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 | 51 Comments
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Do not let these awful, messy photos deter you.  These muffins are one of the best things you will ever wrap your mouth around.


That said…

..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 almost to the top (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 every last bit of pumpkin batter out of the bowl, 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
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: About 8 - 10 jumbo muffins - 18-20 standard size muffins
Muffin batter adapted from Taste of Home
Muffin Batter
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh, roasted or canned pumpkin puree *
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Cheesecake Filling
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
Toffee Streusel
  • ⅔ cup packed brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
  • ⅔ cup finely chopped chocolate covered toffee
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cold butter, cubed
Make the Muffin Batter
  1. In a large bowl, combine the first seven muffin batter ingredients.
  2. In another bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened - do not over stir it or you'll get tough muffins. Just a few folds until no flour remains. Set aside while you make the filling and streusel.
Make the Cheesecake Filling
  1. 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.
Make the Toffee Streusel
  1. 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.
Assemble and Bake the Muffins
  1. 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 muffin well too.
  2. 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 ⅔ to ¾ths 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.
  3. Cover white circles of cheesecake on top with any extra pumpkin batter, or just scoop the pumpkin batter from the sides or underneath to cover. If you don't care about a big, muffin dome, skip this step.
  4. Dump large handfuls of toffee streusel over cheesecake filled 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
  5. 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.
* If using canned pumpkin, strain puree overnight in a colander, or cook down until thick, bubbly and the moisture is reduced, then cool before adding to batter.

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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 | 50 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

2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

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

November 15, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Dessert, Giveaway, Pies/Tarts, Puddings, Vegetables, Vegetarian | 227 Comments
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UPDATE: 11/26/14: Before printing the recipe and starting this pie, please read the TROUBLESHOOTING section below the recipe.   Also, I modified and updated the recipe and changed the baking method for the gooey pecan topping option because it works better, especially ‘layer wise’.

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 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 turning color and 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.

Cheesecake Layer

As a child and young teen, OH 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, where I tried to sneak one into my Mother’s shopping cart, or the Fall bake sale at school.

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, and almost stampeding past 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 Moms whose plates of cookies remained untouched).  I took baby steps toward one pumpkin pie, cut into slices, at the edge of the table.  I had spent the little money I had that day on a few bottles of nail polish being sold by an upperclassmen, forgetting about the bake sale.

Hmmm..I couldn’t just steal a slice – I needed to do this in a somewhat civilized manner, as in errr…

Pecan Crunch Topping

“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.” I said to one sweet-faced PTA mom.  A report on pumpkin pie?  What was I thinking??

I immediately wished I could take it back, mentally punching myself in the mouth.

Then lo and behold – a miracle.  The PTA Mom winked at me and slyly slid a slice my way, ignoring the my ridiculous lie. I thanked her profusely..maybe a little too much, but no time for regrets, I needed to finally dig into years of wonder.

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 one each and every last Thursday in November.  Of course, I 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 and pumpkin pie this year;

“I just hate the smell of raw pumpkins.” He said with a look of disinterest.

“Have you ever tried it cooked?” I asked, in hope it would spark some new revelation in his pumpkin hating psyche..

“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.” He replied.  Conversation over.

So much for that.

Oh, wow..all these years, and no pumpkin gene has kicked in – no glorious moment of discovery in finding out that something he ate contained pumpkn, and it was good!

Does that mean I’m not bringing one to Thanksgiving dinner? A big HECK no.  For years, coconut custard pie was the ‘pumpkin pie’ 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 right 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 pie. 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?  Into the lab I went, three days of testing.

It worked – two ways, crunchy or 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 caramel 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?

– Some readers have used store-bought 9-inch deep dish pie crusts in the foil pans and have experienced an overflow of the pumpkin layer.  If you want to use one of them to make thing easier, or just use a 9-inch deep dish pie pan, cut the pumpkin layer ingredients by half and continue as directed, but start checking it at 50 minutes.

