Pumpkin Archives - Parsley, Sage, and Sweet

Jumbo Cheesecake Stuffed Pumpkin Muffins with Toffee Streusel

December 9, 2011 at 8:49 am | Posted in Breads, Cakes, Candy, Dessert | 49 Comments
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Once again I come armed with pumpkin, cheesecake and a squeeze bottle of chocolate ganache, which is a combination you’ve seen on my blog twice in the past month, from pie to these muffins.  Not to mention pumpkin nutella snickerdoodle bars, pumpkin povitica, and pumpkin gnocchi. Five pumpkin recipes in a little over a month.

Pumpkin, Sage and Sweet?


Wellll…I told you I wasn’t done with pumpkin.  Actually, I made these back in October, but was going to make them again because I made a small mistake which led to an aesthetic issue with me.  This is the life of a food blogger, if it ain’t pretty, you hem and haw, and sometimes make it again, even if it’s absolutely perfect in the palate department and the last thing you need is another batch of whatever you made hanging around for you to consume.

People eat with their eyes when they look at food blogs, so it’s up to the food blogger to put out as pretty and mouth-watering a photo as he/she can get.


In my case, that’s not an easy task.  The cheaper artificial lighting is not kind to the details that make one’s mouth water.  BUT, I do my best..and I do have that small, patch of dim sunlight I just found,  As I mentioned above, these photos were shot weeks ago, before my mediocre ‘light patch’  discovery – which needs a lot of futzing with before I decide that either A) The small amount of light is not worth the blur since I can’t fit  a tripod in that area, and it needs a tripod even more than my artificial lighting! or B) I start to experience physical pain from twisting my body into unnatural positions just to get the shot in this small nook.

Having said all that, my mistake, which I will get to in a moment, led to messy muffin tops, except for one.

I finally decided not to make a new batch and post as is.  I just couldn’t have another few of these tempting me, all in the name of perfectly beautiful muffins for my blog.

I cobbled these muffins together using a recipe for Jumbo Pumpkin Pecan Streusel muffins from Taste of Home that I like – minus the pecans in the muffin batter, but doubled the streusel and added chopped chocolate covered toffee to it.  I used some homemade toffee in the freezer, from this recipe, but you can use chopped Skor or Heath bars if you like.


We all love muffin tops
It’s the stumps that get the raw end of the deal.  If there’s nothing in the stumps (chocolate chips, nuts..fillings), they’re usually kind of boring and, I’m sure there’s been times your stumps have ended up in the trash.  The big, fluffy muffin tops are always the star, and usually pretty filling..so the stumps are a 50/50 deal.  Eat or chuck – unless you can wrangle up a ‘Cleaner’.

Here’s the part I really love. I filled my stumps, but not only filled them, REALLY filled them.  You don’t just get that usual one bite circle of filling in these – every bite of the stump contains creamy cheesecake.   There’s one full-proof, fantastic way to do this, that doesn’t involve a spoon, which leads to a messy batter ‘plop and splatter’, and not that much filling once baked.  OR – you don’t bake them first, then cut a  gaping hole in the bottom, basically emptying out the stump, piping in a cooked or eggless cheesecake whip, and plugging with the jagged, crumbly part you cut out. Annoying.

Kind of looks like bacon streusel, doesn’t it?  Although I think that’s an idea waiting to happen, it’s the chocolate toffee melted on the streusel crumb.

This is what you do, and I got this brilliant idea from Chef Dennis from A Culinary Journey via his exquisite Black and White Muffins.  You fill a pastry bag with the infamous 1 bar of cream cheese ‘cheesecake recipe’ of no known or definitive origin.  Next, you fill your jumbo muffin cups half way with the pumpkin batter and then, stick that cheesecake batter filled pastry bag with a plain tip, or ziplock bag with an end snipped off, smack dab in the middle of the pumpkin muffin batter and squeeeeeze…

…squeeeeze until that pumpkin batter rises in the muffin well until it’s about 2/3 to 3/4’s full.

Here’s where I messed up, but didn’t really mess up because it’s a question of…

To dome or not to dome?


Do you see that little white circle of cheesecake in the middle of the pumpkin batter in the demo photos?  If you do not cover it with more pumpkin batter, the toffee streusel will sink into it, as you see in most of my photos.  BUT, this is not a bad thing.  What you lose aesthetically as far as a big, fat, fluffy, streusel topped domes go, you make up for with extra gooey melted toffee streusel in part of the cheesecake filling.

On the flip side, you cover up that little hole with pumpkin batter, and the streusel topping remains on top, along with a beautiful dome, like you see in the first photo with the black background.

I did not cover the cheesecake batter circles on 7 out of 8 of my muffins.  The last one I did because there was only enough cheesecake batter to rise it to a little less than 2/3’s full – so I scraped out every last bit of pumpkin batter, and filled it the rest of the way.

SO, your choice, big, beautiful ‘impress your guests/recipients’ domed jumbo muffins with a crumbly, crunchy toffee streusel, or a flatter topped muffin with melted, gooey streusel inside-out.  You can’t lose either way..unless it’s a beauty contest.

Muffins and Tiaras.


