Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Go Spectacular With Your Pumpkin Pie

With Halloween getting close and Thanksgiving feasting not too far behind, it's time to think about a pumpkin pie. I usually make the classic one that can be found on the Libby's Pumpkin can label, but sometimes you want to go over the top.

Time for Pumpkin Pie Spectacular, a ginger-lover's dream, with a regular crust, a gingersnap inner crust and lots of rich, delicious pumpkin filling, plus streusel. You can gild the lily, so to speak, with dollops of whipped cream, too, but it is a fine pie just as it comes out of the pie pan.

Pumpkin pie has always been a favorite and I love ginger, too, so the recipe that K brought home with her to make seemed like a winner. The recipe comes from the November issue of Southern Living magazine. A regular crust is topped with a layer of a gingersnap-based crunch...

and then baked. A filling that includes sweetened condensed milk and sour cream, along with cinnamon ... and more ginger ...

is baked a short while, then topped with a pecan and brown sugar struesel around the edges of the pie. Once the filling bakes until set the pie cools on a rack.

Right before serving it gets decorated with a cinnamon and ginger spiked topping. I used real whipping cream (although the sweetened condensed milk and sour cream were non-fat versions) because I had some and everything goes better with real whipped cream.

This pie is outrageously good! Because this is from the Southern Living magazine, you know that it is rich and decadent...and Southern.  You could almost hear my Southern accent as I served Sweetie the first piece.

The pastry crust was crisp and golden, the gingersnap crust on top of that had absorbed some of the pumpkin mixture's liquid, so it was moist and a little chewy and full of ginger flavor! The filling (which I cooked less that the recipe suggested...I only baked it for 15 minutes before adding the struesel) was creamy yet firm enough to use a fork and not a spoon. The struesel added a nutty crunch and the whipped cream tied all of the flavors and textures together luxuriously. I left out the ginger cookie half rounds that were to adorn each slice...that was too much for me, which is a funny thing to say about such an over-the-top pie. 

It's been a few years since I enjoyed this pie (haven't found a substitute for sweetened condensed milk so far), but you can enjoy it with your family and friends this year and be grateful for each other and for being lucky enough to live where we can indulge ourselves.

If you make this pie, be prepared for compliments, requests for second helpings, and the need for small pieces. It is rich and intensely flavored in the best possible way.

Pumpkin Pie Spectacular
From Southern Living magazine Nov 09

½ (15 oz) package refrigerated piecrusts or home made single crust pie dough
2 cups crushed gingersnaps (about 40 gingersnaps)
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp ground ginger
Pecan Streusel
Topping: 7 thin ginger cookies, halved (optional)
Ginger-Spiced Topping & ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fit piecrust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp.

Stir together crushed gingersnaps, pecans, powdered sugar and melted butter. Press mixture on bottom and ½ inch up sides of piecrust.

Note – if pie pan is not a very deep deep-dish type, you may have some of the gingersnap mixture left over.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).

Stir together pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, sour cream, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger. Pour into prepared, cooled crust. Place pie on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes (but if you are using a shallower pie pan, only bake for 15 minutes). Sprinkle Pecan Streusel around edge of crust. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until set, shielding edges with aluminum foil during last 25 or so minutes of baking if necessary. If using, insert ginger cookie halves around edge of crust.
Let pie cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Dollop with Ginger-Spice Topping; dust with cinnamon.

Pecan Streusel: Stir together ¼ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar; 2 tablespoons melted butter and ¾ cup pecans, coarsely chopped.

Ginger-Spice Topping: Stir together 1 cup whipping cream which has been whipped to a soft but firm stage (or use an 8 oz container of whipped topping, thawed), ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon ground ginger.

Recipe from Vivian Chateau, Mobile, Alabama Serves 8 - total time to make: 3 hrs, 25 minutes

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Half A Puffy Blueberry Pancake Recipe

Over the summer I played with a Dutch Baby recipe that you bake in a 9 x 13-inch pan and loved it so much that I made it multiple times. Dutch Babies are puffy pancakes that you bake in the oven instead of griddling on the stovetop. The batter is mixed up quickly in a blender and I like to scatter fresh blueberries or raspberries over as soon as the batter is in the pan.

It would be hard to top the original recipe for serving a group, but it's too much pancake for two people. Because this pancake puffs up while baking, but begins to flatten once removed from the oven, it really isn't a good dish for leftovers.

