Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Maybe just one last pumpkin dessert...

My house is noisy.  Always.

It is a symphony of singing, televisions, pots clanging, extreme emotion, dogs scratching, and usually a washer or dryer as well.  Tonight it is my son who is singing in his bed, "White Christmas" on the living room TV, "Community Season 2" in the bedroom, beds creaking, timers going off, and exuberant typing in the office.  The "Bees" are generally a quiet group everywhere else, but at home we are wide open.

I would be in a bed somewhere, except I agreed to baking a Lemon Layer Cake a few weeks ago, and here I am.  But I am tired, and I hate typing at night.  My brain is foggy.  But if I don't type tonight, you will have nothing Thanksgiving-y to read on Thanksgiving Eve; and I cannot begin to say how wrong that is.

So here I am, waiting for cake to cool, and about to share with you a dessert- the likes of which you are all to familiar with...

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake.  I have been baking this cake long before I knew anything about baking, as it is about as easy as pie cake.  As a St. Louis native, Gooey Butter cake graced my grandmother's table at most gatherings- long before Mrs. Dean cornered the market on all things "butter."  But I have to admit, my grandmother never ate a Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake, and I do appreciated the "Lady" for developing the recipe.

If you are one who has never made this cake, hold on to your socks, as it is amazing.  The filling tastes like pumpkin pie, only with more butter, cream cheese, and sugar in it.  The crust is nothing but cake mix, an egg, and a stick of melted butter.  I really don't like the flavor of boxed cake mix anymore, but here it adds a texture that I am not sure can be replicated elsewhere.  All in all, it's worth a try!

You can find the recipe here, as I am waaaay too sleepy and lazy to type it out.  Actually, I fell asleep while typing last night, and it is now 5:00 AM and I have so much else to do.  True story!

Anyway, Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and I'll see you next week!

Rachel Bee

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Choc-wate, pweeze?"

I know that brownies have very little to do with Thanksgiving, but the boys in my family love to eat them.  I have posted about brownies both here and here, all of the cocoa variety as I am too cheap to buy the literal pound of chocolate some require.  For me, brownies are a quick project.  They are soul food; belonging to the same category as mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and all things Sunday afternoon.  I whip up a batch of brownies when my husband starts perusing our sweet-less pantry with a wilted look- when my son so sweetly looks up at me and says with a crooked grin, "choc-wate?"  I make them when I am up to my elbows in sweet potato, and I worry as my husband has received no love from our oven.

"Choc-wate, Pweeze?"

So here you go, another brownie post: so simple and nearly a guaranteed success, even for those of you who are box addicts.

Hershey's Best Brownies

Hershey's Best Brownies
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c ap flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup of whatever you want to dump in there ( I put in mini peanut butter cups)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter an 8x8 pan (sometimes I use a cake pan).  Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, and vanilla.  With a wooden spoon, incorporate the eggs.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add them to the butter mixture, and stir just until mixed.  Fold in your nuts, chocolate chips, or whatever else you want to put in there.
Spread into the prepared pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let them cool in the pan.  Cut and serve.

Hershey's Best Brownies

Delicious.  Enjoy, and tomorrow there will be something  bit more... Thanksgiving-y.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One last valiant effort...

I really must say that I am not a huge fan of sweet potato, or cooked orange veggies in general.  I don't care for the sweetness, nor do I really care for the texture.  The little fibers that run back and forth across the flesh of a sweet potato I find to be revolting as my teeth cut through them individually.  We never had sweet potatoes growing up, so I am going to assume that my parents don't care for them either.

Now, as the vegetable has received so much glory in recent years, believe me- I have tried to stomach them.  I have tried them roasted with exorbitant amounts of butter, cinnamon, and sugar.  I have tried them deep-fried with gallons of ketchup.  I have even pureed them with heavy cream to see if maybe, just maybe there is one circumstance when I could swallow them without grimace.  

