November 11, 2011
Today feels a good day. To me, a good day doesn’t necessarily mean that everything goes my way, or that everything is perfect (and yes, I do have a mental hierarchy of what constitutes different days that could be considered “good,” yay for having a selectively analytical mind). This particular type of good day has nothing to do with anything other than me, sitting in my kitchen, and the space around me; everything seems beautiful and uniquely interesting. I find myself smiling at all the ingredients I’m using for breakfast, even though they are either splayed all over the cutting board or smeared on the counter, and being fascinated by the way my coffee swirls in its cup.
On these days, I’m acutely aware of being human in the physical sense, and heartily enjoy the simple sensory pleasures one can very easily overlook. I just get so wrapped up in my head, what with being stressed about this and that, feeling bad about something that happened the night before, and missing people who live far away, but today I feel like I can be a girl in a kitchen, smelling her warm, delicious coffee and waiting for chocolate chip pumpkin squares to come out of the oven.
These chocolate chip pumpkin squares, not quite blondies and not quite cake, are perfect for a good day like this because they are basically small squares of sensory overload. The squares smell like fall and brown sugar, look all orangey-pumpkin beautiful with melty chocolate chips, and, warm from the oven, melt in your mouth. I would even go so far as to say these chocolate chip pumpkin squares could turn a not-so good day around, because you can’t help but stop, smell the roses, and enjoy!
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Squares
(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
Yields about 24 squares in a 9 by 13 inch pan
Notes: The original recipe calls for all-purpose instead of cake flour and granulated sugar instead of brown sugar, but I love the fine crumb of cake flour and the slight hint of molasses that come together in the finished product. Come next time, I might sprinkle chopped walnuts over the top before baking.
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup, or 2 sticks, unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 to 2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9 by 13 inch pan with parchment or greased foil, leaving a few inches overhang to pull bars out of pan once baked.
2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, and then mix until smooth.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir just until all streaks of flour disappear, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan while stirring. Stir in chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.
5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan and smooth top. Bake in preheated oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
6. Let pumpkin squares cool completely in pan before lifting out and cutting into individual squares.
Bars can be kept at room temperature, in an airtight container, up to 3 days.
April 28, 2011
I scrutinized the picture accompanying this recipe for a long time, adorable, brown-topped little cakes studded with chocolate chips. No frosting, no frills. Are they cupcakes, really? I mean, does a cake in a cupcake paper need frosting in order to become a cupcake? When you do some research, most people do draw a frosting line between cupcakes and muffins, but I for some reason I can’t rest with that. There has to be more to being a cupcake than a frosted top! Right? I began to question everything I knew about cupcakes, starting with giving this recipe a try.
So I went about chopping and mixing and baking and eating. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the end result. Although I did enjoy the chocolate chips throughout the cake (more cupcakes should have chocolate chips, I daresay), the cakes themselves were dry and, well, I kind of missed the frosting. Perhaps if these were introduced to me as a muffin I would have thought differently, expecting a drier, less sweet cake-type product, but I wouldn’t say they are what you expect when you think “cupcake”. In conclusion, I’m still on the fence regarding whether or not cupcakes need frosting to be considered cupcakes and I’m not sold on this recipe.
I’ll repeat, however, that I’m still intrigued by the idea of chocolate chip cupcakes. If you could pull off a hybrid cookie-cupcake, imagine the possibilities.
(Recipe adapted from Cupcakes, by Susanna Tee)
Yields 8 cupcakes
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (scant) cake flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
½ to ¾ cup chocolate chips or chopped semisweet, bittersweet, or dark chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. I had to do two batches, since my pan only accommodates 6 muffin-size cakes.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until incorporated. Mixture will separate but not to worry! It will come together with the addition of dry ingredients. Add vanilla and stir to combine.
3. Add flour, baking soda, and salt to butter mixture. Stir until just combined, and then stir in chocolate chips.
4. Fill cupcake papers ¾ full, using either “guess-timation” or a ¼ cup ice cream scoop with release mechanism.
5. Bake cupcakes in preheated oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Tops will brown considerably, as a warning.
6. Let cupcakes cool in pan just a few minutes before removing them to a rack to cool completely.
These cupcakes are best eaten while still warm and/or on the same day, but if you must, store them in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.