Friday, November 29, 2013

Try This Crust

I know that I do a lot of baking, most of it from scratch, but for a number of years when it came time to do a pie, I used the ReadyMade Crusts from Pillsbury. For a long time they were almost as good as homemade and a whole lot easier. Recently I've not been happy with the crust of my pies, so have been on the lookout for a new pie crust recipe.

As a young girl I learned how to make really good pie crust from scratch. My Mom sat me down with the Settlement House Cookbook and had me read four or five pages of instructions before I could even try making pie crust on my own. They emphasized that the ingredients be cold, that the water be iced and that a light hand be used in mixing everything together, tossing tablespoons of ice water with the dry ingredients, then gently gathering the clumps together into a dough. A lot of work, but the results were a delicious, flaky pie crust.

Recently I came across a Martha Stewart recipe for pie crust made in a food processor. It came with almost as many instructions as that first crust I made, but I found that encouraging since my first encounter with a Martha Stewart recipe was the infamous Chocolate Crepe Cake. In that instance the recipe was more crap than crepe, so I was a bit leery of this one, too.

For Thanksgiving our near neighbors invited us to come join their holiday family dinner. I offered to bring a couple of pecan pies and decided that I would try Martha's recipe for the crust. I know, I know, it is stupid to try a new recipe for a dinner where you will be meeting a bunch of new people, especially when they have been touted as excellent cooks and bakers. Well, I guess I've always been willing to try a new recipe when failure will be a real problem. Fortunately, this time the recipe was a good one.

I made the crust, our daughter made the fillings, baked them in the new stove, chilled 'em while we went to the Community Church and helped out with the free Thanksgiving dinner serving and cleanup, then whipped up some cream to go with them once we got home. After a really excellent meal that included local duck, mixed wild mushroom stuffing, roasted veggies with balsamic and pomegranate arils and more, we served up the desserts, including the pecan pies.

They were a hit! The crust was excellent, the filling a bit goopy and great, the pecans nice and toasted. So next time you need a nice, buttery, flaky delicious crust, try this recipe:

Food Processor Pie Crust from Martha Stewart Test Kitchen
makes 2 disks

2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces, divided
2 1/2 cups all-purpouse flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup ice water

Freeze 3/4 of the butter pieces in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet until hard, at least 30 minutes. Refrigerate the other 1/4 of the pieces. The frozen pieces stay chunky after being pulsed, creating steam pockets when baked (the key to flakiness) and the refrigerated bits get worked into the pastry, giving it a tender texture.

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor work bowl. Add refrigerated butter (the smaller amount of the butter bits). Pulse to combine, about 10 times. Add frozen butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some blueberry-sized clumps.

With the processor off, add the ice water. Immediately pulse until water is just incorporated, about 10 times. Squeeze a small amount of dough to make sure it holds together. Pulse a few times more if needed. When you squeeze the dough it should remain crumbly, but come together. Don't pulse it so long that it forms a ball. Adding water while the processor is running  and over-pulsing are bad ideas... could lead to tough dough.
Lay out 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Empty half the dough onto each piece. Bring edges of wrap together to gather dough and form a round mass. Press the dough this way to form a rough round mass, and press on top of the wrap to form a disk. The processed dough should resemble uneven crumbs. When you empty the mixture from the processor bowl out onto the plastic wrap, some pieces will be tiny, others will be in clumps. That is perfect! The gathered plastic wrap method of forming the disk simultaneously has you gathering the crumbs into a cohesive dough and shaping it.

Roll out disks, still wrapped in plastic, to 1/2 inch thick rounds, about 8 inches in diameter. Rounds this size will chill more quickly that hockey-puck sized ones and will soften more uniformly when removed from the refrigerator.

Refrigerate at least 45 minutes and up to 2 days. Dough can be frozen up to 1 month. 

For the pecan pies themselves, use the recipe on the Karo Dark syrup bottle...or e-mail me.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bread Again

It's been almost a year since my life changed due to kidney stones. Too much bread, especially the kind that I like with lots of whole grains, seemed to be one of the foods that led to the problem. For a while I stopped baking bread all together, but I've missed bread baking. It is an activity that brings me joy. So lately I've decided that since I can have small amounts of grains that I can have the occasional slice of multi grain bread. Why not have that slice be from a loaf I baked?

