Battle of the Pumpkin Breads

I decided to put my usual Pumpkin Walnut Bread to the test this morning by comparing it to the Easy Pumpkin Bread recipe on the King Arthur Flour website. 2 recipes 2 loaves.

The verdict? They are both pretty awesome. I changed the flour content in each recipe to be 50% whole wheat. The King Arthur bread (on the right) included about 1/2 cup of chopped Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate and mine had more spices including ginger, nutmeg, and all spice. I can’t say which was actually better because they were so different. Maybe next time I’ll try combining the recipes to make one outstanding whole wheat pumpkin spice chocolate bread!

My newly adapted Whole Wheat Pumpkin Walnut Bread standby (adapted from Art and Soul of Baking)

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup WW flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil like canola
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put the rack in the center. Coat your loaf pan with melted butter and line with parchment (or use a flour/butter cooking spray). In a large bowl, whisk flour, soda, spices, and salt until blended. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and water. Add sugar and blend well. Add pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Stir well. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingregients and whisk until blended and smooth. Add toasted walnuts and combine. Scrape into loaf pan and level the top. Bake 60-70 minutes (takes a bit longer for me) until bread is firm and toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Chocolate Bread (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cups pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 2/3 cups flour (1/2 APF 1/2 WW)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan.

2) In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, and water.

3) Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and vanilla, stirring to combine.

4) Mix in the chips and nuts.

5) Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

6) Bake the bread for 60 to 80 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean; and that same tester inserted about 1/2″ into the top of the loaf doesn’t encounter any totally unbaked batter.

7) Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. When it’s completely cool, wrap it well in plastic wrap, and store it overnight before serving.

Peach Galette

It’s hard to embrace the new fall season when it’s sunny and 75 degrees outside. We suffered through some serious fog to earn this kind of weather.

I decided to celebrate with a very summery dish this afternoon – a peach galette. While I’m not so great with pastry, this was actually very easy. Admittedly, it would have been a nightmare had I tried to put it in a pie dish so it’s a good thing galettes are “rustic”. Taste-wise, this was amazing! It wasn’t too sweet and went very well with vanilla as well as cardamom ice cream. Yum!

Crust (courtesy of First Class Cooking)

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick + 1 TB cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2-4 TB ice water

Mix the flour with the sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle water over the dough (start with 2 TB) and mix until everything is just moistened. Transfer the dough to a floured board and knead 2-3 times. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Dough can be stored in the fridge for 3 days or frozen wrapped in foil for 1 month.)

Filling (adapted from Simply Recipes)

  • 2 large, not-overly-ripe yellow peaches (about 3/4 pound total), pitted, sliced into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 1 TB almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp almond paste
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • small pinch of ginger
  • 1 egg

Preheat the oven with the rack in the middle position to 425°F. Place the peach slices in a bowl and sprinkle with the flour, sugar, and ginger. Toss gently to coat. Sprinkle vanilla extract over the peaches.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg until smooth and set aside.

On a lightly floured, clean, smooth surface, roll out the dough to about a 12-inch diameter. Gently lift up the rolled out dough and place it on a rimmed baking sheet.

Dot the middle 6-inch circle of the dough with the almond paste. Arrange the peach slices in an overlapping pattern in a single layer in the center of the dough, forming about a 7 or 8-inch circle. Dot with a little butter.

Fold the outer edges of the dough round over the filling, by about 2-inches all the way around, in an accordion fashion. Use a pastry brush to coat the exposed dough with an egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse sugar if using.

Place in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet, over a rack, about 15 minutes.

Serve with some vanilla, creme fraiche, or cardamom ice cream!

Coconut Macaroons

With six leftover egg whites in the fridge this week, I have been looking for various ways to use them up. One of the most interesting recipes I found was to add them to a pot of oatmeal for added protein. While that sounds nutritious and delicious, I decided to satisfy my sweet tooth (and celebrate my solid check-up at the dentist this week) with something sweet and sticky- coconut macaroons!

