Pumpkin muffins – round 2

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After being slightly underwhelmed by my first attempt at making pumpkin muffins, I went back to the drawing board.  I made some changes to the ingredient proportions and baking time:

  • 2½ C of flour (instead of 1½ C)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (didn’t have this last time)
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp all spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C packed golden brown sugar (instead of dark brown sugar)
  • pods from half of a vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 C of pure pumpkin (instead of 2 C)
  • a sprinkle of turbinado sugar

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The batter was really dry. I was a bit worried they wouldn’t settle into the muffin cups but I think they look cute.

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These were baked 18 minutes (the original ones were in for 25). In retrospect 18 minutes was not quite enough, I’ll try 20 next time.

They were cooled in the pan 1 minute before being transferred to the rack.

Now this is the fun part. Use a cupcake corer (thank you M!) and stuff them with cream cheese frosting.

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Woah this thing works way better than a knife.

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And voila!

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Verdict: Hmm. I liked this much more than round 1. Boyfriend-Unit loved them. I think there is still room for improvement however, so next time I’ll up the pumpkin ratio a bit, and decrease the cardamom.

Playlist: Katatonia – Into the White

Patty’s pumpkin cream cheese muffins – round 1

I decided to reverse-engineer a pumpkin cream cheese muffin after the underwhelming experience of buying one from StarBucks. This is my first attempt at making pumpkin muffins, and I made them the morning after seeing Nine Inch Nails live, which really has nothing to do with making muffins, but there you go. The muffins were edible, but have room for improvement. Trent Reznor, I am happy to report, does not require any improvement.

(Update Oct 19: round 2 is much better)

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I was surprised to see that the ingredient cost of this made this the most expensive thing I have ever baked, even steeper than the the Bailey’s chocolate cheesecake. Yikes.

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Time required: 1 hour

Yields: 14

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $79 if iced, $54 if plain

Cost per muffin: $5.64 if iced, $3.85 if plain

Kitchen implements I used:

  • Nemo the KitchenAid
  • muffin tin + large liners

Muffin ingredients:

  • 1½ C flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp all spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • pods from half of a vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 C of pure pumpkin
  • a sprinkle of turbinado sugar

Frosting ingredients:

  • 1 block of cream cheese, softened
  • 4 TBSP butter, softened
  • 1 TBSP milk
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 C icing sugar

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F / 176°C and put muffin liners into pan.

2. Combine in a bowl: flour and spices.

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3. In mixer; cream the eggs and sugar until smooth.

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4. Mix in canned pumpkin, vegetable oil, and vanilla bean pods. (Reserve the shell for something else).

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5. Gradually add flour mixture to wet, and don’t overbeat.

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6. Spoon into tray, and dust with turbinado sugar.

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7. Bake 25 min. (Checked at 20 and but still too springy.)

8. Cool in pan 5 min before transferring to rack.

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9. Make the icing by combining everything in one bowl. This is precise science, people.

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10. Use a knife to score a circle around the muffin tops and press the knife down, then lift up, and pry out the top. You will have a little muffin cone lid. Slice off the bottom part until you have a thin top remaining. Now stuff that bad boy with cream cheese and replace the top.

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Verdict: They were good, but the muffin texture really changed overnight, they seem overly moist today. I tried one without icing, and the pumpkin was a bit too strong. Then again cream cheese icing is also a very strong flavour, so… hard to say. I sent my friend home with one but forgot to ice it. Oops. Overall I was pleased with how it turned out, and I think for round 2 I’ll add a few more spices, and cut back on the pumpkin and see how that goes.

Playlist: Nine Inch Nails – Terrible Lie

Patty’s apple strudel explosion

If a pastry explodes in the oven, does it make a sound? More importantly, does it still taste good?

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I researched how to make traditional strudel pastry but it sounds like a nightmare so, not today. I trawled the entire grocery store looking for phyllo pastry and discovered it’s kept near the frozen berries. This is my first strudel and I’m pleased with the results, however next time I’ll add raisins and reduce the lemon juice.