One of my favorite techniques for using whole grains in bread is to make a porridge from rolled grains. Oatmeal is still my favorite, but Quaker has a mixture of a number of grains...oats, rye, wheat to name a few...that are whole grains, but rolled to make them thinner. I cooked up a half cup of the mixed grains with 1 cup of water and then let it cool. That provided the base for my bread.

The best part was that I added some dark molasses. Sweetie loves molasses and it added a depth of flavor that goes well with these grains. I think the little yeasties like it too.

The second best part was what I did when the dough had risen and been punched down and shaped into a loaf. Using a technique that I read about in Daniel Steven's book The River Cottage Bread Handbook, I dipped the shaped loaf in milk, then rolled it in the uncooked multi grains, then put it into the bread pan. It makes for a lovely crust with toasted grains attached, lending flavor and texture, too. This is fabulous sandwich bread and makes great toast, too.

Multi Grain Sandwich Bread
makes one loaf

1/2 cup rolled grain, preferably a mix of grains like wheat, oats and rye
1 cup water
1 tablespoon molasses, dark preferred
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 packet dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup milk
about 1 cup rolled grain, preferably a mix of grains like wheat, oats and rye

In a medium bowl that is microwave safe, cook the grain mixed with the 1 cup of water on high until it is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove to the counter and add the molasses. Set aside. Let cool.

In a large bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt and yeast. Leave the flour out since you may need to add more, depending on the wetness of your dough.

Once the cooked grain mixture has cooled so that it is barely warm to the touch, put it into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the 1 1/2 cups water and whisk to combine thoroughly. With the dough hook in place, on low speed, gradually add the flour/yeast mixture until a soft dough forms. Knead with the mixer (or by hand) 8 - 10 minutes, or until dough is satiny, if a bit lumpy from the grain, adding additional flour as needed. Shape dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl. Turn the dough to coat all sides with oil. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk in a warm place.

Turn risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and punch down to remove excess gas. Knead a few times, then shape dough into a loaf shape. Place milk in a shallow pan which is large enough to hold the shaped dough. Gently turn the loaf shaped dough in the milk to coat. Place the rolled grain mix in another shallow pan and roll the milk coated loaf shape in the grains to coat. Place into a greased bread pan, cover, and let rise until just below the edge of the pan.

Bake loaf in a preheated 350 degree F. oven until golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when the back of the loaf is tapped, about 45 minutes.

Cool on a rack before slicing if you can wait that long.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's the Stuffing

Everyone who knows me well can tell you that I adore turkey. Although we don't have the full whole turkey with all the trimmings that often during the year, we do have turkey sausage links on the barbecue, ground turkey as the meat for chili and spaghetti sauce, and sliced turkey for sandwiches.

They better watch out!

When late November rolls around it becomes easy to find whole turkeys in abundance in the U.S.A. because the celebration of Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I usually buy a frozen turkey and let it thaw in the fridge. I tried an organic, fresh-never-frozen turkey one year but it didn't seem to be much better than the flash frozen ones and was quite a bit more expensive.

Sweetie loves stuffing in much the same way I love turkey, so at Thanksgiving he is a happy camper, too. Since the stuffing I use to stuff the bird's cavity also flavors and perfumes the turkey and the whole house, if you want to do it right, pay attention to the stuffing!

There are all sorts of takes on stuffing. Maybe your family has a traditional recipe and you want to use that. If you are looking for a new one, you could try the one that I make. It is a slight variation on the bread stuffing that my Mom has made since I was tiny. It has the savory hit of sautéed onions and celery, herbal notes of poultry seasoning and parsley, plus the textural contrasts of mixed yeast bread cubes and crumbly baked corn bread. Sometimes I also add in some chopped apple or chopped pecans, but it's fine without.

What I like best is to stuff the turkey with about 2 cups of it and then put the rest into a casserole so that it can bake during the last 20 - 30 minutes the turkey is in the oven or right after the turkey comes out and is resting before being carved. That way you get all of the stuffing flavors inside the bird, but a nice side dish, too, with a crusty top.


