Spiced Pumpkin Bread

November 19, 2011

Man, I love Thanksgiving! “Love” is an exaggeration. It’s an understatement, if anything. I love, love, LOVE opening my google reader and reading all the Thanksgiving recipes, drooling over photos, and scribbling down recipes, notes, and suggestions for Thanksgivings (and meals) to come. Most of the free mental space in my brain, in fact, is dedicated to thinking about Thanksgiving and food.

I have to laugh at myself here because it’s typical that, for the amount of time I spend thinking about Thanksgiving and for the amount of inspiration out there, I’ve done nothing in terms of choosing what recipes to use next week (I could feed off ideas forever; the “getting things done” part is always hardest for me). Thanksgiving is less than a week away, giving me a little bit of time, but if next week is anything like this week in terms of passing by WAY too quickly, then I’m in trouble!

So, even though spiced pumpkin bread isn’t really a Thanksgiving recipe, I felt compelled to make it and share it for a couple reasons. The first is that it’s full of pumpkin and makes your kitchen smell wonderful while it bakes. Second, it seems like a great addition to a post-Thanksgiving brunch spread! My family never did this, but I think I’m going to weasel the day-after brunch into my own Thanksgiving tradition. The bread is perfect, just another great recipe from America’s Test Kitchen! Good luck with your own Thanksgiving preparations!!!

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

(Recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Cookbook)

Yields one 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf

Notes: I switched out the granulated sugar called for in the original recipe for honey, and, desirous of a less sweet finished product, added less sweetener than the original. I also threw in some ground flax seeds for good measure, but they are totally and completely optional.

Ingredients:

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

½ cup honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

Optional: 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

1. In a small or medium saucepan, cook pumpkin puree, honey, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg over medium high heat, stirring constantly for 5 to 7 minutes or until mixture is thick and glossy. Take off heat and cool. To hasten the cooling process, stir or whisk mixture vigorously for 5 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf pan, and place loaf pan on a baking sheet. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, ground flax seeds (if using), baking soda, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together cooled pumpkin mixture, butter, eggs, and vanilla.

4. Fold liquid ingredients into dry, taking care not to over mix. The batter will be thick.

5. Scrape batter evenly into prepared loaf pan and smooth top. Bake loaf 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with just a few crumbs attached, rotating loaf pan halfway through baking time.

6. Let loaf cool in pan 10 minutes before removing loaf and placing it on a cooling rack. Cool loaf at least one hour before serving.

Store loaf either covered tightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days.

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Pumpkin Cornbread Pudding

October 28, 2011

For the last few weeks, I’ve been drooling over all the baked pumpkin and squash recipes popping up all over the blogternet and I’ve been scheming to make them all. Make all the pumpkin pies! All the pumpkin doughnuts! All the muffins! Hurrah! You’ll notice, however, there has been not one pumpkin, or winter squash, recipe featured on this blog, at least since last fall/winter. It surprised the heck out of me, honestly, because not only have I been fantasizing about winter produce for dessert, but I’ve also been buying and eating the stuff. I buy squash, find a recipe two seconds later, and then all of sudden I’m eating it for dinner, lunch, breakfast, leftovers, you name it. Winter produce doesn’t last long enough in my house to make its way into dessert, apparently.

I keep getting stuck on the fact that none of my winter squash pursuits involve dessert. Who am I? I didn’t think I was the kind of person who’d buy a butternut squash just to put it in a galette, or the kind of person who would seek out acorn squash because I’d just found a really intriguing dinner recipe. When did it happen that I see dinner and dessert as equals, taking as much care to make a good meal as a good dessert? I’m starting to have as much fun cooking as I do baking, and starting to enjoy savory food as much as sweet food. It’s news to me, but not bad news. You know, I was always scared that getting older would mean I’d find things less interesting, but it’s turning out to be quite the opposite!

Now, on to today’s recipe for pumpkin cornbread pudding! To accompany dinner the other night, I threw together some crazy delicious cornbread for dippies (yes, I’m five years old). Sure enough, I had more than half of the cornbread lying around a few days later, along with just a tiny bit of pumpkin puree used a day or two before, and got it into my head that I’d make cornbread pumpkin bread pudding. I’d be using up stale cornbread AND eating pumpkin for dessert! After doing a little research, I found very few cornbread pudding recipes using cornbread cubes, and virtually no scaled-down recipes for such a dessert. The goal of today’s recipe was to create a breading pudding for two, using cornbread instead of white bread. I did some tinkering, and enjoyed the pudding, but there are a few things I would do differently next time. For instance, even though the cornbread cubes were super stale, they still baked together, making it more Indian pudding than bread. I also found that it wasn’t as sweet as I thought, making it super easy to adapt the recipe for savory cornbread pudding. Take a peek at the recipe notes for details, and if you have any ideas for improving the recipe, let me know!! I’d love any and all suggestions!