Cheesecake Pumpkin Pecan Pie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: One 9.5 to 10-inch deep dish pie - about 8 to 12 servings, depending on how you slice it.
Rest time for pie dough - 2 hours
Chill time for pie - at least 6 hours, but preferably 12 hours
Pie crust adapted from Tish Boyle
Flaky Pie Crust
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch chunks and frozen
  • ¼ cup lard or vegetable shortening, frozen
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice-cold water ( I remove 1 tablespoon ice water and replace that tablespoon with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar in all pie crust recipes – it tenderizes the crust)
Cheesecake Layer
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
Pumpkin Pie Layer
  • 1¼ cups unsweetened fresh or canned pumpkin puree (If using canned, strain in a cheesecloth or paper towel lined fine mesh sieve, covered, for several hours to overnight, in the fridge)
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream (you can use evaporated milk, if you prefer)
  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Regular Gooey Pecan Pie Topping
  • 1½ cups mix of whole and coarsely chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup light or dark corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
Alternative Crunchy Pecan Pie Topping (If you use this topping, the baking method changes. Read in directions below)
  • 1½ cups mix of whole and coarsely chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light or dark corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 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 ¼ to ⅛ inch and about 3 inches greater in diameter than the pie pan/plate you are using.
  4. Transfer the crust to a 9½ 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 ¾ 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 10 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 fillings. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Make the Pie Using Pecan Pie Gooey Topping:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in ¼ cup sugar, then add vanilla and 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 lightly beaten egg, vanilla extract, sugar, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and salt. Mix thoroughly until uniform. In another bowl (or 2 to 4 cup measuring cup), combine the eggs, sugars, melted butter, corn syrup, vanilla extract and salt in a bowl. Do NOT stir in pecans, keep them in a separate bowl for now and set both the pecan pie goo and pecans aside. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  4. Remove the pie shell with cream cheese from the freezer and pour the pumpkin mixture on top of it. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 F and bake 20 to 25 minutes more. You want the pumpkin layer semi-firm enough to hold the gooey pecan topping. When it looks that way, gently scatter the 1½ cups chopped and whole pecans evenly over the pumpkin layer. Now carefully spoon or pour the pecan pie goo over the pecans. It's okay if it doesn't cover fully as it will all melt together in the oven. Another way to add the pecan goo is too mix it up in a 4 cup glass measure so when it's time to add the pecan goo after scattering the pecans on the pumpkin layer, you pour the goo around the pie in circles from high up so it hits the pie in a thin stream, which will prevent sinkage.
  5. Bake for 30-45 minutes longer. Cover the 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.
  6. When the pie is done, it should be sturdy, but still jiggly in the middle. The pecan pie topping should be dark and bubbling.
Make Pie Using Alternative Pecan Crunch Topping
  1. After you freeze the cheesecake layer, pour on the pumpkin layer and place in the oven. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the pumpkin layer is firm enough to hold pecan crunch layer without too much 'sinkage'.
  2. After pie has been in oven for 50 to 60 minutes, remove from the oven and gently sprinkle or spoon pecan pie crunch topping evenly over the top. The pumpkin pie layer will sink a bit because the pecan crunch is heavy, but do not worry! Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the pecan pie topping is bubbly.
  3. Cover the edges of crust with aluminum foil or a pie crust shield if the crust is 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.
  4. In the end, no matter which pecan topping you used, when it looks to be done, remove from oven and let cool at room temperature, then place in the fridge and chill for several hours to overnight (overnight is recommended).
IMPORTANT – And I have to stress this again even though I mentioned it above. Whichever pecan pie topping you use, you MUST let the pie cool at room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours to overnight before slicing and serving (preferably overnight). Also, sometimes some of the cheesecake filling or pecan pie filling affects the color of the pumpkin filling. It may not look a beautiful orange, but rather a yellowish color. No worries, as it still tastes awesome!
-Some have mentioned that they didn't have enough pecan pie topping to cover. It truly depends on your pie dish, so if it looks like you might not have enough, or simply want more since it's a thin layer, double or add another half of either pecan pie topping and bake an extra 5 to 10 minutes.
-If you don't have or can't find a 10-inch deep pie dish and want to use a 9-inch deep dish, cut the pumpkin layer ingredients in half. The reason for this is that a 10-inch deep dish is wider and deeper, and that extra inch in width makes a big difference. Start checking the pie at 50 minutes rather than 60 minutes.
-Drizzle pie with melted chocolate or chocolate ganache for extra decadence!


