Full Circle: Homemade Pumpkin Bread Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

 

I just had to pull over when I saw this sky when I was driving home.

I just had to pull over when I saw this sky!

It’s finally fall! The season of crisp weather, crisp local apples, squashes, and pumpkins. The leaves have been slow at changing this year, but on a long weekend drive, I spotted some reds and golds in the hills.

Growing up, every fall my mom would make several batches of pumpkin squares, which was homemade pumpkin bread baked in a 13 x 9 pan and cut into squares like cake. This was an easy snack to take to school and I loved when I found it in my lunchbox; the bread is super moist and I loved the walnuts (not so much the raisins). With all the talk of “pumpkin spice” which is in everything from coffee to vodka, I wanted to make something in my kitchen with real pumpkin spice, not something that is manufactured in a factory. I decided to pull out my family recipe for pumpkin bread one night when I wanted to warm the kitchen. But it wasn’t in my recipe box. I then went to my grandmother’s recipe box. Of all the things I inherited from her, this is the most special; a schoolteacher all her life, many recipe cards have her familiar handwriting that is so clear and recognizable.

So I went through and found a recipe for pumpkin bread, my mom’s, but in my handwriting! I couldn’t believe I was the one to give her this recipe; it must have been after college, so more than 25 years ago. And I could tell I had carefully written it so it was legible. Mom’s recipe makes a batch for a family, but Grandma did the math for me, so I was able to use her measurements for one loaf. (If you have a big family or big eaters, it’s easy to double.) Mom’s recipe to me to Grandma and back again. Full circle indeed.

Using fresh ginger, because that’s what I had on hand, with no clove or raisins, this was delicious. Half a cup of chopped walnuts, it made the kitchen warm and spicy. And it’s what I call a quick bread, just one bowl, add everything, mix and pour into a loaf pan. It takes maybe ten minutes to mix all together, so you can make it on a lazy Sunday morning to serve to guests (or yourself!) if you want. The piece I had with my morning tea was nice and homey and was a pleasant and delicious way to welcome the new season. I hope if you make this, you find it that way, too.

Happy Cooking!

pumpkin brad
Homemade Pumpkin Bread

This recipe is from the files of Nancy B. Koliander.

Since you’ll have about a cup of pumpkin leftover, you can either freeze it or hold tight; I’m working on a future recipe to use it up. Stay tuned!

In a mixing bowl, whisk together:

2 medium eggs
1 cup sugar (scant)
1 cup pumpkin
2/3 cup of oil (the original recipe calls for ¾ cup, but I cut it down a little bit and it was fine)

Add:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. each of salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg
1 tsp. each of cinnamon, ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
½ walnuts and/or a handful of raisins (optional)

Bake 50-55 minutes at 325 degrees in a greased bread pan.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Speaking of Pumpkin…
Right after I made my pumpkin bread, I came across this article from The Kitchn website, “What’s Actually in Your Canned Pumpkin Puree.” I was going to bypass it because I know my can of One-Pie pumpkin is just that, pumpkin. Well, I’m wrong and I’m glad I read it because I learned something: under USDA rules, since pumpkin and certain squashes are in the same genus they can be categorized as just pumpkin. So unless your can says 100 percent pumpkin (like Libby’s), you are getting a pumpkin/squash combination. I’m miffed and surprised about this piece of information. I think it is a bit of false advertising. Don’t you?

Happy 4th of July Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

forth mountainRabbit Rabbit! Can you believe it’s already July 1st?

I hope all of you are able to take a little time off this weekend to enjoy the local parades and fireworks. I spend an afternoon or so this time of year in the kitchen cooking so there are handy things in the fridge to grab for picnics at the lake: salads, dips, and a batch of cold chicken. This week’s recipe, a revisit from last July, isn’t particularly portable, but oh, is it good and worth eating at home!

Strawberry season in Vermont is a short one and I hear this year is a bumper crop. So for the next couple of weeks you’ll find me down the road at the farm stand grabbing a quart or two until they are gone. I can’t get enough of them. So with this plethora of riches, I always take the opportunity to make a strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream. Because if you’re going to have dessert for dinner, you should go all out, right?