If you find gooey, muddled, flat top muffins ‘too ugly’ to present to guests or for gifting, just drizzle melted chocolate on top of them.  I think that hikes the beauty quotient up quite a bit.  Melted, chocolate drizzle is one of the most beautiful things in the world.

Hmm..but then the same can be done to hotty dome queen and it’ll look even more gorgeous.  Who said the life of a muffin was fair?

Finally, I think my giant, rough and tumble looking muffins would have a mad crush on these beauties. So delicate and tea party with white gloves, ready – the antithesis of my scruffy, muscled blue-collar workers with calloused hands.  The Muffin Notebook.

Jumbo Cheesecake Stuffed Pumpkin Muffins with Toffee Streusel
Adapted from Taste of Home, with my revisions
YieldL About 8 – 10 jumbo muffins – 18-20 standard size muffins

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup roasted pumpkin puree (If using canned, strain puree overnight in a colander)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cheesecake Filling
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg

Toffee Streusel
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
2/3 cup finely chopped chocolate covered toffee
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients.

2. In another bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened – do not overdo it, you’ll get tough muffins.  Just a few folds until no flour remains.

3.  Make the filling. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, egg, salt and vanilla beat until smooth.  Do not over beat.  Spoon the cream cheese filling into a pastry bag with a medium plain tip or a zip-lock bag with one end snipped off.  Set Aside.

4. Make the streusel topping. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pecans, chopped toffee and flour; cut in butter until crumbly. Place in fridge, covered, until ready to use.

5. Grease the top of the jumbo muffin tins lightly, making sure the  area around each muffin well is greased.  These babies rise a lot and spread a bit. If you don’t use jumbo muffin liners,  grease each well too.

6. Fill the 8 to 10 greased or paper-lined jumbo muffin cups half way with pumpkin batter.  Place cheesecake batter filled pastry bag in the middle of each half filled muffin well, and squeeze in the filling until the batter rises and fills the lined muffin wells 2/3 to 3/4ths full.  Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release air bubbles, which I forgot to do, hence some of the holes in my cheesecake filling.

7. Cover white circles of cheesecake on top with any extra pumpkin batter, or just scoop from the sides or underneath.  If you don’t care about a big, muffin dome, skip this step.

8. Dump large handfuls of toffee streusel over muffin batter.  Make sure to keep it contained in the muffin well -mounding it like little mountains.  Any that spills onto muffin pan, wipe off or brush into one of the wells. Ignore my raw streusel photos…I wiped all that extra crumb off ;D

9. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes (about 15-18 minutes for standard sized muffins) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

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Pumpkin Pie Nutella Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle Bars for SRC and #cookielove

December 5, 2011 at 10:58 am | Posted in Cookies, Dessert, Holiday, Puddings, SRC, Vegetables | 49 Comments
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I think I need to come up with a shorter name for these, huh?  I was thrilled when my Secret Recipe Club blog assignment arrived and the blog assigned to me, Megan’s Cooking, had a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Bars.  I’ve seen these all over the net and they’ve been bookmarked forever.  That said, I loved getting Megan’s Cooking because even though I had my heart set on these, there were so many amazing recipes to choose from, so if these didn’t work out, the sky was the limit.  On my holiday baking list, her No-Bake Nutella cookies, Pistachio Bites etc.. among many other great cookie recipes she has, not to mention everything else outside of cookies!


OK, OK…YES, another pumpkin recipe.  I had two sugar pumpkins left for roasting, so I’m NOT done with pumpkin yet!  In fact, my next post is something awesome with pumpkin, and I’m sure I’ll get at least another one in before the New Year.  Did I tell you I love pumpkin?  Is it that obvious?  4 pumpkin recipes in a little over a month – I guess it is.

I also love Nutella.  More than pumpkin, possibly more than most things.

Nutella is something I truly believe you can eat on anything outside of proteins.  Hmmm…then again, I think I’d even try a Nutella roast turkey, wouldn’t you?

Nutella reminds me of my roommate (The only normal one, but what’s normal?  Am I normal?), at the rehab facility where I was getting physical therapy for my knee, who shattered her ankle, so we both had wheelchairs with leg extenders.  People always knew when we were coming around the corner because they saw leg first.  We even leg extender crashed into each other several times.  Thanks to her husband’s many trips to the market for ‘good’ food for us, we each had our own jar of Nutella.  One morning I woke up – the sun glaring through the window, but not as brightly as Sharon’s smile.

“I just spread Nutella on my toast and I’m so happy!” she exclaimed, with a thousand watt smile.

I pulled over my breakfast tray, pulled out my jar of Nutella, and was soon just as happy.  Physical therapy was somehow a little less painful that morning.

So, here I was, one bowl of beige snickerdoodle cookie dough, one bowl of pumpkin pie topping.  As great as the bars would be just ‘as is’- it needed something.  These were blank canvases just waiting to be painted.  Out came my chocolate chip brush, all over the cookie dough – about 1 cup.  After I pressed it into the pan and spread the pumpkin cakey pie filling on top, there it was again, that blank canvas.  I knew exactly what it needed.  I was going to make this pumpkin pie topping A LOT happier.  As you can see, I did.

I also added a bit of cinnamon to the cookie dough because even though these bars are topped with cinnamon sugar – the base is simply a plain cookie, or in my case, a basic chocolate chip cookie dough without it.  It needed to live up to it’s name, it needed to be more ‘snickerdoodley’.