1. “There’s too much pumpkin filling, it overflowed when I poured it on top of the cheesecake, and I still had pumpkin filling left over!”

I have been using a 10-inch deep dish pie dish, like THIS one, for this pie for years, and everything fits perfectly.  But, if you use a 9-inch deep pie dish or your pie dish isn’t holding all the filling once you’ve already mixed all the pumpkin filling and started to pour it on; stop pouring when the pumpkin filling reaches about 1/2 to 1-inch below the crimped edge.  Make mini pumpkin pies with any leftover pumpkin filling.  Line a standard cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners and place a gingersnap or vanilla wafer at the bottom of each lined cup (or spray cupcake wells with oil, then line wells with pie dough circles).  Pour pumpkin filling over the cookies and bake at 375 F for 25 – 30 minutes.  You probably won’t fill all 12 pan wells, so pour water into any empty, unlined wells so the cheesecakes bake evenly.

UPDATE: I modified the pumpkin filling for a 9-inch to 10-inch deep dish pie plate to make sure there is no overflow.  However, if you want to use a 10-inch springform pan, the pumpkin layer ingredient amounts should be changed to;

1 1/3 cups unsweetened fresh or canned pumpkin puree (If using canned, strain in a cheesecloth or paper towel lined fine mesh sieve, covered, for several hours to overnight, in the fridge)
1 cup heavy cream (you can use evaporated milk, if you prefer)
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 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

I also recommend increasing the cheesecake and pecan pie layers by half, and using a graham cracker or your favorite cookie crust in lieu of the pastry crust!

2. “My pie has been in the oven for over 75 minutes and it still doesn’t seem done! What should I do?”

The pie will not look done when it’s ready to come out.  It will be jiggly in the middle, almost like it’s raw, but the sides will be somewhat set, just like a cheesecake. Some ovens run hotter or cooler than others, so an oven thermometer is an ideal tool to have to make sure your oven is at the right temperature. Regardless, do not keep the pie in the oven more than 90 minutes.  Once you take it out, let it come to room temperature, then into the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours.  I promise you it will set up perfectly!

3. “The pecan topping seems sparse!”, or “…it isn’t fully covering the top of the pie!”

The pecan pie layer is supposed to be thin (since it’s so sweet), but, if you want more gooey pecan pie topping, make another half of the recipe and add another 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time.  If you decided to use the crunchy pecan topping, it  may seem like it won’t cover the top of the pie, but however you spoon it on, it will all melt together and cover the top of the pie in the end.  But, you can also double or make another half of the crunchy pecan pie topping, if you’d like.

4.  “Do I really have to strain the canned pumpkin?”

No, you don’t.  It’s just something I’ve been doing for years with any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin.  Removing the extra water intensifies the pumpkin flavor and removes any ‘tinny’ can taste. It also helps reduce the chance of overflow. Sometimes I even strain and cook down the canned pumpkin!

In conclusion, everyone ate and loved this pie – even my father, although he scraped off the pumpkin layer.  Oh, well, it’s something, right?  Regardless, it’s now in demand for every Thanksgiving forward.

On another note, I submitted this Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake Pie to the Food Network’s Virtual Thanksgiving – A Communal Table.  The hashtag on Twitter is #pullupachair.  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

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

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

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

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 | 95 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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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

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.

Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato) Gnocchi with Creamy Mushrooms
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree (fresh or canned) or 2 cups mashed sweet potato (1 very large or two medium sweet potatoes = 2 cups cooked and mashed)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 to 3 cups 00 or All-Purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Grated, fresh nutmeg, about ¼ teaspoon
  1. Spoon the pumpkin puree into a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl, overnight or for at least 4 hours (I strain it overnight..about 12 hours), covered in the refrigerator. Once drained of as much liquid as possible, cook it down (reduce it) in a pot on the stove top until thicker and darker in color..like the top of a baked pumpkin pie. Large bubbles will open and pop (burp) when it's ready or close to ready. This step will really concentrate the pumpkin flavor in the gnocchi. Set aside and let cool.
    If making sweet potato gnocchi, puree the cooked sweet potato in a food processor or blender, then strain it, for at least 4 hours, in a cheesecloth lined fine-meshed strainer as you would the pumpkin. However, the sweet potato doesn't need to be cooked down, so one step you can skip. However, I highly recommend you bake the sweet potato instead of boiling or steaming. Rub the skin lightly with vegetable oil, then prick several times with a fork, and bake at 400 F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Combine the egg, nutmeg, salt and cooled pumpkin puree until uniform.
  3. Add enough of the flour into the pumpkin puree combination to form a soft dough that is not too tacky to work with. *
  4. Knead the dough for several minutes, until you have a nice, smooth ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 20 minutes before proceeding.
  5. Cut the ball into 4 equal pieces, then roll each piece into a long thin cylinder, about ½ inch thick.
  6. Cut the cylinders into ½ 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. Strain gnocchi and shake off any excess water.
  9. Toss gnocchi in pan with creamy mushroom sauce, then serve with extra cheese (your favorite Italian hard grating cheese) and julienne sage.
*Important - If it's humid outside, flour absorption is at its worst, so I suggest not worrying about rolling the dough into coils and cutting - just cut pieces from the tacky dough, roll them in a little flour, and proceed with the fork shaping. OR, just cut off pieces and throw into salted, boiling water immediately. There's nothing worse than heavy, leaden gnocchi, so never continue to add more flour if too tacky. Never exceed 3 cups flour in this recipe..unless you like eating silly putty dumplings!

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 | 54 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

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

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

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

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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One..NO TWO – Macarons, December cookie baking, and my fear of THE TRIPOD

December 23, 2009 at 3:56 am | Posted in Bars/Brownies, Candy, Cookies, Dessert | 53 Comments
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To start off, this was supposed to be my entry for Jamie (of Life’s a Feast) and Deeba’s (of Passionate About Baking) MacTweets MacAttack last week.  Now that it’s 10 days late, and pretty much null and void,I suppose I’ll just have to call this your every day non-challenge post, which as you can see, I have very few of, especially since joining the Daring Cooks in conjunction with the Daring Bakers.  Since I’m not married and not a mommy, I don’t cook/bake every day, and when I do, it’s usually for a challenge I leave to the last minute.

I LOVE cooking and baking..it’s a passion that oozes from my pores, but hey, eventually you realize you can’t give enough away and end up throwing a lot of stuff out.  I’m actually looking forward to the day I have a hungry brood to feed.

Salted, Spiced Caramel Macarons

Fleur de Sel Cinnamon Caramel Apple MacaronsNotice the oozing caramel in some of them?  The caramel for those was cooked to about 230-235F.  I cooked it up to 240ish for the next batch of filling – no more oozing, although I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing!

OK, one more thing/diatribe before I get to the macarons.  I must admit something to you all, and it’s weird, really weird.  I’m afraid of my tripod.  For those who don’t know me or haven’t followed this blog, you’re probably thinking “This girl is afraid of a piece of equipment that holds a camera steady?  What a freak!”.  For those who do know me and/or my blog, you know I annihilated my knee trying to save my camera when I knocked against THE TRIPOD atop a staircase as I was setting up for photos for the Daring Bakers Lavash challenge.

