!!– loves these Pumpkin Muffins with Golden Raisins. They are Eat-Three-Muffins-During-A-Five-Minute-Photo-Shoot kind of good.’Nuff said.
I’ve been saving the best (and the baddest) for last: Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies.Ever since Deb’s stunning photo’s of these treats permanently imprinted themselves on my eyelids, I wasn’t given relief until I actually made–and ate–them for myself.Let me just say this: pumpkin and chocolate were made for each other.Alright, now go lug home a pumpkin, get the biggest knife you’ve got to split the thing open and get cooking. I’ve provided some inspiration (hopefully!) and motivation (um, yummy treats, Hello), now you just have to get busy.Watch out for the brownies, though, they make a pile of dishes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Playing with Pumpkin: Pumpkin Pie Fudge

In case you have any leftover pumpkin puree from all those Thanksgiving pies, here’s one last recipe idea to help use it up and then I’ll stop with the onslaught of pumpkin posts already!

Let me just say, it was not my idea to combine pumpkin with fudge, but rather a request from a good friend who remembered having it as a child and it was ‘the best thing ever’.
I had my doubts.

So despite my reservations and although Dave is my arch-nemesis in the game Settlers of Catan, I couldn’t say no to his request and went searching for recipes for pumpkin fudge. This one on Allrecipes reminded me of last year’s Killer Crack Peanut Butter Fudge, and I decided to give it a shot.

The result was…Meh.
It had the perfect fudge texture, I couldn’t complain about that, but the pumpkin flavor was SO strong, TOO strong–and I love pumpkin! I couldn’t figure out what exactly it was about this fudge that I did not like–in fact I almost convinced myself that I DID like it, but after it had sat around for a few weeks (gulp), I had to be straight with myself.

“Self” I said, “Fudge is lucky if it lasts 24 hours in this house. Face it. You hate this fudge.”

Now, why would I give you this recipe? Because taste is subjective and some people loved this fudge. No, not just people who were tying to get on my good side, but real pumpkin pie connoisseurs (you know who I am talking about). So this recipe is for you. You’re welcome.

Oh and you were probably wondering, did my friend Dave like it? Was it everything that he remembered and more?
Um, not so much.
Incidentally, today is his birthday though, so Happy Birthday, Dave!

Pumpkin Pie Fudge

2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup white chocolate chips

7 ounces marshmallow creme
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Line a 9×9 inch pan with aluminum foil, and set aside.
2. In a 3 quart saucepan, heat milk and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
3. Mix in pumpkin puree and cinnamon; bring back to a boil. Stir in marshmallow creme and butter. Bring to a rolling boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 18 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, and add white chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until creamy and all chips are melted. Pour into prepared pan. Cool, remove from pan, and cut into squares. Store in a cool, dry place.

Playing with Pumpkin: the Series.

Part One:Chocolate-Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

Part Two: Pumpkin Muffins with Golden Raisins

Part Three: Pumpkin Spice Cake

Playing with Pumpkin: Pumpkin Spice Cake

Apparently, Anthony Bourdain’s little one and a half year old daughter has the palate every foodie hopes their child will have. She eats olives like candy, munches on capers, and dines on roast rabbit and polenta with nettles for dinner. Naturally, this makes Tony very proud–and me, well, let’s just say I feel the need to let off some steam.
How did I end up with the picky eater again? Did I not eat enough beating cobra hearts when I was on my world travels?* Didn’t I do my time in the kitchen trenches? It is the smoking?

I think I might like him a little less now. Darn, it so hard, though. If he hadn’t made that oh-so-memorable No Reservations episode here in Quebec and wasn’t like my favorite celeb chef, I just might have it in for him and his perfect little girl.

Ach, Tony, I guess I’m happy for you.

How to tie that rant in with this super-moist pumpkin spice cake? I have no idea, but I guess if you have a picky eater and want to disguise some squash, this recipe is for you.
We certainly loved it and this weekend I’m doing a cupcake version for my mother-in-law’s wedding shower. That’s right, we’ve gone from a jam factory to a cupcake bakery here at UtHC. More on that coming soon.

These are originally called ‘bars’ but when I hear ‘bar’ I think nuts, caramel, gooey…these are like a slice of cake and that’s all there is to it. The recipe is adapted from here. I know, I know, I won’t make a habit of it.

These also make some pretty decent cupcakes, but I bet you’ve already thought of that.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

15-ounce can pumpkin

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter,softened

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth.
Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

To make the icing:
Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and maple syrup and mix again. Fill a piping bag and pipe frosting onto cooled pumpkin bars.

*For the record, I have never eaten a snake’s heart, but Bourdain has. He was in like Morocco or someplace. It’s a good story.