On another note, I have some news for you all.  I found some natural light in my place.  Now, it’s not bright, it’s not direct, it’s simply a 12-inch or less square of light that hangs out until about 2pm.  I noticed it accidentally when I was on my hands and knees looking for something in that area and saw it spread across my hand.  It was like a handshake, a Hellloooo, Lisa!  I immediately grabbed my camera, placed an apple in this tiny area and snapped away. Not great, and nowhere near enough light, or room for a tripod.  Not to mention, it was a little blurry, and well, a little uncomfortable since I have to contort my body to take photos in such a small space, but definitely a little more of those food details I’ve desperately coveted for a long, long, LONG time.

Now I have to find a way to work with this small amount of mediocre light, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet, even at 1.8 and 2.8 f-stops.

This doesn’t mean I get to totally eradicate my Lowel Ego lights (in fact, this post is a bit of both), but it does mean that every so often, with a lot of post process lightening, I can see the glisten of an egg yolk, the swirl within a white frosting, the juice dripping from a slice of beef, the delicate crumb of a cake, etc!.  An underwhelming, semi excited ‘yay’.  I’ll take anything at this point, anything!!

UPDATE - scratch all of the above…it was a fluke patch of light.  Figures.

Now for the linky’s, and once again, I have two.  First, the blue froggy from this month’s Secret Recipe Club for Group A.  Check out all the great recipes prepared from everyone’s blog assignments!

Second…cookie love!  Please join in on the #cookielove fun by linking up any cookie recipe from the *month of December 2011. Don’t forget to link back to this post so that your readers know to come stop by the #cookielove event! The twitter hashtag is #cookielove. Wait until you see all the fantastic cookies, plus, it’ll give you more than a few ideas and recipes for your holiday baking!

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Pumpkin Pie Nutella Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle Bars
Adapted from Megan’s Cooking via Julia, author Of Dozen Flours- with my revisions

Snickerdoodle Layer
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup mini-chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.

Pumpkin Pie – Nutella Layer
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups fresh roasted or canned pumpkin puree
1/2 to 3/4 cup Nutella

Topping
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:
1.  Lightly butter or oil spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan or dish.  If desired, line with parchment paper, two edges hanging over, so you can lift the whole uncut bar out of the pan for easier cutting.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture into the egg mixture until uniform. Stir in the mini-chocolate chips. Spread the dough as evenly as you can on the bottom of the pan.

3. In a mixer bowl (you can use the same one you used to make the snickerdoodle dough) with a paddle attachment, mix together butter and sugar (You can also use a hand mixer, or a just a spoon) Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. This mixture is looser, so pour/scrape over the snickerdoodle layer, smoothing out the top. Preheat oven to 350F.

4.  Drop tablespoons of Nutella over the top of the pumpkin pie mixture.  About 4 rows of three dollops.  Marble gently with a knife or spoon.

5. Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.

6. Bake at 350F for about 35-45 minutes, (depending on your oven..for some, it has taken longer) or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bars cool completely (about an hour).
.
7. Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Place on a cutting board and cut into bars.  Drizzle cut bars with melted chocolate (better to drizzle them when cut so some chocolate drips down every side).

8. Let chocolate set or eat them before the chocolate sets (which we did). Store any remaining bars in a covered container, preferably in the fridge so they last longer.

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Three Pies in One – Cheesecake Pumpkin Pecan Pie & The Giveaway Winner!

November 15, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Dessert, Giveaway, Pies/Tarts, Puddings, Vegetables, Vegetarian | 110 Comments
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Whenever I think of Thanksgiving, I think of pie.  Bulging golden apple pie, deep orange, custardy pumpkin pie, gooey sweet, toasty pecan pie, luscious, rich…well, you get the picture.  Don’t get me wrong, visions of stuffing and candied sweet potatoes dance through my head too, but for some reason, since I started food blogging – PIE is the Footloose Kevin Bacon doing the handsprings on the dance floor of my cerebral cortex.


Pumpkin pie has always been a favorite of mine, a pie I crave when the weather starts to cool and the leaves start falling.  The reason it became a favorite might have been because it was the bad boy pie, the elusive pie, the pie I wasn’t allowed to date or hang out with because my parents didn’t approve.

My family hated pumpkin pie.

As a child and young teen, how I craved a taste of those smooth, burnt orange, shiny surfaced pies, beckoning me with a whiff of pumpkinny goodness every time I saw one, whether it be at the supermarket, when I tried to sneak one into my Mother’s shopping cart, or the Fall bake sale at school, where I was only given enough money to buy some chocolate chip cookies.


I’ll never forget the day I got to finally sink my teeth into the creamy, spiced custard in a buttery, flaky crust, that is pumpkin pie.  I was about 15, and the Fall bake sale at my HS was in full bloom, packed with kids and teachers vying for that last rice krispie treat, almost stampeding over each other to grab a bunch of the ‘good’chocolate chip cookies that one Mom was known for (I always felt sorry for the other chocolate chip cookie Mom’s, who’s plates of cookies remained untouched).  I took baby steps toward a pumpkin pie, cut into slices, at the edge of the table.  I couldn’t just steal a slice…I needed to do this in a somewhat civilized manner, as in errr…

“I’m doing a report on pumpkin pie, and I’ve never tasted one.  I wish I could buy a slice, but I don’t have enough money”

The PTA Mom winked at me and slyly slid a slice my way, ignoring the fact that my parents could probably afford to buy me a slice of pumpkin pie.