This is the way I grew up eating strawberry shortcake, a biscuit-like “cake,” split it in the middle, the middle filled with whipped cream and lots of berries, and then topped with more whipped cream and berries. A sort of layer cake, if you will. While the Egg Biscuit Cake is from The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny, the assembling instructions and whipped cream recipe are my own.

You can always make drop biscuits if you have a small family or want to tote this to a friend’s house. It really doesn’t last past a day once assembled. But then again, there is always breakfast!

strawHomemade Strawberry Shortcake
1+ quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced (set aside eight perfect berries)

Egg Biscuit Cake
This cake recipe was published in The New England Cookbook by Brooke Dojny, 1999.

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into about 10 pieces
1 egg
½ cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Generously grease an 8-inch cake pan.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Distribute the butter over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture looks crumbly. Whisk the egg with the milk in a glass measuring cup. With the motor running, pour the milk mixture through the feed tube and process just until the dough begins to clump together. (To make the dough by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl, work in the cold butter with your fingertips, add the egg and milk and stir with a large fork to make a soft dough.) Scrape out onto a lightly floured board, knead lightly a few times, and roll or pat into an 8-inch round. (The dough can be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated at this point.)

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, patting it gently to the edges. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes until the shortcake is pale golden brown on top. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes.

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 pint of heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour the cream into a large bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla. With a hand mixer set on high, beat the cream until stiff peaks form—about 6 minutes or so. Set aside.

To assemble
Take the shortcake out of the pan and let it cool on a rack. When cooled, carefully slice it in half horizontally and divide. With the bottom of the shortcake, add some whipped cream and berries. Add the top of the shortcake, add more berries, whipped cream, and dot with the reserved whole berries.

Quirks-1MVK’s *Like* of the Week: The 10 Most Annoying Food Packaging Quirks
Here’s a laugh for you this morning. I could identify with almost every single packaging on this list! Flour on the counter, foil seal tabs on the peanut butter jar, shrink-wrapped goat cheese, I didn’t realize how aggravated these made me until I read this article! Take a look here, it will make you feel better that you’re not alone!

Brownies

Simple as that.

I try not to repeat recipes too much, but when something I wrote about three years ago is so delicious, I only thought it was fitting to bring it forward so new readers can take advantage! (Plus, I made these twice last week, so they are the forefront of my mind)

Baking is definitely not a specialty of mine; give me a piece of meat or a pile of vegetables and I can create something delicious, but baking is more specific and goes against my devil-may-care attitude I have in the kitchen. Unless it is super easy. Which this recipe is and trust me, you’ll be the bell of the ball if you share these with friends or foes. (Or the bell in your own home. Either way, you’ll be a star!)

Originally printed in the New York Times in 1943, it was noted these treats traveled well in a soldier’s care package. Trust me, those soldiers were lucky! The recipe I grew up making were mediocre; they were nice and soft right out of the oven, but were rock hard the next day. When I found this recipe, they turned into my go-to brownies. Deep, dark, and soft, even the next day, they are delicious enough that I even broke my “no sweets during Lent” vow and had two small ones. And it’s simple, it comes together in about ten minutes! You know how the Betty Crocker box mix gets “glossy” on top when it’s done cooking? This does, too, and it’s homemade, so you know what is going into it!

Note Amanda Hesser’s tip at the end (which I will say, dividing the pan into 16 is hardly a small bite, it’s a normal size brownie in my opinion), and I’ll add to that; make these and take a nice long walk in the March light and don’t worry about the stick of butter and cup of sugar!

brownies

Brownies
From The Essential New York Times Cook Book, Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Hesser, 2010. Makes 16 brownies.

¼ pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (Cook’s note: I use a bar of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate)
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the base with parchment.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat.

3. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the sugar is mostly dissolved, and add to the chocolate mixture. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost, but not quite, clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then invert the brownie onto a rack, remove the parchment, and turn it right side up. When cool cut into 16 squares.

Hesser’s Cooking Note: You might laugh at the size of these brownies, which are 2-in squares–brownie “bites” by today’s standard. Cut them larger at your (waistline’s) peril.

serious eaMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: A New (to me) Food Website
I can never have too many food websites to wander and dream. Friend and reader, Carol, sent me an email the other day, asking if I knew about the website Serious Eats. I didn’t, and of course immediately visited. Funnily enough, what caught my eye were a lot of articles focusing on Asian dumplings, like I wrote about last week! This website has the potential for losing lots of hours online, looking at recipes, checking out recommendations. You should check it out, too! www.seriouseats.com.

