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Archive for November, 2009

All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

Even as I get older and wiser (?), life continues to be full of firsts. This recipe, for instance, was the first TWD entry in my brief TWD career baked entirely by King H, my first love (discounting the likes of Taylor Hanson and Jordan Catalano, who may have come earlier, but certainly weren’t as…real), during his first foray into baking in our first kitchen. As you might imagine, I am usually the one doing the baking in our relationship. King H, on the other hand, makes a fitting sous chef (he’s often found cleaning up the wake of baking products I leave behind), a mean Chicago deep-dish pizza, and the perfect choice of music to muck around in the kitchen to. He’s also very often left to eat half a batch of muffins or 25 cookies, all in the name of feeding my baking habit. And for that I’m grateful.

Imagine my surprise, then, when he came home from work one night and mentioned he was involved in a bake-off at work. Another first: our roles had suddenly been reversed. We got into the spirit last week, when our friend B stopped over to use the kitchen and prepare her entry, these stunning Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (incidentally, this will now be my go-to Autumn carrot cake recipe, and is a perfectly fall-spiced compliment to my more spring-y version previously posted here), but this week it was finally King H’s turn to shine. Initially inspired to bring in sweet potatoes with marshmallows, a Thanksgiving staple which is all but lost on anyone outside of the US (believe me, I’ve begged more than one English chef to make this for the holiday, only to be met with complete and utter shock and disgust, which is a big part of the reason I’ll be finally be hosting Thanksgiving at home this year), his excitement was tempered by the fact that he’d be assisting in making six pounds worth of candied yams (yams? Sweet potatoes? I’m going rogue and calling them both*) a mere four days later. And so King H had a momentary lapse in bright ideas on Sunday afternoon, as he was dragging a 14 pound frozen turkey and 12 pounds of potatoes home from Waitrose. Suddenly, all he saw before him was days of mashing, basting and mixing. It was enough to put him off baking entirely and he was suitably forlorn.

Enter me and my desire to get back on track in my quest to complete Tuesdays with Dorie and…problem quickly solved (at least the pot-luck part – he’s still got lots of mashing to do in the days ahead). I gave King H a choice of all four recipes this month (the folks at TWD have graciously done away with the one set recipe per week rule during November) and this one jumped right out at both of us, courtesy of The Nitty Britty. If he couldn’t make his candied yams, this Bundt cake, it appeared, would be a fitting substitute, as Dorie herself noted you could “name your favorite it-tastes-like-Thanksgiving flavor, and you’ll find it here”. And, as usual, right she was. I left King H to his own devices (one of the rules strictly enforced by his co-workers was that I would not produce this for him) and, aside from chopping a few unruly cranberries (why, oh why must cranberries pop all over the place?!) and answering a few questions about the KitchenAid stand mixer creaming/mixing process, I didn’t reappear again until he was pouring the batter in the well-buttered Bundt pan. And was I ever glad I had the foresight to appear at such a crucial moment, because this was the first time I was the one who got to lick the batter bowl clean, an honour I usually bestow on whoever pops down to the kitchen while I’m baking and tasting in my own time.  If the batter was any indication, this cake was going to be a hit at work. King H drizzled it with a maple syrup glaze and I watched it head out the door with him on his way to work this morning, feeling more than a bit despondent at the fact that I wouldn’t be tasting the cake that filled my whole house with the smells of Thanksgiving a mere twelve hours earlier. I may have to wait until Thursday to smell anything quite as good again, but I have it on good authority that King H’s compatriots were thrilled with this cake. And I’m thrilled with it, too, even though I never had a bite, because he baked something! And it was beautiful! And it smelled like heaven! And he’s so precise! And he told me I keep him, even when he wins the contest and becomes an international Bundt superstar! And, perhaps most importantly, now…now that he’s given these foreigners a taste of the cranberries, pumpkin, apples and pecans that help make this time of year so special, thanks to King H perhaps we just may have another first to look forward to: winning them over with those marshmallow-topped yams on Thursday…

All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake
(from Baking: From My Home To Yours)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting or maple syrup icing (see note)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- to 10- inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet-you want the oven’s heat to circulate freely through the Bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and ground ginger, if you’re using it (not the grated ginger).