Shout-out to Boyfriend for being my camera man.

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Time required: 1.5 hours

Yields: 6 pieces

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $24

Cost per piece: $4

Kitchen implements I used:

  • large baking sheet
  • parchment paper

Ingredients:

  • 3 apples
  • 3 TBSP golden brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP water
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 TBSP powdered corn starch
  • ¼ C lemon juice
  • 4 sheets of phyllo pastry
  • 2 TBSP melted butter
  • 3 tsp finely ground bread crumbs

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F / 176°C. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour.

2. Peel, core, and mince the apples. Toss them in a sauce pan with the water, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and cook on Med-Low for 10 min, stirring often.

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3. Combine corn starch and lemon juice, whisk until smooth, then add to cooked apple mixture and simmer for 1 more minute before removing from heat.

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We do not want juicy strudel.

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4. Place one piece of phyllo on the baking tray. Brush with butter, and sprinkle one teaspoon of breadcrumbs. Don’t stress about making this even, doesn’t really matter.

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Do this two more times, then add fourth and final layer (do not add butter or crumbs to top layer).

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5. Spoon the filling down one side vertically, leaving room at the edges.

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Give camera man 2 thumbs up.

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6. Use the parchment paper to support the pastry as you lift it, you’re trying to tuck it over and under the apple filling, and then carefully roll it over like so. Once you’ve got the first turn, peel the parchment paper back towards you.

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Keep turning it, and between turns try to smooth it with your hands to an even shape.

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This was a little nerve-wracking, worried about tearing it.

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Roll it up 3-4 times until it’s at the edge.

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7. Brush butter inside the open edge then flip it so the seam is on the bottom. Tuck the ends in.

8. Dust with a cinnamon sugar mix.

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9. Bake 20-25 min until golden brown.

10. Cool on rack at least 5 min before serving. Mein gott! What is this?

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Verdict:

You want to get judged harshly? Tell people in advance you are using phyllo instead of making the pastry yourself. 

Response from best friend: “0_0 That is really shocking.”

This was fairly simple to make. Aside from the explosion, it turned out great. I may have had a tantrum when I saw that, but I cut it in thirds first, and got 4 nicely sliced pieces, and 2 messy pieces. Cutting through the strudel after it’s baked it harder than I anticipated.

Playlist: Eric Carmen – Hungry Eyes

Cola molasses cookies

It’s only my favourite thing in the world.

 

I love Coke. I like the way the curved glass bottle fits my hand, I like how frost rimes the neck of the bottle, and my ears perk up when I hear a bottle being opened. I love how Coke tastes, and the way it fizzes going down. I also love molasses cookies and wondered if the two flavours were complimentary. I’ve wanted to try this for awhile.

Efforts to secure Coca-Cola extract failed, so I ordered some of LorAnn’s Cola flavouring and added it to molasses cookies. Afraid to use too much extract, I added 5 drops to a basic molasses recipe, and voila.

So how did it taste?

 

It was weird. You could smell the cola, but when you bit into the cookie, it was very faint. It almost tasted like the cookies had cola hot spots, some bites had a wallop of flavour, and some you couldn’t taste it at all. (Perhaps I under-mixed the batter?)

I wasn’t overly sold on the cookie recipe I started with, so I’m going to tinker around with it.

 

Eggnog

For reasons I cannot fathom, Boyfriend loves eggnog. I do not, and when someone offers me a glass of eggnog, I have terrible flashbacks to a night involving a childhood illness and my father’s questionable decision that eggnog was what the doctor ordered. Ugh. To this day the thought of drinking eggnog makes me queasy.

A few days ago Boyfriend bought some eggnog, but he drank it all and has been moping around.

“Sigh.”

“Why are you sighing?”

“We’re out of eggnog.”

“You mean you’re out of eggnog.”