One bite and I was in heaven.  I knew we were meant to be.  From that day forward, even though pumpkin pie was still met with grimaces come Thanksgiving, my parents were nice enough to buy me a pumpkin pie.  Of course, I couldn’t eat it all, and had to endure the “Yuck, how can you eat that?” barbs and jokes, but it was well worth every bite.

To this day…my family still hates pumpkin pie or anything pumpkin in general.  To quote my father – from a very recent conversation we had about Thanksgiving this year;

“I just hate the smell of raw pumpkins”

“Have you ever tried it cooked?”

“NO, and I don’t want to, so don’t try to push pumpkin pie on me, my stance hasn’t and never will change”

Oh, wow..all these years, and no pumpkin gene has kicked in – no moment of discovery when finding out something he ate contained pumpkin.  Does that mean I’m not bringing one to Thanksgiving dinner? A big HELL no.  For years, coconut custard pie was the ‘pumpkin pie’ replacement at our Thanksgiving dessert table, and I do love me a nice slice of coconut custard pie, but once adulthood set in, no one could stop me from placing a gorgeous, homemade pumpkin pie beside it. Someone always found a way to push it to the side, the dark corner of the gymnasium during the HS dance – a total dessert outcast – shunned, blackballed…a scarlet P on its shiny surface. I was the ‘friend’ who stood by it, the one who would never leave it to stand alone – in other words, I slid it back into the rotation every time I passed the dessert table, IN FRONT of the coconut custard. Ha ha.

Once I learned to bake pies, I tried many variations of pumpkin pie, from pumpkin cheese pie, to pumpkin pie with pecan streusel, to a recipe an ex BF’s Mom gave me where the cream cheese layer was beneath the pumpkin filling.  I LOVED that idea, and the pie itself, so that was my go to for many Thanksgivings to come.


Present day – as in today..well, last night.  I decided I needed to get at least one Thanksgiving pie favorite of mine up on this blog.  At first it was going to be the old pumpkin ‘cheese layer’ pie, but then I had this hankering for pecan pie too, and couldn’t decide which direction I wanted to take.  Then it hit me…why not combine all three, as in turning the pecan streusel from one pumpkin pie recipe into a more pecan pie like topping?  It worked – crunchy and gooey.  Three pies in one.  No choosing, no juggling a slice of cheesecake, pecan pie and pumpkin pie on one plate, trying not to look silly as you take bites of each at once.

I almost added caramelized apples to the cheesecake layer to make it a Pumpkin Apple Cheesecake Pecan Pie, but decided that was overkill.  What do you think?

The cheesecake layer is your standard formula for swirling into brownies, filling cupcakes or muffins , marbling into cake batters and sweet breads etc, prior to baking.  It’s a formula that I’ve had memorized for years and it always works. No specific place where it comes from – it’s all over the net.  1 bar of cream cheese cheesecake creator – do you exist?


Finally, I submitted this Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake Pie to the Food Network’s Virtual Thanksgiving – A Communal Table.  The hashtag on Twitter is #pullupachair – I couldn’t resist.  Below is the virtual Thanksgiving menu created by all of us.  What a feast, huh?  Click on the links and be prepared to drool.

The Food Network Communal Table Thanksgiving Feast

Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:

Eat Be Mary: She’s Mulling It Over Wine
Cookistry: Bread With Ancient Grains
Celebrity Chefs and Their Gardens: The American Hotel Peconic Clam Chowder
Picky Eater Blog: Butternut Squash Soup With Thyme and Parmesan
Good Food Good Friends: Mushroom Soup

Mains:
Examiner.com: Grilled Quail with a Warm Beet, Frisée, and Pistachio Salad
She Wears Many Hats:
Mayonnaise Roasted Turkey

Sides:
Living Mostly Meatless: Vegan-Friendly Corn Casserole
Healthy Green Kitchen: Red Kuri Squash Pie
The Naptime Chef: Crispy Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes
Gluten-Free Blondie: Apple and Cranberry Studded Stuffing
Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat: Blue Cheese and Rosemary Celebration Potatoes
Burnt Lumpia: Turkey, Sweet Potato and Cranberry Empanadas
Panfusine: Pan Fried Polenta Seasoned With Cumin, Ginger & Black Pepper
Homemade Cravings: Warm Brussels Sprouts and Cranberry Slaw
Bakeaholic Mama: Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Crispy Prosciutto
Show Food Chef: Beer-Braised Brussels Sprouts
T’s Tasty Bits: Sweet Empanadas with Pumpkin and Lupini Beans Filling
The Amused Bouche Blog: Braised Kale
The Little Kitchen: How to Make the Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Desserts:
The Macaron Queen: Macaron Tower
Poet In The Pantry: Amaretto Apple Crisp
Farm Girl Gourmet: Pumpkin Coconut Panna Cotta
That’s Forking Good: Cinnamon Chip Pumpkin Blondies
Out of the Box Food: Out of the Box Food Maple Pumpkin Pie
Cake Baker 35: Orange Spiced Pumpkin Pie
Lisa Michele: Pumpkin, Pecan, Cheesecake Pie
Food For My Family: Buttermilk Custard Pear Pie
Simple Bites: Black-Bottom Maple Pumpkin Pie
A Cooks Nook: Swedish Apple Pie
Yakima Herald: Pretzel Jell-O Salad
How Does She: Three of Our Favorite Desserts
Dollhouse Bake Shoppe: Thanksgiving Candy Bar Name Plates
Sweet Fry: Pumpkin Latte
Tasty Trials: Spiced Apple Panna Cotta With Caramelized Apples and Caramel Sauce
An Uneducated Palate: Puff Pastry Apple Tart
Frugal Front Porch: Mini Cheaty Cheesecakes