1 cup margarine, melted
4 medium onions, minced
¾ cup parsley, chopped
1½ cups celery leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons pepper
4 quarts soft stale breadcrumbs/bread cubes and corn bread - I use a mixture of leftover bread ends of many kinds, plus corn bread

1 cup chicken broth 

Saute’ the onions, parsley, celery leaves, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper in the melted butter for 5 minutes. Combine sautéed mixture with the breadcrumbs (may substitute some cornbread). Moisten with chicken broth. You may also add chopped apples, dried fruit, chopped toasted pecans, or oysters. Use stuffing to stuff bird. Extra may be baked in 4250 F. oven ‘til brown (after turkey is out of oven). Enough for a 15-19 lb. turkey.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Aloooo Bread Baking Babes

One of the blessing of being part of a bread baking group is that different members bring assorted interests to the table. This month as be gather around the table of our Kitchen of the Month Babe Baking Soda of Bake My Day blog, I have been introduced to a bread I never knew existed. It's called Aloo Parantha and it's an Indian unleavened flat filled bread that is baked on a griddle or hot frying pan. It is most often eaten in the northeastern part of India, usually with a savory filling of potatoes and herbs, although vegetables are sometimes used, for instance cauliflower and spinach.

These packets of non-yeasted dough are filled, rolled out carefully so the filling stays inside, and then cooked on a hot griddle or, in my case, a hot cast iron skillet. They are surprisingly filling and quite delicious.

After reading various recipes online, I changed the filling from regular potato to a mixture of roasted sweet potato and roasted winter squash. I seasoned the filling with sage, cayenne, salt & pepper and lemon juice, plus minced cilantro. It's a very enjoyable variation. The winter squash was a gift from a neighbor and I don't really know the variety.  First I cut it in half and removed the seeds and stringy parts. Then I roasted it in a hot oven, then peeled it and cut it into chunks. It is a brilliant orange-gold and very tasty.

One of the things I discovered while making these is that the dough springs back a little as you roll it out, so be WILL get larger, thinner circles of dough if you persevere.

I also found out that after you pull the extra dough atop the filling and twist it a little, it helps to dip the twist top and then the bottom of the packet in flour, turn it with the twist side down, then push down on the center with your fingers to begin the flattening process. With the first one I started rolling vigorously with the rolling pin and filling immediately squirted out a couple of places...not what I had in mind. Even when I had flattened it a bit with my fingers I used the rolling pin gently and straight down to flatten it more, then moved the rolling pin off the packet and to a different angle, then pressed straight down again, so I never actually rolled the pin over the packet.

While cooking these, I brushed them with butter every time I turned them over and I turned them over at least 6 times while cooking. You could use oil instead of butter if your are doing a vegetarian or vegan version. The key thing is to get both sides crisp and browned. You may have to use a spatula to gently flatten them as they cook, too. It is worth the effort since they are warm and savory, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and overall very delicious. Thanks Baking Soda! Great choice.

If you would like to be a Bread Baking Buddy, bake the bread and post about it, with a photo or two, then send the link in an e-mail to Baking Soda of Bake My Day  bakemyday AT gmail DOT com with Aloo Paratha in the subject line before 29th November . I wonder what filling you'll come up with?

Aloo Paratha
("how to cook everything by Mark Bittman")

1.1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1.1/2 cups all purpose flour plus more for rolling out the dough
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, plus more for brushing the breads
1/2 medium sweet potato (I used a garnet yam), cooked, cooled, peeled, and cut in half (use 4 oz of it)
8 oz. winter squash, roasted, peeled, and deseeded
1/4 teaspoon rubbed or ground dried sage
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
freshly ground pepper
juice of 1/2 small lemon
melted butter or neutral oil

Combine the flours with 1 teaspoon salt and the thyme in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add the oil and 3/4 cup water through the feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough and, using flour as necessary, shape into a ball; wrap in plastic and let rest while you make the potato mixture. (At this point, you may wrap the dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for up to a week; bring back to room temperature before proceeding.)