So the solution, since I wanted to have some a few days ago as our morning treat, was to take the original recipe and to divide the ingredient amounts in half. Then I baked it in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. That worked very well and we found room to eat the whole thing. The cast iron heated up well in the pre-heating oven, so the edges were nicely browned. I highly recommend it! 

German Pancakes with Blueberries (smaller version)

Serves 2-3

3 tablespoons butter (or non-dairy margarine or 'butter')
3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk (or nut milk)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
dash salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a few drops lemon oil (optional)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and drained and picked over for stems or over-ripe berries
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

As oven preheats, put the butter in an ungreased 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet (or a 9-inch cake pan with high sides) and place in the oven, just until the butter is melted. (Mine started to brown slightly at the edges)

Place the eggs, milk, flour, salt and vanilla, (and lemon oil, if using) in a blender and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides, if needed, and process again for a few seconds.

Pour the batter into the hot baking pan, over the melted butter. Sprinkle with the blueberries and with the sugar (if using).

Bake, for 16-22 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Pancake will puff up, but will sink down again as it cools once removed from the oven.

Serve at once. Can sprinkle with powdered sugar, with lemon juice, or serve with maple syrup and/or more berries.

Note: you can make this without berries, too, and it will still puff up gloriously and taste wonderful.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

In Two Days This Blog Will Be Fifteen Years Old

Back in October of 2006, when I started this blog, blogs were a relatively new thing and food focused blogs were probably even newer. It was a heady time because the internet was catching on and still had the feel of youth and the opportunity of being visionary. Not even sure that anyone had figured out analytics, and monetizing was still in the future, so no ads that I can remember. I loved that it was a place where writing, photography, and cooking could come together and that people around the world could potentially see what was posted and post on their own blogs, too. I knew that it was actually a fairly small percentage of that world that had the access to do so, but things could still go viral, even if that meant a smaller number than it does today. I tried many dishes and techniques that I would never have tried and I was inspired countless times by other bloggers. Friendships grew out of blogging, too. Some of my early blogging buddies found careers in photography, food catering, event planning, cookbook making and more through blogging and the skills needed to do it well. My photography improved, along with my Photoshop skills. I was even able to do short fiction once I invented the Land of St. Honore'.

I checked out some of the folks who commented on my early posts and most have stopped blogging, many quite a while ago. I may reach that point one day, but not yet. After all, the movement of folks to the internet now has surged past Blogger to Instagram and Snap Chat, and beyond those to Tik Tok and probably others that I'm too un-cool to even know about.

There are tons of special interest groups that still use blogs and I belong to the Bread Baking Babes, who, obviously, bake bread. I am interested in creative folks, including those who create in ink, in glass, and in various media like acrylic, watercolor and pastels, and in writing. I still find my creative self mostly in the kitchen and in graphic arts and in gardening, but do the occasional watercolor or acrylic piece.

I recently spent time in graphic arts land and as a result sent a cookbook to the printer. This time it won't be for sale, but it's based on the Comfort Food cookbook I did in 2012, with a few additional recipes and lots of family photos. It really is a family cookbook this time. I had such fun creating photo collages of my siblings and their offspring, plus my parents and my own hubby and kids and significant others. In the process I cooked and baked more recipes so that there would be more illustrated recipes. Things like Spicy Bean Bake, Morning Glory Muffins and Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, and my Dad's Fresh Tomato Soup brought back good memories. While most of the recipes were in the old book, there are new ones, too.

The year ahead is still a mystery, but I expect to try new dishes and baked goods, to see if I can reset my iPhone camera to get rid of that yellow tinge that seems to be omnipresent, and maybe illustrate some of my posts with ink and watercolor drawings instead of photos...stay tuned and see how it all turns out!

Looking back at the early days, the first post where the photo was remotely OK was one for Saucepan Fruit Bars. Since I've recently been wanting to have some of those with a nice cup of tea, I'm posting that recipe here, slightly updated for the upcoming holiday season. Think of it as a baked anniversary gift to us both. Thanks for hanging in with me all these years if you are an early reader, and thanks for reading this blog now, no matter how long you have been one of my dear readers. So far, with this post, I have done 1,578 posts and have had 1,386,115 views. 