Pumpkin Cornbread Pudding

(Recipe adapted from Dessert for Two, originally “Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce”)

Yields enough for 3 to 4 people

Notes: If your cornbread isn’t terribly stale, you can leave cubes out overnight or bake, sspread evenly on a baking sheet, in a 200 degree F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring cubes halfway through baking time. You could also add nuts or raisins to bread pudding by sprinkling about ¼ cup of either (or both?!) over custard and bread cubes before baking. I found the final product to be really eggy, tasting more like a slightly sweetened breakfast treat than dessert, even with the syrup. The next time I make this, I’ll probably use one egg instead of two, and decrease the amount of milk by a ¼ cup, using 1 ¼ cups milk total. This will probably mean decreasing the baking time, too.

Ingredients:

3 cups cornbread cubes, between ½ and 1 inch, stale

2 eggs

1 ½ cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

Butter for greasing pan

Method:

1. Butter a baking pan with a 3-cup capacity, in this case I used a 6-inch round cake pan. Place cornbread cubes in greased baking pan, making sure to spread them evenly.

2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, honey, and pumpkin puree, until smooth and completely combined.

3. Pour milk mixture over cornbread cubes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, allowing bread pudding to soak while oven is preheating.

4. Place baking pan on a baking sheet and bake bread pudding 45 minutes to an hour, until edges are lightly browned, middle is slightly puffed, and a cake tester comes out clean.

Serve bread pudding warm, and, if storing, keep covered and refrigerated up to 2 days.

Apple Cider Syrup

(Recipe slightly adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Yields about ¾ cup syrup

Ingredients:

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup apple cider

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons butter

Method:

1. Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Stir in apple cider and lemon juice.

2. Cook syrup over medium heat until mixture begins to boil, and then boil until syrup thickens.

3. Once syrup thickens, take off heat and stir in butter.

Serve syrup either warm or cold, and store syrup refrigerated, in an airtight container, up to a week.

To spice things up a bit, I’m stepping into my savory baking shoes this morning. I have a considerable amount of baking experience, but very little of that experience consists of baking outside the sugar box (I just got a little overwhelmed by the thought of a “sugar box”, where all your wildest sugar fantasies are kept, neat and compartmentalized, until ready to be unleashed upon the world. I’m not sure whether it’s a beautiful, happy thing or a terrifying one). A lot of it has to do with what I like to eat and what I like to share, sweet goods as opposed to savory, but a little part of me shies away from savory baking because it’s unknown territory. Sure, I’ve baked a few loaves of bread and kneaded some pizza dough in my day, but never have I made soft pretzels, or bagels, or any number of delicious non-sugar inundated food items. Seems downright silly to allow my lack of experience to take control over what I decide to bake in any given week.

I’m going to start small, literally, with a cheddar cheese mini loaf. And this isn’t just any mini loaf, everyone, this is a mini loaf from America’s Test Kitchen. You’re already well aware of my love for them, their kitchen, their recipes, their people, and their books/magazines, but I’ll say again how much I love the accessibility and ease of their recipes. For someone who was more than a little afraid to tackle a very little loaf, it was comforting to know that it would be very difficult for me to not end up with something that would be tasty and satisfying.

According to my calculations, I could create a mini loaf storage container out of this copy of War and Peace. Convenient AND classy!

This mini loaf did the trick for breakfast, but will also have a spot at the dinner table this evening. Another thing I’m coming to love about savory baked goods is that they can be served at any meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizer, snack- without the guilt pangs that inevitably come from substituting a bowl of ice cream for dinner, or countless mini chocolate bars for snack.

Hopefully this means I’ll be branching out a little more in the coming months, but for the time being, enjoy some cheddar cheese mini loaf and happy Tuesday!