Mash the sweet potato and winter squash, along with the sage, cayenne, and cilantro a large pinch of salt, some pepper, and the lemon juice; taste and adjust the seasoning (you may prefer more cayenne; sometimes aloo paratha are quite hot).

When the dough has rested, set out a bowl of all-purpose flour and a small bowl of oil, with a spoon or brush, on your work surface. Lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin. Break off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Toss it in the bowl of flour and then roll it in your hands to make a ball. Flatten it into a 2-inch disk, then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a thin round, about 5 inches in diameter, dusting with flour as necessary.

Mound about 1 tablespoon of the filling into the center of one of the rounds of dough. Bring the edges of the round up over the top of the filling and press them together to make a pouch. Press down on the “neck” of the pouch with the palm of one hand to make a slightly rounded disk. Turn the disk in the bowl of flour, place 'neck' side down, and roll it out again into a round 6 to 7 inches in diameter. Pat it between your hands to brush off the excess flour. Put the paratha on a plate and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Continue to roll all of the remaining dough into parathas and stack them on the plate with a sheet of plastic wrap between them. You can keep the paratha stacked like this for an hour or two in the refrigerator before cooking them if necessary.

Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or two, then put on a paratha (or two, if they’ll fit) and cook until it darkens slightly, usually less than a minute. Flip the paratha with a spatula and cook for another 30 seconds on the second side. Use the back of a spoon or a brush to coat the top of the paratha with oil. Flip and coat the other side with oil. Continue cooking the paratha until the bottom of the bread has browned, flip, and repeat. Do this a few times until both sides of the paratha are golden brown and very crisp, 2 to 3 minutes total for each paratha. As the paratha finish, remove them from the pan and brush with melted butter (or oil for vegan) if you’re going to serve hot; otherwise wait until you’ve reheated them.

I served mine right away with some plain yogurt and they were excellent.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Tribute to the Queen of the Daring Bakers

An era has come to an end, not because the Daring Bakers have gone away, but because the Queen of the Daring Bakers, Lisa C, shuffled off her mortal coil this week. A sad thing, indeed. She co-founded the baking group and was the den mother who kept it going, kept it open and welcoming, kept it organized, with the assistance of a few willing helpers, and watched it grow from two to about 8, then to 10, to 15, and on to hundreds of bakers both experienced and novice. Eventually it became the Daring Kitchen, there was a blog and blogroll, a few rules and some repetition of skills learned, but it was always fun because Lis was always, always fun and funny. On her blog La Mia Cucina  she posted some of the most hilarious posts anywhere, making both her kitchen errors and successes a source of belly laughs and encouragement. I mean, if she could be the Queen and screw up and have fun with it all, surely I could try, too, right?

As  a tribute, bloggers across the blogosphere are posting today. Some will make their favorite DB recipe or one that reminds them of Lis. Some will write stories and tell tales to keep her memory alive. Some will tell how being part of the Daring Bakers changed them.
Because I've had family visiting since I heard about her death, I'm stealing a little time to do the last.

Being a Daring Baker meant challenging yourself, trying new things, making new friends who also enjoyed baking. At first the group was small enough that we could visit all the blogs on posting day, but eventually there were many dozens.

One of the challenges was for Potato Bread given by Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups. I had never made such a wet bread dough before, so there was a lot of swearing going on in my kitchen as I fought to keep the dough contained and it fought to spread all over everything it could touch as I kneaded it. That, a recent review I had read of a new Disney movie, and the fact that there were a whole bunch of posts on the same day and I wanted mine to be a bit different, all combined and led me to create the Land of St. Honore', a fairy tale land where baking is a birthright. I had often wondered if I could write fiction, so these little stories were a challenge, too. The posts had the story and some graphics and the usual write-up about making the recipe, plus photos. Without the Daring Bakers, specifically the warm and welcoming group that it grew into, I would never have tried to write this way, nor felt the impulse to. I would never have attempted things like

Gateau St. Honore',

Strawberry Mirror Cake,

the infamous Chocolate Crepe Cake,

real buttercream, croissants, puff pastry from scratch, real pastry cream and so much more.