In one final, valiant effort, I pureed a large roasted sweet potato and subbed it in for pumpkin in my Pumpkin Spice Cake.  One bite of this tender cake and... sold.  Top it with Brown Sugar Toasted Marshmallow Frosting, and call it "pretty darn palatable."  

Oh, and did I mention it was a purple sweet potato?

Purple Sweet Potato Puree

Yes, God's makes purple sweet potatoes, and above is the actual sweet potato puree mixed with some buttermilk.  Wow.  And here it is in cupcake form...

Purple Sweet Potato Cupcakes

The cake was a bit more purple when I baked it, but it oxidized overnight (which was awfully disappointing).  Regardless, I think it is still pretty pleasant on the eyes...

Purple Sweet Potato Cupcakes

With Candied Pecans

And for a finishing touch, I candied a handful of pecans.  Good decision, I think...

Purple Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Brown Sugar Marshmallow Frosting

I found my purple sweet potato at the Fresh Market, which is an upscale although not necessarily natural grocery store.  I am sure regular orange sweet potatoes will be just fine!

Purple Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Brown Sugar Marshmallow Frosting and Candied Pecans
(should make @16)
For the cake:
1 purple sweet potato, roasted (enough to make 1 cup of puree)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 t vanilla extract
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups ap flour
1/4 cup corn starch 
1 t soda
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground nutmeg or cloves

Puree 1 cup of the sweet potato with the buttermilk and vanilla.  Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350.  Put liners in muffin tins.
Cream the brown sugar with the butter until fluffy, scraping the bowl down on occasion.  
Add the eggs one at a time, beating completely into the batter.  
In a separate bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the puree. BEGIN AND END WITH THE DRY!  Really scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl between additions.  You don't want beige streaks in your cupcakes.

When the ingredients are fully incorporated, fill the muffin cups all the way to the top.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, and put individual cakes on a cooling rack immediately.  

For the Frosting...
6 egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4+1/8 t cream of tartar
2 t vanilla paste or extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a double-boiler), mix the sugar with the egg whites.  Place the bowl over a simmering pot of water, and stir constantly until a candy thermometer reads 160 degrees.  Pull from the heat, and beat on high.  Sprinkle in the cream of tartar, and beat for 6-7 minutes.  The frosting should be ultra-stiff at this point.  Add the vanilla, and blend to incorporate.  

Pile the frosting on the cooled cupcakes, and singe the exterior with a kitchen torch.  

Top with...

Candied Pecans!
1/2-1/4 of an egg white
@1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of whatever other spices you want to throw in there...
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup pecan halves

Combine the egg white, sugar, salt, and spices in a small bowl to make a viscous syrup.  Toss in the pecans and stir to coat.  Pour onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and spread out until even.  Put in a oven preheated to 275, and bake for 15 minutes.  When they cooled, I broke them apart and placed a few on each cupcake.  And a few in my mouth.  

Yum.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The mellifluous voice of Josh Groban (she says with disdain)...

Saturday morning I went into work all too early (6:45 to be exact).  I have a sweet group of clients from out of town, and when one of these young women come my way, I do anything I can to accommodate her.

I walked in the door, stumbling around and flipping on lights.  Towels are stocked, sinks are clean, and  foils are torn; but before I ran to unlock the door, I flipped on the radio and heard (to my horror) the mellifluous voice of Josh Groban singing "Oh Holy Night."  Taken aback immediately, I swept a bit, considering that perhaps it was only a taste of the holidays- a precursor if you will as it is only November 12.  As Josh belted his final note, I waited with bated breath to see if my gut held an accurate feeling- but no.  Mariah Carey.  "Wha, oh-oh.  Yeah-ee-yeah yeah.  Ooh ooh... (drums build) Christmaah...s"

Immediately I felt old.  I remembered the years when Christmas seemed so impossibly far away, when in April I would think, "If I had a choice right now, I wish time would move backwards so that Christmas gets here sooner."  Now, all I felt Saturday morning was disdain and panic.  What's today?  When is Christmas?  When is Thanksgiving?  Have I ordered a turkey?  Can I find more people to come over and eat it?  What am I getting P for Christmas?  NOOOOOOO!