Even more:
Kitchen Courses: Thanksgiving for Six People Under $60
A Curious Palate: The Communal Table

Cheesecake Pumpkin Pecan Pie – (with alternate pecan topping, scroll down after recipe)
Yield: 10 to 14 ‘small slice’ servings – about 8 – 10 regular slice servings

Flaky Pie Crust
Adapted from Tish Boyle, with my revisions

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, chilled
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks and frozen
1/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening, frozen
6 to 8 tablespoons ice-cold water ( I add 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and remove 1 tablespoon water in all pie crust recipes – it tenderizes the crust)

Cheesecake Layer
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg

Pumpkin Pie Layer
1 2/3 cups unsweetened fresh or canned pumpkin puree (If using canned, strain in a fine mesh sieve for several hours to overnight, covered, in the fridge)
1 cup heavy cream (you can use evaporated milk, if you prefer)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 eggs, lightly beaten

*Pecan Pie Topping
1 cup mix of whole and coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup light or dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter

MAKE AND PARBAKE PIE SHELL:
1. Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade and pulse on and off until combined. Scatter the butter pieces and the shortening, in large chunks, over the flour mixture. Pulse the machine on and off until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 6 tablespoons of the ice water and process until the mixture just starts to come together. If the dough seems dry, add the remaining 2 tablespoons water as necessary. Do not allow the dough to form a ball on the blade, or the resulting crust will be tough!  You want a raggedy mess of crumbly dough, with lumps of butter showing.

2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, divide it in half, and shape each half into a disk – gently pressing each raggedy mess together, (DO NOT press into each disk or try to squeeze it together so the dough is uniform – it will come together in the refrigerator). Wrap the disks separately in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. You will only need one disk for this recipe, so you can freeze the other disk for later use.

3. Lightly flour a large work surface. Allow the dough to soften at room temperature just until it is pliable (about 10 minutes). Place 1 disk on the floured surface and sprinkle some flour over it. Roll the dough from the center out in every direction, flouring the work surface as necessary to prevent sticking. You want a round of dough that’s about 1/4 to 1/8 inch and about 3 inches greater in diameter than the pie pan/plate you are using.

4. Transfer the crust to a 9 1/2 to 10-inch deep-dish pie pan (if you don’t use a deep-dish pan, there will be pumpkin filling left over, not to mention you run the risk of overflow) by rolling it loosely around the rolling pin and unrolling it carefully over the pan. Press the dough first into the bottom of the pan and then against the sides. Patch any holes or cracks with dough scraps. Trim the edges of the dough with scissors, leaving about 3/4 inch of overhang. Fold overhang over and crimp as you please.  Place shell in the freezer and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

5. When oven temperature is at 400 F, remove the pie shell from the freezer and line the pie crust with a large sheet of lightly buttered aluminum foil, buttered side down, covering the edge of the crust so that it doesn’t get too brown. Fill the lined crust with pie weights, dried beans, or raw rice. Bake the pie crust for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and foil. Prick the bottom of the crust well with a fork and bake the crust for another 7 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn golden, but the crust is not fully baked. Cool the pie crust on a wire rack while you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

DIRECTIONS FOR PIE:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in 1/4 cup sugar, then add vanilla and 1 egg. Beat mixture until smooth.

2. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the bottom of the par baked pie shell, spread evenly, then freeze for about 15 -20 minutes.

3. In the mean time, in a large bowl, combine pumpkin puree, heavy cream, the 2 lightly beaten eggs, vanilla extract, sugar, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and salt. Mix thoroughly until uniform.

4. Remove the pie shell with cream cheese from the freezer and pour the pumpkin mixture on top of it. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes.

5.  Combine the eggs, sugars, melted butter, corn syrup, vanilla extraxt and salt in a bowl.  Stir in pecans.  Remove pie from freezer and carefully spoon the pecan layer over the pumpkin layer.

6. Place pie on the middle rack of your preheated oven.  Cover edges of crust with aluminum foil or a pie crust shield if browning too quickly, but you will eventually have to cover it  to prevent excess browning some time toward the end.  Keep checking every 20 minutes.

7. Bake in 350 degree F oven for about 60 to 75 minutes (It really depends on your oven.  In one oven I used, it took 75 minutes, in another, 60 – so keep checking for it to be sturdy, but still a tad jiggly in the middle).  The the pecan pie topping should be dark and bubbling a bit.