For many years of wonderful baking with Lis, Tartlette, Peabody, Brilynn, Helene, Mary, Breadchick, DaviMack and Tanita, Baking Soda, Tanna, Lynn, Ilva, Andrea, Deborah, Meeta, Dharm, and many more daring and delightful bloggers, I am grateful. A huge thank you to Lis for keeping the Daring Baker's group (and even bigger group when it became the Daring Kitchen) going even when it took on a life of its own and was probably more work than fun some of the time.

You will be missed by many Lisa and the Daring Kitchen is a fine legacy.

#tributetolis #daringbakers

Sunday, November 10, 2013


It's worth noting that attitude and gratitude rhyme, not because I'm thinking of writing poetry, but because it reminds me that gratitude is an attitude. It's easy to rail against the upsets of the day, to focus on the negative. It seems to me that doing so is a very popular attitude at the moment. Seeking to find blame elsewhere is fashionable, too.

Taking the time to be aware of the positive things in our lives is far more rewarding I think, but a road less taken a lot of the time. I'm as good at grousing about what isn't working, isn't available, isn't happening as anyone.

As I approach the time when I will need to choose a new health care provider, it seems that I'm feeling grouchier each time I go online to explore the options. It's not because I have no options (see, a thing to feel grateful for...right there), but because finding the one that fits seems to be like finding the way from one end of a maze to the other. I know there is a path, but the twists and turns are so confusing.

Leaving that fraught subject, let's turn to autumn, a source of great joy and something else to be grateful for. This year we have had perfect fall weather. The nights have been cold enough to bring out brilliant color on the leaves of the deciduous trees...bright scarlet, intense yellow and gold, deep burgundy and russet. As I drive around doing errands I've been making sure that I take time to appreciate that glory of autumn while it lasts. Soon the rains will come, the leaves fall, and life will get more hectic. Is that possible? Well, it does seem to happen each winter holiday season, so why not this year.

Our entry project, begun in the early days of May, is finally finished, inside and out. We will be welcoming my Mom and favorite sailing sister-in-law through the new russet door into the tiled and pillared entry very soon. That, perhaps, is the thing I am most grateful for today. My Mom hasn't been here for a few years, so I'm looking forward to cups of tea and lots of conversation with both Mom and Sailing Woman.

We'll be late getting home, so I made a nice pot of soup, which I can reheat once we get home. If you like the flavors of chicken pot pie, you'll love this soup. Full of veggies and chicken chunks, I even found a way to use some of the caramelized onions I made in the crock pot. It's a soup as comforting as a big hug. Sending a virtual big hug and my gratitude for her abundant love and caring to my favorite Lexington sister-in-law B. I'm very lucky to have her in my life, even if we live too far apart. In truth, I am very lucky as far as sister and brother in-laws go. Thanks y'all!

Chicken Pot Pie Soup
all the flavors of pot pie except the crust
2 medium red potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch dice
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 oz. sliced, cleaned mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
pepper to taste
1 stalk celery, sliced
1-2 medium carrots, halved and sliced
1/4 cup caramelized onion
2 large chicken breasts, cut in 1 inch dice
1 can low fat or non-fat evaporated milk

2 cups mixed frozen vegetables...I used frozen peas, frozen corn and frozen green beans

Ingredients for this recipe are cooked in two pots. In on heavy bottomed saucepan, place the red potatoes and chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender.

In the second saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, thyme and pepper. Stir to coat the mushrooms, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer 4 minutes, stirring once. Uncover and add the celery and carrots. Stir well, then cover and simmer 4 minutes. Uncover and add the caramelized onion, chicken pieces and the milk. Stir well, then cover and simmer 4 minutes.
Uncover. Add the cooked potatoes and stock. Stir well, then taste for seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Add the frozen vegetables, stir, and cover. Simmer 4 minutes. Serve, adding biscuits on the side if desired, to finish off the "pot pie" riff.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


The Canadians are smart. They celebrate Thanksgiving when there is a true overflowing of bounty from the fields, with the season finally bringing all the remaining fruits and veggies to their peak ripeness. In the U.S.A. we don't celebrate this year until late November. I suspect that everything in my garden will be done before that, the plants pulled up and the mulch laid down, with just a few winter flowers keeping things cheerful as we head into the Christmas season.