A Sweet Treat for the Sweet Day: Double Chocolate Cookies

valentines useWhile I’m not that crazy about the actual “holiday” of Valentine’s Day, I do use it as an excuse to make something sweet for the Eater of the House (plus myself!). Since Shrove Tuesday is coming up and my annual 40 days of no sugar is almost here, I decided to make something delicious and chocolaty before I can’t!

These little cookies are a true delight, just 100 calories, and since they are small, the size a bit bigger than a quarter, you are getting just a bite-size of deep, rich chocolate flavor. The batter itself isn’t particularly sweet, but the chocolate chip adds just the right amount. And it comes together super easy and most of the ingredients you probably have on hand. Some of the cookies I molded into a ball and some I just spooned on the tray. I have to say, the molded ones look a lot better (see below); the others, while delicious, had something to be desired in terms of their appearance! (As you can imagine!)

For years I have always used King Arthur flour for all baking,  but it wasn’t but a year ago that I switched to all-purpose flour for most of my baking except from bread. KA has a high gluten content, and while all of my goodies turned out alright, an all-purpose flour like Pillsbury or Gold Medal make things a little lighter, I think.

The directions are right, don’t overbake them; I found them similar to the texture of a brownie. And the way I look at it, they say a little bit of chocolate is good for you, so these are perfect to make for your own sweetheart this weekend!

choco cookies

Double Chocolate Cookies

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

The secret to these rich chocolate cookies is not to overbake them. For a gooey, creamy cookie center, pull them out of the oven when they are still a bit glossy.

Makes 26 (serving size: 1 cookie)

6.75 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
3/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

2. Place sugar, butter, and oil in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla; beat 1 minute. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Add chocolate; beat at low speed just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350°.

4. Drop dough by 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pan 2 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Soups, Broth, and Stocks

zoup1It seems like everywhere I turn these days I’m seeing something about bone broths. I never really knew what anyone was talking about until I listened to Tom Ashbrook’s On Point episode last week and realized I’ve been doing this for years, since I boil up my chicken and turkey carcasses after dinner.

Two of my favorite cooks, Ming Tsai and Bridget Lancaster, joined Tom to talk about soups, broths, and stocks. The show was so inspiring that I thawed a package of homemade chicken broth and made chicken noodle soup this past weekend. Mind you, this was the second soup I made in a week. When it’s as cold and snowy as it’s been here in the Northeast, you need something warm and comforting when you come in from shoveling! And this show was the perfect inspiration

You can listen to the story by click here: Get It While It’s Hot: A Show About Soup.

Recipe Redux: Astor House Rolls

I first brought you this recipe two years ago around this time and since then they have become an early winter staple in our house. If you aren’t afraid of yeast and want to make rolls for your Thanksgiving meal, these are the ones to make! Warmed with some good butter, they are to die for. I like all rolls, but those made with milk add a bit of richness to them. Light and airy, I have made these several times and have never had any problems with them—a foolproof recipe! You can make them this weekend and pop them in the freezer; take them out Thursday morning and they will be thawed by dinner time!

astoruseAstor House Rolls
From The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser, p. 652

1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
About 6 cups all-purpose flour, or more as needed
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups whole milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cold unsalted butter

1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let stand until foamy. Put 5 cups of flour in a large bowl (you can use a mixer with a dough hook if you want) and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, salt, sugar, softened butter, and milk and stir, slowly incorporating the flour from the sides. Then stir and beat the mixture until a ball of dough has formed. Pour the dough and any remaining flour onto a work surface and gradually knead in the remaining 1 cup flour.

2. Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover, and let rise until light and fluffy and almost doubled.

3. Punch down the dough and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes–you should need very little, if any, extra flour for this step. Return to the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size.

4. Punch down the dough and divide into 22 pieces. Shape each piece into a tight round (see ** at end), keep the other pieces covered with plastic wrap while you work. Beginning with the first round, flatten each roll, seam side up, to 1/2-inch thick. Place 1 teaspoon butter in the center, lift one edge of the dough, and pull it up and over the butter, forming a turnover-shaped roll, and pinch the ends firmly closed to seal in the butter. Arranged rolls 3 inches apart on nonstick baking sheets (or baking sheets covered with parchment). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

6. Bake until the rolls are puffed, golden, and cooked through, about 16 minutes. Cool on baking racks.

Makes 22 rolls.