Because of this little phobia, my photos suffer.  It’s bad enough I have no natural light, which is all the more reason I MUST use a tripod, but one look at this piece of equipment, and I shudder.  Memories of my leg flopping all over the place as I tried to crawl to the phone, and the year I’ve spent rehabilitating that leg, are pretty much the reason.  Maybe I need a much sturdier tripod since mine possesses legs that even a modeling agency would call too skinny, and what looks to be balls instead of feet (My father gave it to me.  He found it in the attic of an abandoned estate, along with other antique camera equipment, a few years before I was born).

As I look below at the blurry spinach and peppers in my Beef Wellington post, and know this freaky phobia is partially the cause, I have to laugh..really.  If I don’t, I just might scream!!

Fleur de Sel Spiced Caramel Apple Macarons

Now that I’ve vented my weird phobia to you all, on to the macarons.  I made two kinds, since I couldn’t decide on one –  fleur de sel-cinnamon macaron shells filled with spiced apple cider caramel, and a pure, fresh roasted maple pumpkin filling between two pumpkin pie spiced macaron shells, topped with spicy toasted Jack Be Little pumpkin seeds (You know, the baby pumpkins you can hold in your hand.  The seeds are light and tiny, perfect to top a macaron shell without any craters forming, but next time I think I’ll use pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds).

Salted Apple Cider CaramelsSalted Apple Cider Caramels – UPDATE: 2/13 – I made these with fresh, juiced peaches instead of apple cider, last summer.  Simply AMAZING!

The best part of this macaron endeavor was the spiced apple cider caramel filling.  This is because once I cooked it to spreadable ‘filling’ temp, about 235 – 40 degrees on a candy thermometer, I took out what I needed to fill the macarons, and cooked the rest to the ‘soft -medium’ ball stage..about 250-60, to make buttery soft salted caramel candies.  You can’t beat one recipe that results in cookies AND candy.  I found the recipe for the apple cider caramels HERE, but after the first batch, to test, (some of which I sent to the winner of the Fahrenehit 350 Blogiversary Giveaway, which I will get to later), I realized they were way too buttery, which is usually a good thing, but when it borders on greasy, it is NOT.

I cut down the butter on batch number two to 6 tablespoons rather than 8 (cutting down butter is almost sacrilige to me), added ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and a bit of cardamom, and finally achieved what I felt was ‘just right’.  I only wish I didn’t send batch number one out to the winner, but at the time, I thought they were good – BEFORE  I noticed the butter stains all over the napkins I used to wipe my fingers after eating a few.  Yikes.

‘The Whole Pumpkin’ Macarons.  I gave them a spritz of orange spray food color for photos – so no, nothing ‘cool’ here.

Regarding the Giveaway, I was extremely flattered last month when Kitty of Fahrenheit 350° asked me to participate in her Blogiversary giveaway.  This meant baking something and sending it to the winner, along with a few other bloggers she’d chosen.   The winner, Heather of Utah (no last names here) made out like a bandit.  You should see the loot she hauled in.

You can see my spotlight HERE and the other bloggers too if you skim through the posts before and after mine.  Every day of the week, for one week, leading up to her Blogiversary, a new blogger (inlcuding lil ‘ole me) was in the spotlight along with the goodies to be sent to the winner.  Isn’t that a great idea?  Naturally, as I always do, I went overboard..wayy overboard, and started experimenting with recipes I’d never tried before.  I wanted to blow the winner away with goodies she wasn’t expecting along with the two cookies I offered up.

Well..sometimes too much of a good thing really is too much.  Always stick with the tried and true, and don’t overdo it. especially when sending your stuff to a total stranger.  Some of these new recipes didn’t turn out that great, but I didn’t realize how much so until the package was in the mail and we started to really sample some.  You see..bake, cool and send IMMEDIATELY was the modus operandi, and the dough tasted great on all of them! A new lesson learned..I’m humbled.  I really hope she has a more forgiving palate than I do!