I'm feeling thankful now, so why wait? I'm thankful for the gift of health, perhaps one of the most important ones to have. This has not been the best year in that regard, but at the moment all systems are go, I'm adding weight, gradually, at the gym when I work out, my body weight is slowly dropping and  by a number of other measures my health is good.

I'm grateful for time with my daughter and for being able to get together more frequently. She always amazes me with her creativity,

wonderful sense of humor, and ability to seize the day and have a good time, even when life is not easy and it would be easier to veg out or be dour. She doesn't even seem to know that she has a superior business sense, but it is evident when I listen to her talk about her work and the business systems and strategies. Once she becomes more experienced with her current field, it will be fun to watch her progress. We have a good time when we are together, so I'm glad that it is more than a few times a year.

Perhaps it is silly, but I'm really, really thankful that our latest project is winding up. The results are lovely and it looks like the house always had this entry.

Pi thinks that the sunny part of the deck by the front door was created just for him so that he could survey his domain. I know that the tiled floor will hold up well in the coming wet weather, with all those muddy boots and paws coming through. Learned a lot, too, but it's time to move on into late fall and all the celebrations that it holds. I'm also extremely grateful for Sweetie, his patience with me, his skill with tools, his extraordinary work ethic, and for all of the time and love he gives me. There are not enough words to express my gratitude for having him in my life.

This is only a few of the things that I am grateful for, but it is a start. What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

It's Still Pumpkin Season

All Hallow's Eve, better known in the USA as Halloween, has always been one of my favorite holidays. Perhaps it's because it is one of the biggies of fall and because we get to dress up if we want to and be, there is candy!

This past weekend my talented daughter came over and we invited a neighbor and her niece, too and had a pumpkin carving party. I'd never tried using those carving designs, but K showed us how to use them and punch dots to show where to carve,

and even the trick of cutting out the bottom of the pumpkin instead of a top hat, both to remove the seeds and stringy bits, but also so you can just pop the carved pumpkin over a candle or tea light. It was more challenging than I thought it would be, but the results were amazing! The pumpkin above has a leaf design that goes around the stem carved into the pumpkin, but not all the way through. I used some wood carving tools for that...very cool.
Here are some more:

Katia's Elmo...isn't he fun?

AM's howling wolf, carved on a green winter squash, which added depth and was harder to do.

K's scary jack o'lantern. Don't you love those curlicues at the top of the eyes?

And a wolf for J.

Plus a witch on a tall pumpkin.

This one K carved at home on Halloween, but it is a beauty, so I had to include it.

In keeping with the pumpkin theme, I made pumpkin muffins. They had a cream cheese/ricotta cheese filling and were delicious! We also had chili, mini carrots and crackers. Good times.

On Halloween I went to K's house and we decorated the front walk with the pumpkins,

 had more chili, and watched Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Wher-Rabbit. Followed by a Warriors game. I was pretty tired on Friday, so it's taken until today to post all this. Hope YOU had a great Halloween. She was costumed as an awesome cat woman.

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins with Creamy Filling
started with basic muffins in Joy of Cooking, then went wild

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs ( or ½ cup egg substitute)
1 cup canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 oz. softened cream cheese
4 oz. ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Sparkling sugar (sanding sugar) for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease and flour (or use baking spray) one 12- cup muffin tin. Set aside.

In a large bowl or on a large sheet of waxed paper, measure out all of the dry ingredients and spices: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg. Mix together with a fork. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin, oil, applesauce, brown sugar, molasses, yogurt and vanilla.

Put the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture bowl. With as few strokes as possible, combine the wet and dry ingredients. Do not over mix

In a small bowl, stir the cream cheese, ricotta cheese and sugar together until thoroughly mixed.
Fill the muffin cups about one third full with the batter, then, dollop on about a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half of the filling, then top the filling with more batter, dividing evenly among the cups. Sprinkle the tops with sparkling sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven 20 – 25 minutes, or until muffins spring back when the center is gently pressed. Filling may peek through. That's O.K.

Makes 12.