In a burst of Christmas generosity I was moved to make homemade eggnog for him. I googled around until I found something that looked promising. I made a few changes to the recipe.

Time required: 1 hour

Yields: 3-4 large glasses

Cost per glass: $4.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $25.00

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • Nemo the KitchenAid

Ingredients:

  • 2 C milk
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 TSP nutmeg
  • 4 egg yolks, 4 egg whites
  • ⅓ C sugar + 1 TBSP

Instructions:

1. Separate yolks and whites. Place yolks in mixing bowl, set whites aside for later.

 

2. Beat yolks until colour lightens.

3. Gradually add ⅓ C of sugar to the yolks, beat until thoroughly dissolved.

4. In a sauce pan, add milk, cream, nutmeg, and vanilla bean. Scald mixture, then remove from heat.

5. Strain and temper hot cream into yolks, adding about one third at a time.

Once the cream and yolks have been mixed, return to sauce pot and heat to 160°F / 71.1°C. (I switched to a fresh pot for this.)

Don’t forget to stir. I forgot to stir, and I got a scrambled eggs on the bottom. Oops.

6. Remove from heat, transfer to mixing bowl, and chill.

7. Meanwhile, in another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. (I used the 3rd setting for 2-3 min.)

8. Add 1 TBSP of sugar to whites, beating until stiff peaks form. (Took 2-3 min on 4th setting.)

9. Whisk whites into chilled mixture.

Whisking got boring so I used the wire-whip attachment in the mixer to do this for me.

10. Chill and… drink I guess.

Verdict:

Boyfriend assures me it was delicious. I’ll have to trust his judgement, I have no intentions of drinking that swill. After he drained the glass I confessed that I didn’t stir it enough and found eggy mixture in the bottom.

“Oh. I thought I felt something kinda solid in there.”

“But it was okay, yeah?”

“Yeah. It was really good, despite the eggs. Best homemade nog I’ve ever had!”

“I’ll take your word on that.”

Playlist: The Vision of Escaflowne OST

Patty’s pumpkin crème brûlée

Yes. I’m afraid it’s true. I have dangerous news: it is possible to make crème brûlée even more glorious.

I’ll be frank, I am tired of the trials and tribulations of fudge.  I needed a day of distance. Today is Thanksgiving, and Boyfriend and I are heading to Hobby Victim’s house for dinner. We each made a dessert. Mine was my favourite custard, tweaked with an inspiration from The Globe and Mail. I took my existing recipe, and tinkered with the proportions for the spices, and used real vanilla bean.

Toronto look out: something delicious this way comes!

Good to know before you start:

As I mentioned previously, custard should be made the day before because it needs to chill overnight. Before you serve it, remove from the fridge for 20 minutes, then caramelize the sugar, then chill for another 10 minutes before eating – we want cold custard and glassy sugar, not hot.

To achieve the silky texture that crème brûlée is famous for, it is imperative to use a mesh strainer. Double-straining into ramequins in a pain in the ass but so worth it.

You’re also going to need a fire-proof surface and kitchen torch. Don’t have a torch? Check out my guide about making your own. It’s way better than using the stove broiler. People, this is crème brûlée for Thanksgiving. Go big or go home.

Time required: 2 days (1 hr prep and bake, 1 hour cooling, chill overnight)

Yields: 12

Cost per portion: $3.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $36.00

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • mesh strainer
  • 12 ramequins
  • 2 baking pans: 9″ x 13″
  • 2 dish towels you don’t mind getting wet
  • fire-proof surface (ie: marble slab)
  • awesome kitchen torch

Ingredients:

  • 4 C heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 TSP ground nutmeg
  • 1 TSP ground ginger
  • 1 C canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ⅔ C granulated white sugar
  • ¼ TSP salt
  • 10 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 12 TSP turbinado sugar (save until final stage, 1 TSP per portion)

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F / 162°C, using centre rack. Fill kettle with water and simmer for later. Fold dish towels so they sit nicely in the baking pans, and add ramequins, like so:

2. Pour heavy cream into a sauce pan, then split and scrape vanilla bean, and add to cream (including shell and pods). I do this at the very beginning and let the vanilla infuse into the cream while the cream comes up to room temp.