Playing with Pumpkin: Pumpkin Muffins with Golden Raisins

I never really liked muffins until just a few years ago. Every one I encountered was dry, tasteless, crumbly and completely devoid of any personality. I have finally experimented with enough recipes to have a few types in my repertoire that are always fantastic…but even they get a little boring.
I was skeptical of this recipe from as I was sure the addition of whole wheat flour would make them heavy, just like the muffins we ate when I was growing up–healthy, oh you bet, but they were like little hockey pucks with flavor!

I could not have been more pleasantly surprised by this recipe! They were tender, oh-so-moist, and had just enough of that spiced pumpkin flavor to feel like a true autumn muffin.
I ate at least three during the little coffee percolator photo shoot.
I am thrilled to have another moist and memorable muffin recipe under my belt and an eager to try some variations. With dark chocolate chunks, maybe? Dried apples?
It’s going to be a great winter after all!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Golden Raisins

adapted from ‘Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 24 medium muffins.

3/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, spooned and leveled

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups pumpkin puree

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

3 large eggs

1 cup brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons more for sprinkling

1/2 cup golden raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush muffin tins with oil; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, spices, and baking soda; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk oil, pumpkin puree, yogurt, eggs, and 1 cup sugar to combine; add raisins and reserved dry ingredients. Mix just until moistened (do not overmix).

4. Divide evenly and spoon batter into muffin tins; sprinkle tops with remaining sugar (I skipped this part) Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 5 minutes in pan.

Playing with Pumpkin: Chocolate-Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

It’s November already! Sorry, I’m just coming to terms with the fact that it is no longer fall, but winter around here, and every afternoon struggle to get the snowsuits and warm gear on for our walk is a reminder that the lazy days of summer are truly gone. Although we have no snow yet, the frigid wind biting our cheeks and noses whispers that it is not far off. Brrr.

If it seems like all I have been posting lately is sweets and more sweets, you’re right, and I have more of the same coming up, so I hope you don’t mind. I don’t know why it works out like that; we DO eat stuff other than apple pie and apple cake, but I usually figure you wouldn’t be too interested in our day-to-day casual comfort fare. I mean, autumn beef stew and chicken-leek pot pie is pretty ho-hum, you know what I mean?

So here is another round of recipes requiring that you dig deep in to that sugar barrel and reach for some spices: It’s Pumpkin Week on UtHC! Stop! Do not throw out those Halloween pumpkins!

We went to a patch recently where I picked up several pumpkins for decorations on the front steps because they were just so pretty. Well, I hate waste, so eventually they were roasted, pureed up and turned in to all sorts of delectable things.
And so I give you Playing with Pumpkin, a four part series featuring the humble squash…and, what’s this, some toys? Huh?

What’s the fun of having a blog if one can’t play around a little, right?
A few years ago, in one of those freak garage sale finds, I discovered a super cute, retro kitchen set and picked it up for Noah, who was still an infant. The mini appliances have had a lot of use since then, as now, when I am baking, Noah sets them up alongside my Kitchen Aid and I let him use real ingredients to make…well, a huge mess, really.

They have such fun, bright colors and I couldn’t resist pairing them with treats from my recent baking marathon.
Part 1 of Playing with Pumpkin features a mini food processor with a removable lid and blades that really turn when you press the button! What fun!

We first baked these Pumpkin Swirl Brownies, a recipe that caught my attention on Martha Stewart, and then again over at Smitten Kitchen. Deb’s photo’s were enough to make me bookmark the recipe in my “Foods to make ASAP” file (that’s right, not just “sometime in the future, but NOW” folder) and after a quick check of ingredients, Noah and I got down to the business of melting chocolate and cracking eggs, while Mateo played happily on the floor with the measuring spoons.

Oh, the only bummer about this recipe is that it makes a of of dishes–or plenty of bowls and spatulas to lick, depending on how you look at it! They taste fabulous, not overly sweet, not to ‘squashy’. If you like how chocolate and zucchini go together, then you must try these brownies. I did have a hard time calling them ‘brownies’, though, they are more like a cake or perhaps a bar.
I’m sorry, but a brownie has to have a certain gooeyness about it for me.

One last thing, I used my own pumpkin for this recipe. I purchased the smaller sugar pumpkins, halved them and roasted them off in the oven. Then I pureed the flesh with a multiquick, one of my Top 10 Favorite Kitchen Items, and hung it in a cheesecloth for an hour or two to get rid of the excess liquid. Works like a charm and leaves me with a firm pumpkin puree that’s a lot milder than the canned stuff.

Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies

Makes 16.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter lining.

2. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.

4. Divide batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl). Stir chocolate mixture into one bowl. In other bowl, stir in pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don’t set.

5. With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect.
6. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.