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the pumpkin, chopped apple and grated ginger, if you’re using it-don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool to room temperature on the rack.

Note: just before bringing the cake to the table, dust it with confectioners’ sugar or drizzle it with maple syrup icing, which Dorie introduces in her “playing around” section and which King H used to much praise in his version. Simply sift 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Add more maple syrup little by little, until you have an icing that runs nicely off the tip of the spoon — you might need another 1/2 tablespoon syrup to get the right consistency. Put the cooled cake on a sheet of wax paper and drizzle the icing from the tip of the spoon over it. Let the icing set for a few minutes before serving.

*Edited to add this link, aptly found by King H a mere day after my great yam/sweet potato debate.

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Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

As I mentioned last time, pumpkin is a fall friend of mine. Up until this fall, however, it had never occurred to me to add a bit of pumpkin to those great American breakfast staples, pancakes and waffles. Am I ever glad I took the plunge this year, and not once but twice: first in preparation for a day of apple picking at home in NY and then a few weeks later, when the piles of fallen leaves in the Fields were in their prime and I was finally ready to break open the precious bottle of real NY maple syrup I brought back from home (which makes all the difference, as far as pancake/waffle-eating goes – and that means alot coming from a former Aunt Jemima-holic). I’m going to go out on a limb and say the pancakes were my favourite of the two variations, but it was a close call. There’s something much more subtle about the waffles, and I think the cinnamon sugar I poured on top of the pancakes gave them an unfair advantage. Subtle, at least in the sweetness department, they certainly were not. Rest assured that whether you’re a fan of waffles, like most of my family and friends, or the lone person in your household to beg for pancakes on a Sunday morning (that is, until you somehow find a fellow pancake lover out there in the vast, waffle-loving world who will share one or two or twenty with you over the course of the day) one of these recipes will suit you. And both will certainly suit the season.

Pumpkin Waffles

Pumpkin Waffles
(from Smitten Kitchen)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil for brushing waffle iron or cooking spray

Preheat oven to 250°F and preheat waffle iron. Sift together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl with buttermilk, pumpkin, and butter until smooth. Whisk in dry ingredients just until combined.

In a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks (as in, far softer than the over-beaten whites you’ll see in my picture above). Folk them gently into the waffle batter, until just combined.

Brush waffle iron lightly with oil and spoon batter (about 2 cups for four 4-inch Belgian waffles) into waffle iron, spreading quickly. Cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer waffles to rack in oven to keep warm and crisp. Make more waffles in same manner.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
(from Joy the Baker)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

Whisk together flours, salt, spices, sugar and baking powder in a medium sized bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, egg, pumpkin and vegetable oil or melted butter.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Don’t worry if you have a few lumps. You don’t want to over beat the batter, it’ll produce tough pancakes.

Let the batter sit for 10 minutes while you heat the skillet. Over low-medium heat melt a tablespoon of butter or vegetable oil . Once skillet is hot, spoon a heaping 2 tablespoons of batter per pancake into the skillet. When pancake starts to bubble slightly, carefully flip over.

Once browned and cooked through place pancakes on a oven proof plate and place in the oven set at 200 degrees F to keep warm while the rest of the pancakes are cooked.

Serve with whipped cream and cinnamon sugar.. or maple syrup.

Yield: 14-18 small pancakes.

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Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing

There are so many cooking supplies that I’ve learned to live without in England (cake flour, kosher salt, corn syrup, molasses, proper marshmallows and graham crackers to name but a few), but I’m pleased to report that Libby’s canned pumpkin is not one of them. Somehow, Libby’s has made it across the pond in spades and I am currently able to buy it one can at a time without fear of it falling off the shelves inexplicably and sans any sort of notice (why, yes, I am still traumatized by the removal of Skippy’s from the shelves of Waitrose and now hoard it in batches of seven or more wherever I can find it). And although I applaud anyone who makes their own pumpkin puree, there is something so nostalgic for me in that little Libby’s can that I just can’t give it up. It instantly reminds me of Autumn at home as a child, helping my mother prepare pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving or pumpkin cheesecake for Halloween or…pretty much any dessert including pumpkin. I wouldn’t want to bake during this time of year without it.