                       ‘Best Ever’ Brownies and Minty Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of the cookies I baked was a Tiramisu cookie I got from the Domino’s Sugar site.  Domino’s Sugar sent me a $20.00 gift card for my holiday baking and wanted me to  bake something from their recipe page, or just use their sugar in my holiday baking in general.  Well, no need to ask, since I use Domino’s sugar in all of my baking, and have been doing so since I was in high school.  I’m never, ever without it..brown, dark brown, granulated, powdered etc..so, in retropsect, it was like them asking me to change my underwear each day.

Apparently this gift card was to help with ingredients for whatever cookie(s), cakes, pies etc.. I was going to bake, but the thing is..I’m NEVER without every baking essential possible.  I have everything, at all times, always on hand (until I run out, in which it’s immediately replaced), unless it’s a rare ingredient that one particular recipe calls for.  When I received this gift card, there was nothing I needed, so I bought lobsters.  Thank you for my awesome lobster dinner, Domino’s Sugar and Hilary from Domino’s Sugar!

                                           The aforementioned Tiramisu cookies

In any event, I didn’t particularly like the cookie part of this Tiramisu cookie recipe, so I used THIS COOKIEminus the chocolate chips and nuts,BUT, used the fillings from the Domino’s sugar recipe.  Fudgy, creamy, drippy, gooey.  Enough said.

                 Mandel Kakor – I call them Swedish Biscotti, and Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Well, I think I covered every corner as far as my cookie baking went.  Please be sure to stop back Devemeber 27th to see my Daring Bakers Gingerbread House (HINT: it won’t be a house).  I have never, ever built one before, so you just might get some laughs.  I have less than 5 days to knock this one out and I haven’t even made the gingerbread yet.  Wish me luck, because I’ll need it!

                                         Brown Butter-Milk Chocolate Chunk Thins

Salted Apple Cider Caramels

Mandel Kakor Cookies (Buttery Swedish Biscotti)

Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Minty Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: two dozen cookies
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ teaspoons peppermint or spearmint extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips (milk or white chocolate is nice too, or a combo of two or all three)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter and sugars. Add eggs, peppermint extract and vanilla extract.
  3. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda and then add to the egg mix and beat until just combined.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Form the dough into 2-inch balls. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake until golden, about 9 minutes for chewy and 12 for crunchy. Repeat with second baking sheet. Cool on rack. Store in an airtight container.