7. IMPORTANT –  Let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours before slicing and serving.  Also, sometimes some of the cheesecake filling or pecan pie filling affects the color of the pumpkin filling.  It may not look a beautiful, dark orange, but rather a yellowish color.  No worries, still tastes awesome!

8.  Drizzle with melted chocolate or chocolate ganache for extra decadence!

*Alternate Pecan Pie Topping and Directions (this is the first recipe I played with..for a more crunchy than gooey topping)

Pecan Pie Crunch Topping
1 1/4 cup mix of whole and coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons light or dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons melted butter

Directions after Pumpkin Layer above – Step 7

7. After pie has been in oven for 50 – 60 minutes, remove from the oven and remove silver foil around edges of crust. Sprinkle pecan pie topping evenly over top – the pumpkin pie layer will sink a bit because the pecan goo is heavy, do not worry! Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and the pecan pie topping is bubbly. Let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours before serving.

8. Drizzle with melted chocolate or chocolate ganache for extra decadence!

Thanks to Melissa Green for emailing me about some ingredients I left out in steps 3 and 5 for the pumpkin and pecan fillings.  The recipe is 100% correct now – no ingredients missing in any of the steps.

Time for the winner of the Cuisinart DLC-2 Mini Prep Plus Food Processor. After I generated the number via random.org, and counted over and over, skipping over a few of my own replies, I wasn’t shocked to see where it landed.  There were several entries from people who battled and survived breast cancer, people who’s loved ones battled and survived breast cancer, and sadly, some who lost loved ones to it.  Well…random.org chose one of those people, or maybe something/someone else did.

Congratulations, Stephanie!  I hope your Mom chops, grinds and purees her heart out :)  Sending you an email to get your mailing info, right now.

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Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato) Gnocchi with Creamy Mushrooms

November 7, 2011 at 7:03 am | Posted in Dinner, Italian, Lunch, Pasta, SRC, Vegetarian | 75 Comments
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I think I was an Italian Nonna in a previous life.  You see, I have this uncanny ability to whip up perfect, homemade pasta, whether it be tortellini, orecchiette, gnocchi, fettuccine, linguine, ravioli, etc…you name it.  I was never taught how to make pasta- just watched the Italian boyfriend of a boyfriend’s sister make it one Thanksgiving late, late evening, years ago, then watched a cooking show where they demonstrated pasta making..I think with Mario Batali (?? my super-duper memory is failing me at this moment).  Anyway, two months later, I jumped in head first and made ravioli.  To my surprise, it went without a hitch – the pasta was silky and not one ravioli opened up during cooking.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Creamy Mushrooms
Then I made a lasagna from scratch, pasta and all. The guy I was dating at the time lived in a predominantly Italian neighborhood.  He insisted we share the lasagna with some of his friends because it was that good. The general consensus was along the lines of;

“Whoa, this is betta than my Mutha’s- you didn’t really make this, did you?”

“Come on, Lis, you bought this at Fairway Market, right?” *wink wink*

What the hell?

I’m not bragging, I’m extremely perplexed by this.  Don’t get me wrong, I do thoroughly enjoy this ‘gift’ if that’s what it is. However, I don’t make pasta from scratch as often as I should, and probably still won’t.

Another perplexing part is the speed in which I make it.  This is why I’m convinced I was an Italian Nonna in another life.  It’s like second nature to me.  I kneaded, cut, rolled, cut again, and rolled on a fork approximately 2 lbs of this pumpkin gnocchi in about 30 minutes last night.  I felt like I was on a human hamster wheel, no end in sight, until I picked up the last 1/2-inch piece of dough, not quite sure how I got to it.  I was flushed and probably in some weird parallel pasta universe where gnocchi magically formed itself into ridged dumplings. It couldn’t have been just me, right?.

This is crazy..where did this ability come from??

Well.this speed came in handy for this month’s Secret Recipe Club. I was assigned the blog, Everyday Mom.  I made two recipes prior to this gnocchi.from her blog.  The first was early in the month - Slowcooker BBQ beef.  Coincidentally, she made this from another blog for the SRC a few months ago. It was gone so fast there was no way I could get a photograph of it without having my hand bit off. Not only that, the recipe has been passed on to several people, a forever recipe for them.


Yes, it was that good.  I don’t use a crock pot very often, but now I’ve definitely caught the bug.  If you make the Slowcooker BBQ beef, I made two changes to the recipe.  I seared the beef prior to adding it to the pot, along with all the fond and juices and cut the ketchup with tomato sauce. 1 cup each instead of 2 full cups of ketchup.

I had already made the decision that I wanted to bake something, especially with pumpkin, for the #squashlove bloghop, so instead of doing the slowcooker beef again, I chose her pumpkin streusel muffins.  Herein lies the problem.  Her recipe contains molasses, and I don’t like molasses with pumpkin because I think it overpowers it.  I also didn’t want to use substitutions like maple syrup, or more brown sugar.  This led to me going to a favorite pumpkin muffin recipe of mine, and trying to mesh it with hers.  Not to mention, I wasn’t making any old pumpkin muffins, I was making jumbo loaded pumpkin muffins stuffed with cheesecake and topped with a toffee streusel (coming soon!).  By the time I was finished and had taken photos, I realized this was nothing like her recipe..not even close.