Cheddar Cheese Mini Loaf

(Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2011)

Yields one 5 ½ by 3 inch loaf

Notes: For the grated cheese you could either use a variety of cheese combinations (I used some sort of Mexican-themed grated cheese mix from a bag) or freshly grated Parmesan. The original recipe suggests the latter but other cheese will do in a pinch. The recipe also suggests that, after greasing the pan, you sprinkle grated Parmesan over bottom of pan. I omitted this step just because I didn’t have any Parmesan on hand and wasn’t sure whether or not other would burn.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons grated cheese

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Pinch of both cayenne and black pepper

2 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into ¼ inch cubes and totaling about ½ cup

¼ cup milk

3 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing pan

1 large egg

 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 5 ½ by 3-inch loaf pan.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and peppers together until ingredients are evenly dispersed throughout mixture. Add cheddar cheese cubes and stir, breaking up clumps, until cubes are coated in flour mixture.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, sour cream, butter, and egg together until smooth.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry, and gently fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. Take care not to overmix batter!

5. Scrape batter evenly into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle grated cheese over top of loaf. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until loaf is puffed and golden brown. A tester inserted into middle of loaf should come out with just a few crumbs attached.

6. Let bread cool in pan for five minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and cool for at least an hour before serving.

Store bread wrapped in plastic at room temperature up to three days, or refrigerated up to a week. This bread toasts beautifully in the oven or toaster oven, and I’m kind of excited to try to make mini grilled cheese sandwiches!

There are two foods that I associate with my childhood: grilled cheese and quick bread. Seeing as this is predominantly a baking blog, you’d assume there would be at least a few recipes for deliciously easy to prepare, easy to store, easy to eat quick bread. You would assume wrong; I just went through my archives and found zero. This saddened me more than I thought it would for two reasons, the first being I like to think of myself as a person who is constantly trying/baking/writing about new things and the second being that quick breads were such a huge part of my upbringing and now they seem to be relegated to the back of my mind when perusing recipes.

The best part of going to visit my grandmother was eating either a zucchini or banana quick bread with cream cheese spread. The recipes themselves weren’t particularly memorable, but the simple association is beautiful and apparently something I have been trying to emulate subconsciously (now that I’m giving it some serious thought). I love that my friends, co-workers, friends of friends, co-workers of friends connect me with the giving and sharing of sweets. Maybe it is time I start trying to connect the child I once was to the adult I’m trying to be… starting with a recipe for quick bread. One step at a time, people.

On a WAY less intense note, this tropical quick bread called out to me in spite of rain and 40 degree temperatures because I happened upon some mango butter in Trader Joe’s and, holy Batman, is it good. It’s a great accompaniment to the coconut bread. In fact, I ate a piece for breakfast covered in drippy, golden mango butter and it almost transported me to a place, well, less like Boston at the moment.

Jamaican Coconut Bread

(Recipe adapted from Almost Bourdain)

Yields one 8 inch loaf

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1 1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon*

1 cup granulated sugar (or caster sugar, if you have it)

2 cups, or 5 ounces, shredded, unsweetened coconut**

5 tablespoons, or 2 ½ ounces, unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

*I did 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon and ½ teaspoon ground cardamom. I didn’t end up tasting much of the cardamom at all, so feel free to just stick with cinnamon

**The recipe doesn’t specify whether or not coconut should be toasted, so while the oven was preheating I spread it out on a baking sheet and toasted it very lightly, hoping to add something to the overall texture.

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8 inch loaf pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and spices together.

4. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and pour egg mixture into well. Stir until just combined, leaving one or two flour streaks. Add melted butter and stir again until just combined, but now there shouldn’t be any flour streaks. Be careful not to over mix batter at this point.

5. Pour batter evenly into prepared pan. It will seem like there is too much batter for the pan, but have faith. If you’re me (a tad paranoid), you can put the loaf pan on a baking sheet to prevent any instance of rogue batter.

6. Bake loaf in preheated oven for an hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of loaf comes out clean.

7. Cool loaf in pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Store loaf in an airtight container at room temperature up to two days or freeze slices of loaf, wrapped airtight, up to a month.

Rounding out my “brioche week”, here is a link to the recipe for classic brioche from In the Sweet Kitchen, which was an astounding recipe. If you have the time/patience/energy/passion/whatever it takes for you to get motivated, I highly recommend this recipe for brioche. Sorry for cheating and not writing out the recipe. It’s just so long and I’m a big baby.