This cake was prepared during one such fit of nostalgia, when I woke up on a rainy Sunday morning to watch my brother run in the ING New York City Marathon on a tiny computer feed. I used to live minutes from the finish line in Central Park and would march down each year to cheer on the runners, always wishing I could see FDW among them. My brother, never one to shy away from pain or athletic feats (how unlike his sister), has run many a marathon, but it was NY that always eluded him. That was until he finally achieved a qualifying time and was automatically cleared for entry this and any year in the future. You can’t imagine just how thrilled I was for him and yet how crushed I was at the same time to know I wouldn’t be there to see it in person. It’s such a give and take, this European adventure of mine – one weekend I’m walking through Amsterdam, thrilled at all the opportunities I’ve had to travel over the past few years and the next I’m so fiercely wishing I was home I can’t see straight. That’s where this cake came in: baking, as it so often does, became a way for me to escape on Sunday, to clear my mind of worry for FDW’s run and sadness at my inability to be standing at the finish line, banging pots and pans and cowbells (I’m sure the other spectators are thankful I wasn’t there, come to think of it). I dragged the computer down to the kitchen on Sunday afternoon, still sleepy from staying up half the night to watch the Yankee game (another downside of the cross-continental divide), and watched my brother’s little tracker move from mile to mile, over the Verrazano, through Park Slope, up First Avenue and all the way to the park, while I baked and ate this delicious pumpkin cake. It was simply enough to prepare while simultaneously tracking one runner in a sea of thousands, but the brown butter icing and caramelized pecans (I didn’t have walnuts, but prefer pecans in any event) gave it a sophisticated taste that made me feel like it should have taken much longer to bake and assemble. The combination of the pecans and the thin layer of brown butter icing is a success in itself, so much so that I’ve taken to saving that bit of each slice for last. That combination, coupled with an incredibly moist yet subtle pumpkin base, made this cake an Autumn dessert worthy of being added to my permanent Libby’s line-up. It also officially sold King H on brown butter for life. He was astounded by its nutty taste, as am I nearly every time I make it.

It defies logic to think that a pumpkin cake made for someone while they were running a marathon, a cake they would never even get to eat, would spur them on and entice them, too, but I’d like to think FDW would have been pleased to think of me baking away while he ran his heart out. It’s the way it’s always been in our family, the way I remember it, and the way I hope it will be the next time he’s running on the first Sunday of November, when I’m standing there banging my pots and pans like a loon. So here’s to FDW, the boy who bonked and still reached the finish line in three hours – I’ll eat to that.

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing
(adapted from Martha Stewart)

For the cake:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup homemade Pumpkin Puree, or canned
1/2 cup warm (110 degrees Fahrenheit) milk

For the icing:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

For the caramelized walnut/pecan halves:1/2 cup sugar
10 well-shaped, large walnut or pecan halves

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line pan with parchment, and butter the parchment. Coat pan with flour, and tap out any excess.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, and beat until combined. Add pumpkin puree and milk; beat until combined. Add reserved flour mixture; beat on low speed until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool. Let cake rest 20 minutes.

In a small skillet, melt sugar over medium-high heat until medium golden, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Working quickly, drop walnut halves, one at a time, into the melted sugar. If the sugar hardens, return skillet to low heat, and stir several minutes. Using a fork, turn walnuts until they are evenly coated. Transfer walnuts to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until nut-brown in color, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and pour butter into a bowl, leaving any burned sediment behind.

Add sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk; stir until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add the remaining tablespoon milk, a little at a time, until consistency is spreadable. Let cool 5 minutes.

Unmold cake. Using an offset spatula, spread icing over top of cake, and decorate with caramelized walnut or pecan halves.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

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