Enjoy the bar cookies. They are cake-like cookies with a tangy sweet-sour lemon glaze and a touch of spice, plus dried fruit which keeps them moist for a few days. They ship well and would be a great holiday gift. Be sure to not overbake them. Check at about 18 minutes and every couple of minutes are looking for a few crumbs sticking to toothpick inserted in the center. In an airtight tin or container, these keep for a while, if you can resist them, and they go really well with a nice hot cup of tea. Cheers!

Here is the original easy one that is mixed in a saucepan, so fewer bowls to wash!

Here is my newer version, still mixed in a pot:

Holiday Saucepan Fruit Bars 

1/2 cup melted butter or margarine (1 stick)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs or equivalent egg substitute
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves
1/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk (or milk with a 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice stirred in)
1/8 teaspoon orange extract
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mixed diced candied fruits and/or peels (or fruitcake mixed candied fruits)
1 cup dried currants

Melt butter in saucepan. Add sugars and eggs; beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients and spices. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk, orange extract, lemon extract, vanilla extract, then all that to the pot. Mix well. Stir in the candied fruit and/or peels and the dried currants until well combines.

Spread batter in a greased 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 20-25 minutes. Test in center with toothpick - you are looking for a few clinging crumbs. Do not overbake.

Brush while hot with Glaze (see below); cool in pan. Cut into 2 x 1-inch bars. Makes about 45 cookies - one or two might go into the baker's mouth.

Glaze: Mix 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted, and 4 teaspoons lemon juice.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Babes Bake Pumpkin-Shaped Bread

You know fall has arrived when everywhere you turn there is pumpkin spice this and pumpkin spice that...and lots of actual carving pumpkins at the market, too.

For October, the Bread Baking Babes have been given a seasonal challenge by Cathy of Bread Experience, our Kitchen of the Month. She asked us to make boules (round loaves of bread) shaped with string to resemble pumpkins. She gave us a recipe for the bread, but I struck out in another direction, making a bread that I last made in 2007. It's a potato bread, with the potato part being boiled and mashed garnet yams. They impart a light orange color to the bread and contribute both flavor and moisture as well. In 2007 I made the bread with garlic as the recipe called for, but this time I wanted a more neutral bread so I skipped the garlic and added just a touch of...wait for it!...pumpkin spice.

Shaping these little loaves was fun if challenging. Mine had quite a bit of oven spring, so they tore a bit. The first one did that and I blamed it on my forgetting to cut any slashes to allow for expansion, but I did quite a few slashes on the second one and still had it tear . Fortunately, they both still had shape from the string and looked somewhat pumpkin-like. I used bakers twine which I marinated in olive oil for a while and I had no trouble removing the string once the loaves were done. The crust was thin but crisp and the crumb was moist and tight. I loved the flavor. It wasn't sweet, had a taste of yam and a hint of the spice mix. I liked it best with just a bit of non-dairy butter, but tried it toasted, too. Both were delicious. Sweetie says this is the best bread yet, but I think it's because its been so long since I baked bread.

Do try this yourself. The given recipe can be found on Cathy's site, and she also has great photos of the process of laying out the strings that shape the ball into a squash shape (after oiling the strings), and all the information you need to be successful.

Be sure to visit the other Babes sites, too, to see what they did with this fully fall bread! 

Yam Bread 'Pumpkins'

based on a recipe by Narsai David

1 cup warm water (preferably the water the yams were boiled in)
1 cup mashed yams (boil until tender, then peel and mash and cool to room temperature)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 - 4 cups white bread or all-purpose flour (about)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)
spray oil

Place the water, sweet potatoes (yams), sugar, and yeast in a mixing bowl. Let rest for 5 minutes. Add half the flour and all the salt, and pie spice if using. Mix well with a dough hook or heavy paddle. The dough will be quite soft and sticky. Add another cup of flour. If using a dough hook, you may need to add a little more flour to keep the dough around the hook and to make the dough firm enough to shape. Continue mixing for 4-5 minutes if you are using a mixing machine, knead about the same amount of time if kneading by hand.  Spray oil (I use olive oil spray) to coat a large bowl or rising container. Put in the dough and turn to coat the dough with oil. Cover with oiled plastic wrap or with a clean shower cap.