Originally published in the New York Times, October 27, 1878: “Useful Hints for Housekeepers.” Recipe signed Lillie.

** To shape rolls, follow the instructions of Nancy Silverton in her book Breads from the La Brea Bakery: “Shape the dough into balls by cupping your hand lightly around the dough and rounding it against the friction of the work surface to form a smooth bun. Begin slowly and increase speed as the ball becomes tighter and smoother. Use as little flour as possible to prevent sticking.”

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving all in one place!
I know I extol the ingenuity of The New York Times probably a little too much, but when it comes to holidays, it is one of my first stops! So if your Thanksgiving meal isn’t completely planned, take a look at their website, where you can find everything from the turkey to the desserts and everything in between. Tips on how to roast a turkey, make a pie crust, how to make gravy, plus tips for a vegetarian meal. You name it, they have you covered!

I’m not completely set on my menu, so I know I’m going to spend a lot of time here this week! You can find this great resource here.

Recipe Redux: Candy Corn Cookies

jackolanternSince it’s Halloween week, I thought I would pop in a day early with this week’s recipe so you have extra time to grab these ingredients if you want to make these cute little sugar cookies! While I don’t normally give you two sweet recipes in a row, I couldn’t resist a trip back to these cookies, which I originally posted in 2012.

Living in the country, we don’t get door-to-door trick or treaters; the only ones who have visited through the years were our next door neighbors and all four kids have since grown up. So when I made these, I gave bags to co-workers and friends as this recipe makes a lot because I made them the actual candy corn size, but you can always make the cookies bigger. And watch out, these are delicious and being so small, you can definitely get carried away with having “just one more!”

Aren't these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!

Aren’t these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!

Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet (line with parchment paper) and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

marthaMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving-Themed Cooking Magazines
Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. Since it is a little later than usual this year, now is the time to gather together the Thanksgiving-themed magazines to see what recipes you’d like to try out for this year’s meal! There are so many out there: Cooking LightMartha Stewart Living, EatingWell, Bon Appetit. I guarantee you’ll find more recipes than you can cook for your Thanksgiving dinner!

Speaking of Pumpkin…

The days of warmth and color are quickly becoming a memory.

The days of warmth and color are quickly becoming a memory.

Last week I talked about how everything lately is pumpkin spice flavored. So I had to bring you a recipe; I began the season with apples, and now that’s it’s crisp and dark outside, it’s time for the warmth of pumpkins!

The Eater of the House likes anything pumpkin: bread, pancakes, but his favorite is pumpkin pie. One year I said I’d make one, but in a fit of laziness, decided to make it without the crust and it became a new fall favorite! And without my beloved crust, it makes for a lot easier and healthier dessert.

The recipe, believe it or not, comes from the back of the condensed milk can! One bowl and five minutes, it takes longer for the oven to preheat than it does to actually mix it all together. I call it a pudding, because without a crust, cutting it into an actual pie slice is rather difficult. So I do my best, and put it in a serving dish. But of course, you can put it in an unbaked pie crust and serve it for Thanksgiving dessert!

unnamedPerfect Pumpkin “Pudding”
This recipe is adapted from the original Eagle Brand® recipe for Perfect Pumpkin Pie.

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 (14 ounce) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk all the ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth. Pour into a greased pie pan. Cook for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the pudding comes out clean. Cool. Top with whipped cream.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: New York Times Cooking Newsletter
unnamedIf you’re like me and can’t get enough stories about food, the New York Times now has a cooking newsletter that can be delivered right to your inbox several times a week! Written by food editor, Sam Sifton, you’ll find food stories and recipes, and I’ve found it’s a great way to get inspired for dinner and other meals. For example, Sunday’s newsletter was “Cook on Sunday, be Thankful on Monday.” Who doesn’t want that? In addition, you have access to all of the recipes printed in the New York Times and you can create your own recipe box to save recipes for later instead of printing it out. A few days ago, Sifton wrote about stuffed baked potatoes and I haven’t been able to get them out of my mind. Stay tuned, I’m sure I’ll be making some soon!

To subscribe, click here.