Whole Pumpkin Macarons and Spiced Salted Caramel Apple Macarons
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: about 16 macarons
Basic macaron recipe from Helene of Tartelette
Macaron Batter
  • 90 grams of egg white (about 3 - but do weigh them!)
  • 30 grams of plain white granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 200 grams of icing or powdered sugar (1½ cups)
  • 110 grams of finely ground blanched almonds (1 cup + 4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
Fresh Pumpkin Filling
  • 1 cup fresh roasted pumpkin puree. If using canned, let drain in a colander overnight prior to making filling.
  • 1 tabelspoon pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Spicy, Toasted Baby Pumpkin Seeds
  • The seeds from one Jack Be Little pumpkin or pepitas
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  1. In a food processor, run the nuts and powdered sugar until the nuts are finely ground. Run through a sieve if needed.
  2. Whip the egg whites until foamy, slowly add the granulated sugar, until they are glossy and stiff.
  3. Slowly sift in and fold the nut/sugar mixture into the whites with a wide spatula, in several increments. The mixture should remain shiny and flow easily (like lava/magma).
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the batter and pipe small rounds (about 1 to 1.5 inches - an Ateco #807 tip works well for this) onto parchment lined baking sheets.
  5. Let the macarons dry for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  6. When they are dry (touch one lightly, a dry shell will have formed - but do NOT push in), bake them for 12-15 minutes.
  7. Let cool, remove from the paper and fill 2 shells with filling of your choice.
For Salted, Spiced Caramel Macarons
  1. Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon to the batter, then sprinkle half of the piped mounds with coarse sea salt (preferably fleur de sel) and a little extra cinnamon prior to drying and baking.
For Spiced Caramel Apple Filling
  1. Add about 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and ⅛ teaspoon of cloves to the hot caramel (linked above) prior to setting. For filling consistency, only cook the caramel to about 240 on a candy thermometer. Let cool, then fill a pastry or ziplock bag (end snipped off once filled) with caramel and pipe onto bottom shells, topping each one with salted shells. For caramel candies, follow the directions linked above.
For Whole Pumpkin Macarons
  1. Add 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice to the batter and top mounds half of the mounds on baking sheet with spicy, toasted baby pumpkin seeds.
For Spicy Toasted Baby Pumpkin Seeds (or pepitas)
  1. Cut the pumpkin open and remove the seeds. Rinse to remove all the pulp then let air dry. Preheat oven to 250F.
  2. Combine the seeds with oil and the next 6 ingredients. Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Spread the seeds on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about 1hour. Let cool.
For Fresh Pumpkin Filling
  1. Beat all of the above together until smooth. In a saucepan, cook down the mixture until dark and thickened. Let cool. Spoon into pastry bag and pipe onto macarons shell bottoms, topping with seed coated shells, then sandwich gently.
Age the egg whites in a covered container at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours. I sometimes age them longer, uncovering the container for the last few hours.
I like to dry my tant pour tant (the almond meal-confectioner's sugar amalgamation) prior to making macarons. I let it sit out uncovered at room temperature the night before making them. I get super smooth shells that way for some reason.

Double baking sheets for better 'feet'.

Best Ever Brownies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: one 9-inch square pan brownies
Adapted from Baking with Julia
  • 1¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour — measure after sifting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups sugar (divided use)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  1. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil or parchment paper Bottom and up the sides, making sure you have some overlapping over the sides of the pan to use as handles to lift the whole square of brownies out once baked. . Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Stir the sifted flour and salt together in a small bowl; set aside.
  3. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. When melted, reduce heat to low and add chopped chocolate, stirring often until completely melted. Add 1 cup of the sugar to the butter-chocolate mixture and stir for about a minute. Remove pan from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Whisk the remaining 1 cup sugar and the 4 eggs in a second bowl – only until combined – do NOT over-whisk. Gradually pour half of the sugar-egg mixture into the bowl with the chocolate mixture, stirring quickly so that eggs don’t cook/scramble from the heat of the chocolate mixture.
  5. Using a hand-held or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the remaining sugar-egg mixture on high speed until it turns light in color, thick and doubles in volume - about 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Carefully fold the beaten egg-sugar mixture into the chocolate, sugar, egg mixture. When everything is almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients. I like to sift the dry ingredients over the mixture, then fold.
  7. Scrape the batter into the lined 9-inch square pan and bake on the middle rack for 25 to 28 minutes. They will rise and the top will turn shiny.
  8. Cut into the center of the brownies after 22-23 minutes to see how they are baking. They should be barely set and gooey, which means you're on the right track. In fact - you can take them out now, since they will set up more while cooling, OR continue to bake another 2 to 5 minutes until a little more set. A matter of preference.
  9. Let the brownies cool for 10 minutes..then lift them out of the pan using the edges of the foil or parchment paper, Cool completely on a wire rack, then cut into squares and enjoy!

Brown Butter Melty Middle Milk Chocolate Chunk Thins
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 20 to 22 cookies
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
  • 1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8¾ ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1½ cups milk chocolate chunks
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (12 x 17-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
  3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in milk chocolate chunks.
  4. Divide dough into about 20 balls, each about 1½ tablespoons. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 12 (for slightly underbaked like in photo) minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

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