To make jam buns:

Prepare brioche dough as instructed in the above link, or your brioche dough of choice. Instead of preparing loaf pans and forming your dough to make a loaf, you will divide the dough in half, then divide each half into balls, about 3 inches in diameter. Sit the balls of dough on buttered baking sheets, covering them with plastic wrap. Let them sit until they puff up a bit; this could take anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour and a half, depending on the temperature. Once puffed, pick up the dough balls, cupping the top part in the palm of your hand, and make a deep well in the center. Spoon a teaspoon and a half of your preferred jam into the wells and seal the wells by pulling the sides of the the wells together and pinching the dough. Keep dough balls covered in plastic while filling. Once filled,  let them sit again for another half hour to hour, puffing even more. While waiting for this final puff, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once oven is preheated, brush each bun with an egg wash (simply one egg, beaten), and bake buns for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden brown.

Word to the wise, do not eat them right out of the oven. The jam will destroy your mouth. Just sayin’.

Let buns cool on a rack until warmish or room temperature. Eat buns as soon as possible, but they will keep covered at room temperature for one day.

Did you know brioche is considered a pastry and NOT a bread? I had no idea.

Bostock. What?

February 9, 2011

My kitchen has turned into an ocean of brioche. It’s everywhere, on the counter, in the fridge, in the freezer, in my bag to go to work, you can’t escape it. I’m trying to think of different ways to use this sliced brioche that is now a day old when I see a recipe for almond cream and a pastry called bostock. After reading about this treat, the only question I can ask myself is “How have I NEVER heard about this?!”

When you google “bostock”, you come upon the same thing with each result; people tried it in a bakery, or read about it, or heard about it, then asked where it has been their whole life, and then set about making it. I love this, how a pastry can come out of nowhere, surprise the heck out of you, then make itself a part of your life. Not to go off on one of my “beauty is everywhere” tangents, but food is sometimes overlooked when talking about cultures and life and sharing, and that’s a shame because everyone has very unique palates and dishes that feel like home, which can be shared even across language barriers. Okay, done.

In my research I learned that traditional bostock is dipped in almond syrup before being coated with cream and baked. Unfortunately, I found this after putting mine in the oven. Maybe next time.

The end product wasn’t pretty, because I decided to not follow instructions and not leave a border of bread around the cream, but my goodness gracious, it was good. So good, in fact, that I just wanted to stick my face in it, and then make a billion of them to give to everyone I know. Just when you think you could get bored of something, bostock comes along and saves the day.

Haha. Don't laugh. It's delicious.

Before signing off for today, I need to make a confession. Remember, yesterday, when I said that perhaps all the extra effort in brioche dough isn’t worth it? I’m officially eating my words, after sampling the brioche buns made with dough that needs crazy amounts of attention and ingredients. There is definitely a difference, and the extra steps are worth it if you have the time and energy. I’ll be posting that particular recipe on Friday morning! Be excited! And then be excited that I’ll talk about something other than brioche!

Almond Cream

(Recipe adapted from Baking, From my Home to Yours)

Yields 1 ½ cups almond cream

Ingredients:

¾ stick, or 6 tablespoons, unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

¾ cup ground almonds (almond meal works as well)

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 2 teaspoons dark rum)

Method:

1. Using a stand mixer or a sturdy spoon, cream butter and sugar until smooth.

2. Add almonds and beat to incorporate them completely.

3. Stir in flour and cornstarch until flour disappears.

4. Add egg and beat mixture until homogenous.

5. Stir in vanilla extract (or rum).

Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.

**Dorie says you can even bake this as a custard in ramekins, and I found that the almond cream spilled over the edges and baked into delightful almond cookies. The possibilities are practically endless, guys!

Bostock

Ingredients:

As many thick slices (up to and including an inch thick) of stale, day-old brioche, or challah, as desired

Almond cream

Method:

[Optional step: Toast a handful of slivered almonds on a baking sheet for 5 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.]

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Spread two or three tablespoons almond cream on each slice of bread, making sure to leave an inch thick border of bread. The almond cream spreads. [Sprinkle with toasted almonds.]

3. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cream looks set around the edges.

4. Eat!

I would not try to store bostock, because it is simple to make as needed and heavenly out of the oven.

Breakfast Tuesday! My favorite day of the week! I repeat myself a lot and exaggerate… A LOT, but today I’m super excited to share my day off breakfast treat because I put some work into it and because it’s something that is crazy decadent. My favorite kind of breakfast is a ridiculous, zero nutritional value, almost-dessert, something like brioche french toast!