So it is officially begun. I have sworn off any feelings of "bah-humbug," and my mind is full of all things red and green, spices and peppermint.  I usually hand-make gifts for my girlfriends, but I could not be bothered to knit right now.  My friends are getting jewelry!

And here is another example...

I have a pile of necklaces that I have made, and I may show you a few more later.  I might even show you how to make one.  Wouldn't that be fun?

So pop in "Elf," or "White Christmas," or whatever gets you in that Chrsitmas mood, and start making something of your own for the holidays.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumpkin Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Again.  Again I have raging allergic aversions.  At least I think that is what is going on.  Moral of the story is to not skip a workout to clean out a closet that hasn't been cleaned out in four years.  At least not without a mask.  But here, as promised, is the recipe for my Pumpkin Apple Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Make them, have someone else make them- and eat them all until they are gone.  Amen.

Pumpkin Apple Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 t vanilla
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/8 t cloves
1/2 cup buttermilk, sour cream, or plain greek yogurt
1 Large Granny Smith Apple, chopped into 1/2" cubes
2 T granulated sugar + 2 t cinnamon + 1 t flour

Preheat he oven to 350.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (this can take up to 8-10 minutes).  Add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating into the batter.  Stir in the pumpkin and vanilla.  Yes, your batter just became nearly curdled-looking.  Do not worry.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add to the batter alternatively with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Your batter should no longer look curdled.  Be sure to scrape the sides and bottoms of the bowl between additions.

Chop up the apple and toss in the sugar/flour/cinnamon mixture.  Fold into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, almost to the top (these do not rise much).  Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until done.

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool
8 oz cream cheese, softened but still cool
3.5 cups powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until no longer lumpy.  Sift the powdered sugar into the mixture, and mix until combined.  Add the vanilla and salt, and mix again.  For fluffier frosting, you can beat for 3-5 minutes, but note that it will be full of small air bubbles and therefore not quite as pretty for frosting.

Frost after cooling completely, and decorate as desired.  I topped mine with Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses and a sprinkle of cinnamon.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween alternatives and baking in jars...

I told myself I would work out this morning, so at 4:00 AM I rose and threw on my workout clothes.  An hour later I sit here with half a slice of cake in my belly, and a very well organized closet.

And I am frustrated.  I want to work out, but the idea of giving an hour and a half of my day away to Tony Horton seems inexcusable.  There is simply too much to do.

Yesterday was Halloween, and it has received a cold shoulder from my family for a few decades.  We grew up as Christians, and my church always had a Halloween alternative.  In previous years we called it "Hallelujah Night," but in the the effort to make the peculiar seem less so, most churches simply call it a "Fall Festival."  My father is the children's pastor at my church, and he did an exquisite job with this year's event.  In times past we dressed up as Bible Characters, but now kids can dress up as just about anything tasteful.  Besides, there aren't very many notable female examples in the Bible (Ruth, Esther, Lydia, Rachel, etc.), and their costumes all look the same, generally speaking.

All games and candy aside, Halloween was something very different for our family, as it is also my little brother's birthday.  He lives in Washington DC, and this year he turned the very big 30.  I miss him desperately, and knowing he likes cake I decided to send him some.

My son and I are huge fans of Bonne Maman preserves, and the empty jars make great drinking glasses. To my husband's lament, I snagged four and baked some cake in them.

Yes, I baked cake right inside old jelly jars (le gasp! I called bonne maman "jelly").  You can bake cake in just about anything glass, and mason jars are quite popular as well.

But with no mason jars on hand, my Bonne Maman jars would have to do.   Here is a picture of them capped and ready to go.

I made some cupcakes with the remaining batter, stuck one in the mailbox, but can't figure out what to do with the rest.

I am sure I can find someone to eat them.  Pumpkin Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Shouldn't be a problem.

Happy Birthday Frankie.  Hey.  Hope you like pumpkin.  I needed to use it up.

Recipe tomorrow...

Rachel Bee