This is how my pumpkin gnocchi, a last minute..as in VERRY last minute, idea, took shape. She has a recipe for potato gnocchi.   I substituted pumpkin puree for the potatoes.. a bit of nutmeg for the garlic powder, used 00 flour – and there you have it.  I’m so glad I made this because I’m in love with it.  The Creamy Mushroom Sauce  I decided on comes from Chef Frank DeCarlo of Peasant and Bacaro restaurants – via, you guessed it, Martha Stewart again.  I played with it a bit, tweaking it to my liking.  For instance, I’m a multi-mushroom girl.  If a dish calls for one type of mushroom, I scoff.  I love to mix different varieties, especially since they each have their own special fungi nuances that take that dish to another planet.  I used a mix of oyster, baby bellas, and  shiitakes.  I also reduced the butter by half and cooked the sauce down a lot longer than the recipe calls for, to thicken it. Way too soupy after only a few minutes.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Creamy Mushrooms
This is the best pumpkin gnocchi and sauce I’ve ever made.  PLEASE try this,  because if you do, you might want to give me two big, fat kisses on each cheek  ( I hope)!  Oh, and try the Slowcooker BBQ beef too.  Trust me – it will be a forever recipe for you too, and well..sometimes dumping everything in a crock pot, then coming home to a hot, flavorful meal, is just too easy to pass up.

Don’t forget to check out Everyday Mom for some yummy recipes, and I’ve got two linky’s for you to click on, this time.  The first, the blue frog below to see all the delicious dishes my fellow Group A SRC’ers chose from the blogs they were assigned.  The second is for #squashlove.  A month long bloghop where everyone cooked or baked something using some kind of squash.  Mouth-watering creations so far!


Finally, don’t forget about my giveaway to honor Breast Cancer Awareness, HERE.  It’s running until November 14tth 15th, 2011, so leave a comment to enter, and you just might win that baby pink Cusinart food processor.   I’m even thinking of adding another so two people can win!  Stay tuned!

Secret Recipe Club

November is #squashlove month!

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Please join in on the #squashlove fun by linking up any squash recipe from the month of November 2011. Don’t forget to link back to this post, so that
your readers know to come stop by the #squashlove event! The twitter hashtag is #squashlove.

Thanks to the below hosts of #squashlove.  Be sure to visit their blogs to see their delicious squash creations!

Bakerstreet, Bloc de Recetas, Bon a Croquer, Cafe Terra Blog, Cake Duchess, Elephant Eats, Food Wanderings, Georgie Cakes, Hobby and More, Mike’s Baking, Mis Pensamientos, My Twisted Recipes, No One Likes Crumbley Cookies, Queen’s Notebook, Simply Reem, Skip to Malou, Teaspoon of Spice, The Daily Palette, The Professional Palate, The Spicy RD, Vegan Miam.

Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Pumpkin Gnocchi
Yield: Approximately serves 8 as an appetizer and 4-6 as a main dish
2 cups pumpkin puree (fresh or canned) or 2 cups mashed sweet potato
1 egg
2 to 3 cups 00 or AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated, fresh nutmeg, about 1/4 teaspoon.

DIRECTIONS:
1. Put the pumpkin puree in a strainer over a bowl overnight or for at least 2 hours, covered in the refrigerator. Once drained of any liquid, cook it down (reduce it) in a pot on the stovetop until thick and dry. This will really concentrate the pumpkin flavor in the gnocchi. Let cool.

2. Combine the egg, nutmeg, salt and pumpkin puree until uniform.

4.  Add enough of the flour into the pumpkin puree combination to form a soft dough that is not too tacky to work with.

5. Knead the dough for several minutes, until you have a nice, smooth ball.  Cut the ball into 4 equal pieces,  then roll each piece into a long thin cylinder,  about 1/2 inch thick.

6. Cut the rolls into 1/2 inch pieces.  Roll pieces in flour, shaking off any excess, if needed. (I keep a bit of the bench flour in a pile at the edge of my work space, just in case)

7. Roll the pieces over a gnocchi board or a fork to give them the ridges.

8. Cook the gnocchi in salted boiling water in small batches until it floats to the surface, about 2-3 minutes, remove and set aside to drain.

9.  Toss gnocchi in pan with creamy mushroom sauce, then serve with extra cheese (your favorite Italian hard grating cheese) and julienned sage.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Shenandoah Growers Organic Fresh Herbs.


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Pumpkin Cheese Pie Povitica, and the Traditional One.

October 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Breads, Breakfast, Daring Bakers, Dessert, Vegetables, Yeastspotting | 50 Comments
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Ever go through those blogging ruts where nothing seems to turn out right, from the dish and the photos to writing the post?  You literally stop flowing.  Herky jerky, forced writing.  I’m deep in one of those ruts now, and it’s got a grip on me like quicksand laced with tar.  Not to mention, the throes of PMS are pulling at every last nerve.

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni (my cassoulet comrade) of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

Throughout the next day or two, as I exorcise the bitch in me, I will start adding text to this post.  Nice stuff..I promise.   I know, it doesn’t always have to be nice, but the last thing I want to do is type in characters, because the expletives could be rampant.  Can a thesaurus give me more suitable words for F%$^&%$%  &^%$%%?