3. Add nutmeg and ginger to cream, then scald cream on medium heat. A skim will form, that’s normal. Once bubbles form at the edge, remove from heat.

4. Pour cream through strainer into a medium-size bowl.

5. Stir pumpkin into hot cream, let stand 5 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix sugar and salt.

7. Separate the yolks from the egg whites, gently whisk yolks into sugar mixture until just combined. (Save the whites for something else.)

Tip: try to crack the shell halfway between the top and the bottom of the shell. It’s easier to separate the yolks if you have two fairly equal sized shells to work with.

8. Use a ladle to temper the hot cream into the egg mixture; adding one third at a time, stirring it in. Don’t rush this, you don’t want scrambled eggs.

We are almost ready to divvy up the mixture into the ramequins.

9. Place a small strainer over a ramequin. Use ladle to reach the bottom of the bowl where all the vanilla bean pods have sunk, and ladle some mixture through the strainer. Do this for each one to ensure every portion gets a generous amount of vanilla pods.

After that, ladle out the mixture evenly, and strain each time.

Double-straining is very important because you’ll notice that on each pour, the strainer will get clogged with skim on every pour and you don’t want that gunk in your custard.

10. Place both pans in the oven and create a bain marie using the hot water from the kettle.

11. Bake 35 minutes until the edges of the custard are set. Test for doneness by shaking, the centre should wobble like Jell-o. If the whole surface shakes give it 3-5 more minutes. If nothing shakes it’s overdone.

12. Remove from oven and use an egg-flipper type spatula to lift the ramequins out of the dish, and place on wire rack to cool for one hour.

13. Cover each cup with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

14. Set ramequin on counter for 20 mintes to stand. Then remove plastic, and gently blot the surface with paper towel to remove condensation.

15. Sprinkle one teaspoon of turbinado sugar, cover the edges first and work towards the centre, then tilt and tap the ramequin to spread the sugar evenly.

16. Place ramequin on fire-proof surface and use your mad torching skillz.

The key to doing this properly is don’t let the flame get too close, and always keep it in motion. It takes around 3 minutes to melt the sugar properly into a nice glassy surface.

17. Chill for 10 minutes, then devour.

Verdict:

Patty: <setting up camera> “You can have first bite.”

Boyfriend: “Really?” <grabs spoon>

Patty: <taking photos and looking down> “Well?”

Boyfriend: “Oh my God!!”

Patty: “Is it good?”

Boyfriend: “No. It’s awful. You don’t want any.”

Patty: “Give me that spoon… ooohh, nice.”

Boyfriend: “This is amazing. I love the after taste, the nutmeg, it’s totally there. It kind of reminders me of egg nog, just a little. It’s so good.”

Playlist: David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust

What dessert are you celebrating Thanksgiving with?

Patty’s peach tarts

There is only one way to celebrate Labyrinth Day on June 13, and that is by watching the movie and eating peaches!! I wanted to make a peach pastry fit for a goblin king, delicious enough to make you forget everything. But when Boyfriend brings home the wrong ingredients and the whipped cream turns into butter, will he survive long enough to taste a tart?

If you are not aware, Labyrinth Day falls on June 13 because the movie was released in June 1986, and Jareth’s clock has 13 hours. The importance of peaches should be obvious!

The only person as mad for Labyrinth as I am is Best Friend, so she was the #1 choice to discuss my dessert plans. We looked at lots of recipes, and saw some really interesting peachy things, and in the end I decided to make tarts, topped with either fresh whipped cream, or vanilla frozen yogurt. I already had heavy cream, and made up a pie crust in the afternoon.