I won’t bore you with the details of the French toast making, because we all have our own special way of preparing it, but I will share some of my brioche experiences. The entirety of my Monday consisted of preparing three different batches brioche dough from three different people. Last week, reading the recipes, I realized that most brioche dough must sit overnight, and some even require TLC every two hours before you are ready to use it. Some you can freeze, some you need to use a sponge, some you NEED a thermometer, you name some sort of baking instruction, it was there. I’m a bit lazy and extremely impatient, so the question became, “Are all these crazy extra steps worth it for the 23 year old home baker?”

The part of me that loves projects and challenges says “Heck yes! I don’t want to settle and take the easy route!” The part of me that just wants some brioche French toast and doesn’t feel like going to the market and spending five dollars on a brioche roll says “There has to be middle ground.” Surprisingly enough, I got over the laziness and made a bunch of brioche to conduct some rigorous taste testing.

I’m still working on the loaves that need extra time, because my kitchen is freezing, but I will share the recipe for the baked loaf in the pictures. How well the brioche turned out, even though it didn’t need to sit overnight and be punched repeatedly, surprised me. It certainly rivals market brioche, and definitely trumps hugantic chain grocery store brioche.

I will let you know how the rest of brioche baking goes. I have brioche buns filled with jam, another regular loaf, a raisin swirl loaf, and some dough frozen for sticky buns. Too much brioche? Nonsense.

“Breakfast Loaf” Brioche

(Recipe adapted from Bake! Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking)

Yields enough dough for one 9 by 5 inch loaf

Note: This recipe is a whole lot easier with the bread hook of a stand mixer, but I was able to do it without, and will write the recipe without use of the mixer. If you have access to a mixer, this recipe will be a cinch!

Ingredients:

Sponge

1/3 cup lukewarm milk, about body temperature*

2 ½ teaspoons, or one envelope, active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water, around 110 degrees F*

¾ cup bread flour

*The temperature is important because the yeast will be killed if the liquids are too hot.

Dough

2 eggs, room temperature

2 egg yolks, room temperature

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

All of sponge, recipe from above

2 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup, or 8 tablespoons, butter, softened, plus extra for buttering pans and bowls

Egg Wash

1 egg, whisked

Method:

1. Sponge: In a cereal size bowl, whisk the yeast into the warm water. Wait 2 minutes, then whisk again to make sure all yeast granules are dissolved. Whisk in warm milk. Fold in flour with a spatula or wooden spoon, until smooth. Cover the bowl in plastic, and let sit for 30 minutes or until more than doubled in size.

2. In the bottom of a large bowl, large enough to contain and knead all the dough, stir the eggs and yolks together.

3. Stir in the sugar, and then scrape all the sponge into the egg mixture.

4. Add flour, one cup at a time, and the salt, mixing it into submission after each addition. Mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl, between 10 and 15 minutes. I suggest using your (clean) hands for this process.

5. Add the butter in three parts, continually mix until the butter is absorbed into the dough, not just melted around the outside.

6. Knead dough until it is smooth, shiny, and feels like elastic, 10 to 15 minutes more.

7. Place dough into a large, buttered bowl, then flip over to make sure top of dough is coated in butter.

8. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, 30 minutes to an hour depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If your kitchen is in the 70 degree F range, 30 minutes should suffice. Once the dough has risen, you can place it in the fridge until ready to use, or use it right away. If you do put it in the fridge, make sure it comes to room temperature before shaping it for the loaf pan.

9. Prepare a loaf pan by buttering it generously. Make sure you butter the rim as well, because the brioche will try to escape over the sides.

10. Flour your hands, and remove the dough from the bowl. Round the dough by bringing the sides underneath it, tightening the skin on top, being careful not to deflate it too much. Once rounded, shape it into a loaf pan sized rectangle. Transfer dough to prepared pan.

11. Cover the pan with plastic, and let rise until dough comes 1 to 1 ½ inches above the pan. This process takes 30 minutes to an hour, again, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

12. While bread is rising, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

13. Before baking loaf, brush top with egg wash. Be careful not to let the egg drip down the outside of the pan.

14. Bake loaf until well-risen and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

15. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before tipping it out onto a cooling rack. Let loaf cool completely on its side to avoid deflation.

Brioche is pretty much ambrosia out of the oven,  right after it cools, but you can keep it, at room temperature or in the fridge, in an airtight container for a few days. You could also freeze it for up to a month.