Chocolate Walnut Povitica

The two poviticas you see are the traditional walnut from the challenge, and my creation, a pumpkin cheese pie povitica.  Yes, ‘pie’. I mixed ground cinnamon graham crackers into pumpkin, cream cheese, brown sugar, an egg and spices.  I did this because he filling needed a sponge of sorts since it would have been too runny by itself to spread on the dough.  The graham crackers not only thickened it, but added a ‘graham cracker crust’ flavor to it, like a pumpkin cheese pie filling in a graham cracker crust rolled into a rich, paper-thin, yeast dough.

Povitica (poh-vah-teet-sah) is an Eastern European bread that’s called a dying art, as in not many home bakers make it anymore because it’s a bit labor intensive. Well, a bit is an understatement. The dough has to be rolled super-duper thin…transparency thin -read the paper through it thin, LIKE strudel thin.  See the relationship?  I cannot do strudel dough either.I’m Eastern European and I can’t turn out an aesthetically pleasing Eastern European bread or pastry to save my life. I’ve been asked to make a babka for a friend.  Oh, boy. I’m not sure what it will end up looking like..but I’m pretty certain it won’t look like a babka. My Russian – Hungarian badge may be revoked soon.

Having said all that, the dough is not even the hardest part.  The traditional walnut filling spread on this paper-thin dough IS.  This stuff is as thick as old honey.  We were told we could add milk to thin it once it cooled.

I added milk, and stirred.

Added more milk, and stirred.

Forget it, it was a sponge, a ravenous brown blob that literally soaked up all the milk with nary a change in viscosity.  I gave up and dumped scoops of it all over the delicate dough to cover as much ‘land’ as possible..and then it took me 45 minutes spread.  Yes, 45 freakin’ minutes.

To all those who took part in the challenge, how did you spread this stuff without ripping the dough?  My dough was elastic and perfectly thin, BUT, it lifted and tore on as I tried to spread the thick walnut filling. By the time I finished and started to roll, the holes were sticking to the floured sheet, so I couldn’t pull up the sheet and roll it using the sheet – like this video shows .   Below is what the ropes of long dough looked like in my bread pans.  I used the S-shaped method shown in the video for these two,  but by the time I finally got them into the pan, they were torn C’s that sunk into each other with a tired moan.

The pumpkin filled ropes tore because I accidentally let go of one end while lifting it, and the heavy filling pulled it open.  Elephants after a night out drinking and fighting.  Not a pretty sight..look away if you must!

For the walnut loaf, I used Wolf’s rolling method, shown in the collage above.  I was desperately hoping to turn out out a loaf just like hers. Isn’t it gorgeous??  Well..that ended up being a joke because I didn’t get even one swirly coil, in any of my three loaves.  Everyone in the challenge got them. Now I know for sure I’m not destined to have swirly coils in my povitica.

I’ve come to the conclusion that when you bake or cook angry or sad, it translates into the final result, hence why I had so many problems and no swirly coils.  I think I should meditate or do yoga before cooking or baking, the next time I’m out of sorts.  At the very least, I’ll be limber.  I will to try the povitica again.  Maybe.  One day.

Swirly coils or not, povitica is a delicious and wonderfully delicate, crumbly textured sweet or savory bread, so I implore you to make it.  I have no doubt that you will get swirly coils.

Half Batch Dough Ingredients
Recipe by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk
(Makes two loaves each 1.25 lbs/565 grams)
To Activate Yeast:
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 Teaspoon All-Purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
1 tablespoon (15 ml/7 gm/¼ oz/1 sachet) active dry yeast

Dough:
1 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 large eggs
1/4 Cup unsalted butter, melted
4 cups All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

Melted butter for brushing the loaves

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into ½ cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap.

2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes

3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180°F/82°C), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool slightly, until it is about 110°F/43°C.

4. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup (180 gm/170 gm/6 oz) sugar, and the salt until combined.

5. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz) of flour.

6. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.

7. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. Note: I did not use all 8 cups of flour

8. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams)

9. Place dough in 2 lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size.

To fill and roll the povitica, use Jenni’s fantastic step-by-step photo directions, HERE.

Walnut filling
Recipe by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk
for one loaf povitica
1 3/4 cups ground English walnuts
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 Egg Yolk, beaten
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 reaspoon cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
2. Heat the milk and butter to boiling.
3.. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.4.. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
5. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.
6. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.

Pumpkin Cheese Pie Filling
For one loaf povitica
8 ounces cream cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup ground cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
*1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
*1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

DIRECTIONS:
In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, dark brown sugar, and vanilla extract; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg,then the pumpkin puree and spices.  Stir in graham cracker crumbs.

*  You can substitute the all the spices with 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

• The Povitica will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature.
• The Povitica will keep fresh for 2 weeks if refrigerated.
• The Povitica can be frozen for up to three months when wrapped a layer of wax paper followed by a layer of aluminum foil. It is recommended to not freeze Povitica with cream cheese fillings as it doesn’t hold up to being thawed really well – it crumbles.

I’m submitting my Pumpkin Cheese Pie Povitica to Yeastspotting, a weekly bread showcase hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast.

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