I asked Boyfriend to pick up 10 peaches and a container of frozen yogurt, and figured I could make up my mind between whipped cream and frozen yogurt later. He returned with ten pieces of fruit, which upon closer inspection, were not what I requested.

“These aren’t peaches,” I said.

“Yes they are.”

“The skins are smooth. These are nectarines.” I picked one up.

“No, they’re peaches! They were in the peach section.” he insisted.

“Being in the peach section doesn’t mean they are peaches, darling. Didn’t you notice they’re not fuzzy?”

“It doesn’t matter anyway.” he said. “These were the  last ten peaches they had so I got them all for you.”

I examined the fruit more closely.

“No. You got the last six peaches and four nectarines, is what you got.”

“Too late now.”

What to do? Six peaches wasn’t enough, and the store was closed. Peaches and nectarines have similar characteristics, and (I hoped) complimentary flavours, so I decided to use both.

Time required: 2.5 hours

Yields: 2 tarts

Cost per pastry: $15.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $30.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • 2 shallow, fluted ramequins
  • 1 cookie sheet (to catch overflow)
  • deep skillet

Tart ingredients:

  • 6 peaches
  • 2 nectarines
  • 4 TBSP butter (half a stick)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ⅛ TSP cinnamon
  • smidgen of cloves
  • nip of nutmeg
  • ¼ C dark brown sugar, packed

Instructions:

Step 1 – Prepare a pie crust and refrigerate it. (I’ve mentioned this before but if you can’t make pie crust I can’t help you, I can barely help myself.)

Step 2 – Prepare the fruits: peel, core, and slice them. They will collapse during baking so don’t slice them too small.

Step 3 – In a large skillet, melt the butter and add the fruits. Once the butter has melted, increase heat until the fruit juice gets bubbly. Or you could be lazy like me and add the butter and fruits at the same time, bwahaha!

Step 4 – Once it’s bubbling, add: cinnamon stick, ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and brown sugar.  Once everything is mixed in and the sugar has melted, reduce heat, and simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I have no shame in admitting that the sole reason I opted to include a smidgen and a nip was to show off my cute mini spoons! They measure: pinch, dash, smidgen, and nip.

Step 5 – Cut pastry to size and place into ramequins. Set ramequins on cookie tray. Save the remaining pastry for another use and refrigerate.

Step 6  – Discard cinnamon stick, and ladle fruit mixture into crust.

Step 7 – Bake 30 minutes, and cool on wire rack at least 20 min.

Top with whipped cream or frozen yogurt, or enjoy just the way they are.

Verdict:

Um, speaking of whipped cream… while the tarts were cooling, I made up whipped cream – except I got immersed in a book and walked away from the mixer. When I checked in on it later, my whipped cream had turned into butter.

Things were still okay because I knew we had frozen yogurt in the freezer as back-up and the tarts smelled really good. My jovial mood lasted until I opened the freezer, and then I got pissed.

“Oh darling! What’s this?”

“It’s vanilla frozen yogurt.”

“Really? Because the label says ‘vanilla with chocolate chunks and caramel’.”

“It was in the vanilla section!” he protested.

“Do you even read labels?”

In the end, I had a lack of peaches, ruined whipped cream, and the wrong flavour of frozen yogurt. Not a great start! We both glowered at each other. But it was a stupid thing to be angry over, so I told Boyfriend to eat his tart. And actually… they were really good!

Not quite what I planned, but still very tasty.  I’d make two small changes next time; halve the butter, and double the fruit.

This morning while I was writing up this post, Boyfriend – armed with Wikipedia – lectured me on the nature of peaches and nectarines.

“A nectarine is a peach. It’s a mutated peach, but it’s a peach!” he says smugly.

“Great, mutated fruit! That still doesn’t change the fact that I asked for peaches and you brought home nectarines and the wrong frozen yogurt.”

“It’s not a big deal. It’s nothing.” he said.

“Nothing? Nothing? Nothing tra-la-la!?!”

Playlist: Phantasy Star III soundtrack