Place the dough in a warm place to rise.. When the dough has doubled in volume, anywhere between 1 and 2 hours, turn it out onto a floured surface and punch it down to get out the air that has inflated it. Kneading a few times also helps in this step. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball, pulling the dough to the 'back' of the ball repeatedly to form a skin of dough. This is a very soft dough, so use plenty of flour to keep it from sticking to the board.

Now it's time to shape these balls into pumpkins! Use a round piece of parchment - either a pre-cut one or one that you cut to fit your Dutch oven or other baking pot.

Use a food safe string for tying. I used baker's twine. The key thing is to oil your string well. I cut eight lengths (four for each 'pumpkin') that would encircle the dough ball with a fair amount left over for tying, then put these, one by one, into a bowl. I added olive oil and pushed the string down into the oil and let them soak until it was time to use them. I had no trouble peeling the string off the pumpkins once the breads were baked, but if you do, use a sharp paring knife to help loosen the string if it sticks.

Lay four pieces of string on the parchment circle with the ends beyond the parchment paper. Lay two in a cross and the other two between those. Put the dough ball right where the strings all cross, then pick up the ends of the strings and gather them together and tie at the top. Don't tie the string too tight in order to give the loaf room to expand in the oven. However, you don't want it to have too much oven spring because it could tear and mess up the shape. (I had too much oven spring, so mine did tear and the pumpkin shape wasn't as clear, but it was still pretty.

Put each shaped and tied dough ball (boule) into a lined and floured banneton or flour two tea towels well and use them to line two bowls, then put the dough balls in those. Cover lightly with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for about half an hour. Balls will get puffy. Reserve the parchment circles for baking time.

When it is about 45 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven and a deep cast iron pot or Dutch oven, with lid, to 450 degrees F. If you don't have that kind of pot, a baking stone with either a deep sauce pan or an overturned metal bowl will work. You are creating a mini-oven for each 'pumpkin' to bake in, in turn.

When ready to bake, return the bread to the parchment circles,  Score the bread in a pattern (I used a short vertical slash three time for each section) and then carefully remove the pot to a heavy towel.  Using hands protected with oven mitts, remove the lid and lower the 'pumpkin' loaf on the parchment paper into the pot. Immediately put on the lid and return the pot to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake an additional 15-20 minutes. Loaf will be golden to medium brown and when the bottom of the loaf is tapped, it will sound hollow. Immediately remove the strings and set the loaf to cool on a wire rack. Repeat the baking with the second shaped ball of dough.

Makes two medium-sized pumpkin shaped rustic loaves. 

Friday, October 08, 2021

Fig and Walnut Tart

It really feels like fall today, with cooler temperatures and lots of trees changing into their autumn colors. One of the lovely fruits of fall is fresh figs. A neighbor gifted us with some that she grew...the purple ones that have a sort of magenta seed section that is so pretty. I decided to combine them with another fall a tart.

Frozen puff pastry is such a delightful thing to have on hand. You just defrost it overnight in the fridge and it's ready to use. Having made puff pastry from scratch, with all the rolling, folding, and successive bouts of chilling, I know how much work is saved by using the pastry from the store. Since I can't do dairy, I use the kind made with shortening. Perhaps it doesn't have as much flavor as that made with butter, but it is still delicious and flaky.

You start by rolling out a piece of the thawed puff pastry to make it a bit bigger. With a sharp knife you trim around the edges to create thin strips which become the sides of the tart once you 'glue' them onto the remaining base with water.

Inside the tart, you spread a mixture that is a combination of ricotta cheese (I used the non-dairy Kite Hill ricotta - it's very hard to tell it apart from dairy ricotta), sugar, orange zest, and an egg yolk. On top of that you place wedges of the fresh fig in a nice pattern...I just used rows. Chopped walnuts get sprinkled between the fig wedges. An egg  wash, using the egg white that remained when the yolk was used in the filling, is brushed carefully over the pieces of pastry that make up the sides...carefully because you don't want any wash to go down the sides or it won't rise properly.

The tart gets baked in a hot over...425 degrees F until the fruit juices start to run and the crust is golden brown. After a bit of time cooling, treat yourself to a rectangle of pure autumn deliciousness! The nuts have roasted, the filling has firmed up, and the fruit is juicy and mellowed by the cooking. Sublime! 

The actual recipe will be posted here tomorrow.