Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin cupcakes

Pumpkin cupcake with a jack-o'-lantern on top

I just couldn't hold out anymore. Despite the pile of apples I still have, I just can't take another apple recipe, especially when pumpkin season is already upon us and Halloween is just days away. So I caved and stocked up on cans of pumpkin puree (if it's good enough for every chef on the Food Network, it's good enough for me), and here we go, it's pumpkin time.

This recipe was a nice combination of practicing things I know and new things I hadn't tried, 'cause I decided to make these Halloween-y and make my own jack-o'-lantern decorations. I'd never worked with fondant before, and I'd always heard it tastes horrible, so I did a little research online, and what I discovered is that Duff Goldman's brand of fondant is actually supposed to taste pretty decent. I won't buy a product just 'cause it has a famous chef's name on it, but if the product is actually good, I'm all for it. And this stuff's not bad. It tastes like buttercream, really buttery buttercream. I wouldn't want to eat a ton of it, 'cause it's basically chewy frosting, but it's not bad.

Fondant pumpkin Finished jack-o'-lantern

I was really impressed with how these came out, too, 'cause I had a picture in my head of how they'd look, but I've never worked with fondant before, so I was prepared for them to look stupid. But they don't. They look adorable! And they're just like I pictured in my head. I put together some fondant, some gel food color and an edible-ink pen, and I created these cute little buggers. Even my boyfriend remarked, "aw, those are kinda cute." :) They're not all identical, but I wasn't trying for that -- I figured that you almost never see two pumpkins alike in nature, so mine wouldn't be, either.

And oh yeah, the cupcakes are pretty tasty, too. They also made the house smell so good that I had all I could do not to scarf them all down straight out of the oven, cooling and frosting be damned.

Dry ingredients I will not eat them now, I will not eat them now...

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 stick, room temperature
1 c dark brown sugar
1/3 c sugar
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1/2 c buttermilk mixed with 1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c canned pumpkin (NOT pie mix, just pumpkin)

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
2 c confectioners’ sugar
1/4 c maple syrup (the real stuff, not pancake syrup)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line muffin cups with cupcake papers.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars on medium until fluffy.
3. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper.
4. To the first bowl, beat in the eggs one at a time.
5. Beat in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture, alternating between them, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
6. Beat in the pumpkin until incorporated.
7. Fill the cupcake cups about 3/4 full. Bake about 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
8. Let cool a few minutes, then de-pan onto a rack to cool completely.
9. Beat together all of the frosting ingredients on medium until fluffy. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Apple bread

Apple bread

Today's lesson: Sometimes, size does matter.

See, I had this idea that if one loaf of apple bread was a good idea, two would be even better, so I should double the recipe. And that would have been a great idea, except for one thing: I didn't notice until I was actually putting the batter in the pans that this recipe calls for a 9-by-5 loaf pan, and I have 8-by-4 loaf pans. I thought "well, heck, what's the worst that can happen -- maybe they'll be a little tall, puff up a bit over the top of the pan, no big deal," and I went ahead and filled those pans full.

What actually happened was that when I put them in the oven, the batter started spilling over the sides of the pans as if it was fleeing for its life, some of it hitting the bottom of the oven in a big, batter-y pile that started to smoke up the kitchen a bit. Um, oops. (Now, if I had been thinking, I would've at least put a pan or some foil or something on the rack below them, just in case this happened. But I digress.)

I had planned on taking one of these loaves to work, but after seeing how misshapen they looked, I couldn't bring myself to put one out for public consumption (and silent criticism). Guess I'll just have to eat them both. Good thing they're still really, really tasty. I'd make this again, but I'd definitely scale the recipe back for my pans, maybe a one-and-a-half batch for the two pans. I might try swirling the topping into the batter, too, 'cause when I de-panned them, a lot of the topping fell off.

Apple Bread
From Tasty Kitchen
Yield as written: One 9-by-5 loaf

1/2 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
1/4 c milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 c shredded apples
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 c brown sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, cold, cut into pieces
1/2 c walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray the loaf pan with nonstick spray.
2. In one bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the milk, eggs, vanilla and apples. (Mine looked like a gloppy, nasty disaster right about now, but fear not.)
3. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
4. Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Pour batter into pan.
5. In a bowl, crumble together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, butter and nuts. Sprinkle over the batter.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes, then de-pan and cool on a rack.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Apple crisp

Apple crisp, mmmm

It's been way too long, hasn't it? Sorry about that, mythical reader. But I've been buried under a pile of apples, and a lot of what I've done with them hasn't really qualified as baking. One week, I made apple butter, which was just a slow-cooker thing. Another week, I made turnovers, but if refrigerated puff pastry is good enough for Alton Brown, it's good enough for me -- still, it didn't really seem to qualify as "home-baked," not enough to blog about.

So here we are, weeks later, and I've finally gotten around to what might be one of the most universally-loved apple dishes out there: Apple crisp. Yum! Apple crisp has to be right up there with apple pie, if not a very close second, as far as apple dishes go. And it's so much easier, 'cause you don't have to make a pastry (though the pastry I posted for apple pie is surprisingly easy) -- you just have to crumble some stuff together and mix some stuff together, slap it in a pan and bake it until you can't resist the smell coming from your oven any longer. Heck, you don't even need utensils to make it, other than peeling and cutting the apples. Once that was done, I just used my hands.

Apple Crisp
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

8 apples, peeled, cored and cut up into pieces
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 c rolled oats
2 sticks butter, cut up

1. In the biggest bowl you've got, mix the cut-up apples with the lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread in the bottom of a 9-by-13 baking dish.
2. Crumble together the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl with your fingers. Sprinkle evenly over the apples.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, until the top is browned and the filling is bubbly.