My favorite store-bought macaroon currently comes from the Tartine Bakery. They are soft in the middle yet perfectly toasted and slightly crunchy on the outside. They aren’t too large so you never feel as though you’re overwhelmed with sweetness. I’ve never tried to make them at home before so this was a total experiment. I’m quite pleased with the results (especially the texture) though next time I’ll take the time to shape them into little golf balls before baking. Not that I don’t enjoy my ice cream scooper-sized macaroons, they are just a little on the large size for one person. Oops.

Coconut Macaroons, Courtesy of David Lebovitz

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2½ cups unsweetened coconut (see note)
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large skillet, mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, honey, coconut and flour.

Heat over low-to-moderate heat on the stovetop, stirring constantly, scraping the bottom as you stir.

When the mixture just begins to scorch at the bottom, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature.

(At this point, the mixture can be chilled for up to one week, or frozen for up to two months. This is awesome as I only made 10 cookies and put the rest of the batter into the freezer.)

When ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Form the dough into 1 1/2-inch mounds with your fingers evenly spaced on the baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until deep golden brown. Cool completely.

Greek Yogurt and Mascarpone Cheesecake

Have you ever tried to make a flourless, cheeseless, and creamless dessert? Preferably without chocolate? It’s tough. In the end I kind of cheated (though I was told it would be okay to use mascarpone.) Phew!

Since I was already making chocolate cupcakes, I wanted something totally different for “Kristin’s dessert”. Then I remembered a Tech Talk I attended back in my Google days by Babbo pastry chef, Gina DePalma. She raved about her crustless yogurt cheesecake which I had every intention of trying but completely forgot about. I found her cookbook, Dolce Italiano, while cleaning out the bookshelves in our office last weekend and found the dog-eared page with my comments about the recipe. Perfect for someone avoiding cream, cheese (well, most kinds), and flour!

I haven’t been so excited about a dessert since I discovered my favorite cookie recipe of all time. It was light and creamy thanks to the Greek yogurt and wasn’t at all too rich. If you’re a fan of yogurt and mascarpone cheese, you should definitely check this one out.

Original recipe is here.

Cooking spray
¾ cup sugar, plus more for dusting the pan
3 cups Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups mascarpone
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
3 large eggs
6 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

1. The day before, make the cheesecake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bring a kettle of water to a boil. Grease a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle with sugar, tapping out excess. Wrap foil around the outside of the pan so it comes up the sides (this prevents the water bath from seeping into the cake).

2. In an electric mixer, beat the yogurt, mascarpone, sugar and confectioner’s sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Transfer to the springform and set it in a large roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with enough hot water to rise halfway up the springform. Cover the roasting pan with foil, tenting the foil so it does not touch the cheesecake. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for 20 minutes more. Uncover and continue baking, until the cake is puffed but not cracked, jiggly but not liquid in the center, for about 25 minutes more.

3. Cool cake in the roasting pan until the water is lukewarm, then cool on a rack. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove sides from springform and slide onto a cake plate. I added some sliced figs for decoration.

The most difficult part of this recipe is trying to figure out how to slice it!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Baileys Frosting

Last night Alex and I hosted a surprise going away party for our friends Jeremy and Kristin. Jeremy is a true adventurer when it comes to things he’s willing to put into his mouth. He’s always keen to order whatever sounds the most bizarre in restaurants. I believe he also enjoys a good stiff drink. Anyway, when I read about chocolate cupcakes baked with Guinness, filled with Irish whiskey ganache, and topped with Baileys frosting on smittenkitchen, I knew exactly who to make them for.

Since we had three pregnant women and a toddler in the house as well as two 8-year old neighbors knocking on the door (every 30 minutes) asking if it was time to eat cupcakes, I also made some without alcohol.

I can only do so much.

The cupcakes were simply awesome. I only tried the alcohol-filled ones and was pleasantly surprised by how much you could really taste the Baileys and whiskey. It wasn’t overpowering – just a nice hint of wow, these are adult chocolate cupcakes! I made the cupcakes on Saturday and then filled and topped them on Sunday.

Original recipe is here.

Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes

While the Guinness in the cake gets mostly baked out, the Baileys is fresh and potent, so if you’re making this for people who don’t drink, you’ll probably want to swap it with milk.

The Baileys frosting recipe makes a smallish amount of frosting — enough to just cover the cupcakes. Because they were so rich and this frosting so sweet, I felt it only needed a little. Double it if you want more of a towering effect.

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes (mine made 22)

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)

Baileys Frosting (see Recipe Notes)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work). I improvised and used a salt shaker for the cookie cutter and it worked fine.

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

Do ahead: You can bake the cupcakes a week or two in advance and store them, well wrapped, in the freezer. You can also fill them before you freeze them. They also keep filled — or filled and frosted — in the fridge for a day. (Longer, they will start to get stale.)

Minestone Soup and Magic Sauce

I woke up feeling a little sick yesterday so I decided to make some minestrone soup to bring some comfort to my insides. The recipe is nothing new – just my Alice Waters standby though I added a potato and substituted red chard for the spinach. I also made Heidi Swanson’s “Magic Sauce” to drizzle over the top of the soup- hot damn that stuff is good! Maybe it has magical healing powers too…

The minestrone recipe is here.

Heidi Swanson’s Magic Sauce

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, smashed into a paste
  • 1 well-crumbled bay leaf
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon + fine grain sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Gently warm the olive oil over medium-low heat in a skillet or pan, until it is just hot. When hot remove from heat.

While the oil is heating, lightly pound the rosemary, thyme, and oregano in a mortar and pestle.

Stir the paprika, garlic, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, and salt into the oil. Then add the bruised herbs and lemon juice.

You can use this now, but know – the oil just gets better as it ages over a few days. Keep it in a refrigerator for up to a week/ten days-ish. It thickens up when cold, so if you need it in a liquid state, place it in the sun or in a warm place for a few minutes.

Makes ~2/3 cup.

Peach Butter

It pays to ask for “seconds” at the farmers market. Yesterday, Kim and I met up for lunch and meandering at the Ferry Building. We didn’t get around to shopping until well after the stalls had officially closed. After finding some very bruised peaches, I asked if I could purchase them at a reduced price to make jam. As I learned in Seattle, these are called seconds. 2 points for me!

I had seen a post on Smitten Kitchen for peach butter and was intrigued. I figured I would halve the recipe and check it out for myself. Surprisingly, it doesn’t contain butter and has less sugar than I expected. The sweetness comes from the ripened fruit and tastes wonderful on fresh bread. (Lakshmi, I thought of you while buying some whole wheat walnut bread at Acme yesterday!)

Peach Butter, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 4 cups

  • 4 pounds peaches
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • Juice of one lemon

Without a food mill: Cut a small “x” in the bottom of each peach. Dip each into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, and then into a bowl of cold water for a minute. The peels should slide right off. [If you have a food mill, skip the peeling step and continue reading.]

Halve your peaches and remove the pits, then cut each half into quarters (i.e. 8 chunks from each peach). Place peach chunks and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until peaches are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure they cook evenly. If you have a food mill, run them through it to puree them and remove the skins. If you don’t have a food mill — i.e. you already peeled your peaches — you can puree in a food processor, blender or with an immersion blender. I like my peach butter very smooth, but feel free to leave any amount of texture you prefer.

Return the peaches to the large pot, add the sugar and lemon juice and bring the mixture to a good strong simmer/gentle boil, cooking them at this level for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally in the beginning and more often near the end, as it thickens up and the fruit masses risk scorching on the bottom of the pot.

There are several methods to test for doneness: You can drizzle a ribbon of sauce across the surface; when that ribbon holds its shape before dissolve into the pot, it is done. Some people use cold or frozen plates; dollop a spoonful in the middle of one and if no water forms a ring around it in a couple minutes, it is done. Others use a spoon; if the butter remains rounded on a spoon for two minutes, it is done. You can also check the pot itself; the butter is usually done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear train when scraped across the bottom.

Let peach butter cool (unless you’re canning it). If you’re not canning it, keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. It should be good for at least two weeks.

Posted in Jam