This week marks many things –
Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Leopold’s gotch-ya day, and my 27th birthday.
These recipes came out of a conversation I was having a few weeks back at my in-laws dinner table. My father-in-law (it’s almost official, right?) whipped out some pumpkin bread he had recently picked up at Wegman’s thinking “why not?” We all agreed the bread was good, but just not the same as “Beth’s Pumpkin stuff”. What was this pumpkin bread-muffin-cupcake and why had I not heard of it? More likely I had heard of them, possibly eaten them, and just forgot about them and their reputation. I made my mother-in-law promise to send me the recipe and later that night it arrived in my inbox.
There aren’t many recipes that I don’t make modifications to. I kept the cake recipe the same, even leaving in the pecans. There are two camps in the “nut” baked good battle; some like the textural contrast of the nuts and some find it offensive and disharmonious. I added the pecans because: 1) I love pecans and 2) I had them in the apartment. My mother-in-law leaves them out and they taste just as good.
In this case, I took my mother-in-law’s recommendation and switched the original recipe’s frosting out for her tried-and-true and award-winning cream cheese frosting. I added in a few tablespoons of pumpkin puree leftover from the cake into the frosting and topped these with some cranberry orange relish, which I had already added a few tablespoons of to the batter.
You might think topping a cupcake with relish is crazy, but pumpkin and cranberry are both flavors that can go savory or sweet. This relish is more like a coulis and the tartness and brightness of the topping really do a great job to keep this treat from getting too heavy. You can even argue that this has fruit and vegetables in it–with cream cheese, it’s great for breakfast! Plus you know there’s going to be leftover cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving.
Even though I was making 4 types of Christmas cookies, my office wouldn’t get to try any of them, so I whipped these up on a weeknight after seeing them on my friend Olga’s blog. I decided to make the pistachio cookies more festive by adding some red dried cranberries and some zingy crystallized ginger. I thought I was pretty clever turning these into Christmas-colored cookies.
Sometimes I think that chocolate is often used as a crutch in baking. It takes a really good hand to be able to make something delicious without chocolate in it that everyone will enjoy. These cookies had a firm yet delicate crumb and were extremely flavorful. I like that each bite had a bit of something else in it, an element of surprise, but some people don’t like that.
While these cookies were baking, I realized I had some chopped pistachios, cranberries, and ginger left over. I combined these with some leftover chopped hazelnuts from my homemade nutella and thought they’d make a delicious topping for one of my favorite things to make – pumpkin bread (or muffins). I scooped the bread batter into these odd shaped Panibois Baking Molds and hoped for the best, checking them often since they held varying sizes of batter. I couldn’t taste them after they baked (obviously), but I wrapped them up in cute snowflake cello-wrap and tied them with twine. I gave some to my family and some to co-workers. I’d like to think this is a more tasty version of a fruitcake, but pumpkin!
In the fall I went berry and peach picking with my boyfriend at a local orchard (post to come later!) I originally had also planned to pick apples, but by the time we went to the orchard it wasn’t apple season. So, we went to our local farmers’ market and picked some apples up there!
With the apples, we made an apple pie but there was a lot of apple filling left over, so I used it to make mini apple pies and mixed the rest into pumpkin muffins.
There’s no real recipe for the pumpkin muffins. I used a Pillsbury Quick Bread/Muffin mix from the grocery store and added the apples, a 1/4 cup of apple cider (also from the market), and 1-2 tablespoons of rice protein powder to get the mix back to the consistency it was before the apples. I love this mix and stock up on it when it’s on sale. It’s only sold at certain grocery stores in my area and it’s a good go-to when you need to make something and only want to dirty one bowl. Before baking, I topped the batter with some granola and followed the baking directions on the package. Since I added ingredients, it made a few extra muffins.
Everyone loved the muffins at work and at home–maybe they tasted better because they knew they were a little bit better for them?