Monday, October 17, 2016

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Bars

If you know me, you know that I'm always looking for new and yummy pumpkin recipes. Sweet, savory, and everything in between, I love all things pumpkin. So I decided that my pumpkin collection needed an easy "picky uppy" something that would be perfect for you to make for a party or your next family get-together. Then I found this recipe on a blog called Sally's Baking Addiction. (if you haven't checked it, out, you simply must. LOTS of fabu recipes there!)
 So here we go! They're moist and cakey, and the cream cheese swirl is what pushes it over the top. SO rich and perfect, and the cinnamon pumpkin seeds add just the right amount of added crunch.
 Having a party? Now you know what dessert to make! Just place them on a tray and watch them disappear. Better yet, make a double batch, and then you'll have leftovers! More is more!

1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teaspoon salt

Cream Cheese Swirl
 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup pepitas tossed in a sprinkle of ground cinnamon

 Heat oven to 350°F. Grease or line the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium high speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in egg and vanilla on high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. On medium speed, beat in the pumpkin until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together until combined. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined. Do not overmix. The mixture will be thick. Spread 2/3 of the batter evenly into the prepared pan; it will be a relatively thin layer.
In a medium bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer filled with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Beat on high speed until completely combined. Drop random spoonfuls on top of the pumpkin batter.
 Drop the remaining pumpkin batter on top of the spoonfuls of cream cheese. With a rubber spatula or knife, begin gently swirling the two together. Sprinkle cinnamon-pepitas on top of the swirled batter.
Bake the bars for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Allow the bars to cool completely at room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator for about 2 hours before cutting into squares. Leftover bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

 As stated on the SBA blog, these bars can be made 3 days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Bars freeze well, up to 3 months. Simply thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
Definitely use the foil or parchment as the recipe directs. It makes it SO much easier to lift the whole batch out of the pan in one go. Then you can use a large knife to make perfect cuts, and you won't ruin your pan!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

 Looking for a pumpkin pie alternative? I believe I have the answer! Have you ever made a creme brulee? It's really not very difficult to make and it always impresses everyone, even just at the mere mention of it. Add some pumpkin and a vanilla bean, and now you have a sophisticated dessert that is perfect for any special occasion holiday meal.
 As I was browsing recipes, I noticed that many of them use lots of spices. Yes, of course I love all the warm fall spices that go perfectly with pumpkin, but in this case, I wanted a simpler flavor, one that would not disguise the flavor of the pumpkin. All I wanted was a sweet pumpkin custard, rich and sweet and smooth and velvety. And then I found it! It was on a blog called Love and Olive Oil, and it's AMAZING. It's perfect for a holiday dinner because a total do-ahead. Even if you're not cooking for a special occasion, you should give this one a try!

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup turbinado or granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 300ºF. Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil (this will be used for the water bath later).
Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, brown sugar, pumpkin, and vanilla until light in color.
Heat cream in a small saucepan until it starts to steam. Gradually pour warm cream into bowl with egg yolks, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking vigorously, until incorporated. Skim off foam. Pour into 4 (4-ounce) shallow ramekins. Arrange ramekins in a baking pan and place pan on oven rack. Carefully pour in just enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until just set. Remove from water bath and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Just before serving, sprinkle a generous tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top of each ramekin. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar, moving torch evenly across the tops of the custards to keep the sugar from burning. Alternatively, you place the custards on the top rack of a broiler set to high, and broil until sugar is golden brown and caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

 I know the recipe only calls for 1/2 of the vanilla bean, but I used the whole thing. As far as I'm concerned, vanilla falls into the same category as cinnamon: there's no such thing as too much. So I scraped out the insides of the whole vanilla bean, and then placed the empty pod in the cream as I was heating it. Vanilla cream! Then I discarded the pod and added the cream to the recipe as directed. I also added just the tiniest pinch of salt, just to enhance the pumpkin flavor a bit.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Pumpkin Pie Cake

When it comes to pumpkin recipes, I'm a super fan. Yes, I will proudly state that I love all things pumpkin and then I've never met a pumpkin dish I didn't like. I know some people are hit or miss when it comes to pumpkin, but that is absolutely not the case with me. So that means I'm always on the hunt for new and fun and different pumpkin recipes.
 I was recently doing some googling and I happened to find this one on a blog called Oh Sweet Basil. Basically, if a yellow cake and a pumpkin pie had a baby, it would be this cake. BINGO! This is exactly the type of recipe I wanted! And there are several reasons why: It only uses a few ingredients, it's an easy mix-and-bake, it's not overly spiced (so the pumpkin really shines through), plus it's a great alternative for someone who likes the flavor of pumpkin pie, but doesn't like the custardy texture. (I know, I know, I don't understand it either). The texture of this cake is very moist, and it just about melts in your mouth. SO GOOD! When I made it, I immediately got rave reviews! Oh, btw, one other thing... The original recipe directs you to bake it in a 9x13 pan, but I chose to bake it in a bundt pan. It turned out great! Regardless of which pan you use, I'm sure you'll get rave reviews too!  So add this to your fall repertoire. It's definitely a keeper!

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 (15oz) can of pumpkin
3 eggs
1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
1 tsp salt
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice 
1 package yellow or spice cake mix

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13" baking pan with nonstick spray. In the standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the pumpkin and mix until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing between. Add the evaporated milk. In a separate bowl, add the salt, pumpkin pie spice, and yellow cake mix. Whisk together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour into the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Serve warm with fresh whipped cream.

If you choose to bake your cake in a bundt pan instead of a 9x13 pan, just let it bake a little longer until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Instead of serving with whipped cream, you can also glaze your cake with a fluffy cream cheese glaze (as I did) or simply dust it with powdered sugar.