Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pumpkin Pie

I know, I know. I'm spoiling you, posting twice in two days. It's so unlike me. Well, maybe more like my old self before I was trying to sell a house and take care of the kids while my husband is in another state. But I know you can take it. And besides, this recipe is especially for me because I've nearly lost it several times and I'd have to start all over if I did, deciding what I like in a good pumpkin pie.

I like my pumpkin pie to be pretty traditional, but smooth and creamy (it is a custard, after all). And I don't mind a little zip or zing to go with the spices, so I substitute crystallized ginger (sometimes called candied ginger) for powdered ginger. I also love it in my chewy molasses cookies which I've also never posted (maybe I'll take care of that in the next couple of weeks). It's a little punchy, but still sweet and not too crazy. If I'm making the pumpkin pie for a large gathering with lots of children (typical), I chop the ginger up really finely, into little bits, and then it's not too strong for them. You can find crystallized ginger in the Asian section of the supermarket, in a little box. Or in a bulk spices section, if you're lucky.

I came up with this recipe about 6 or 7 years ago, and I've never varied from it until this year. It's always been a deep dish recipe, but my husband and I decided last year we prefer pumpkin pie not to be deep dish. Yes, it took us a long time to figure that out, but it's the only pie I would say that about, so you'll have to forgive me.

Here's the recipe, and I'll post a picture after I bake it. Sorry! You'll have to wait.

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

Pumpkin Pie

1 unbaked pie shell (recipe here)
1 3/4 c. pumpkin purée (canned is great, fresh is great if you press the juice out)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c. cream
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 t. allspice (freshly ground if possible)
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1 1/2 T. crystallized ginger, chopped (optional)
1/4 t. salt

Preheat the oven to 375˚. Line a 9" or 10" pie dish with the pastry. Make some pastry leaves with the remaining dough. You can place these around the edge of the pie now or bake them separately to garnish later (just a few in the middle). Chill the pastry while preparing the filling.

Combine the pumpkin with all remaining ingredient and mix thoroughly. pour into the prepared crust and and bake for 50-75 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and the custard is set (it will jiggle like jell-o, not like liquid). A toothpick should come out clean halfway to the center of the pie. If the crust browns too quickly make a ring of aluminum foil to protect it during baking. Bake the individual leaves for about 15 minutes. Cool pie and leaves. Refrigerate pie to chill completely.

Garnish with pastry leaves. Serve with lightly sweetened (about 2 T. sugar per 1 c. cream) whipped cream.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cinnamon Swirl Vanilla-Orange Bread

I know it's Thanksgiving and you're probably expecting me to post something Thanksgivingish, but I'm currently in love with my new loaf and couldn't resist passing this on first.

My mom made homemade bread all the time when I was little. Well, in retrospect it seems like all the time, but maybe it wasn't. It was definitely a lot. And occasionally she'd make cinnamon swirl bread with raisins in it, and that would make the best toast ever possible. Mmm. Good memories.

I had (shockingly) never made cinnamon swirl bread until a couple weeks ago, at which time I could resist no longer. My family is not a raisin family, so I needed a way to make my cinnamon bread taste like more than just regular bread with cinnamon sprinkles. Since the title of my post gives my quest-end away, and since I didn't take too long figuring it out anyhow, I'll cut to the chase: orange zest and vanilla beans in a honey-and-butter enriched milk bread. That's right. I know what you're thinking. Mmm. That sounds good.

You should taste it.

But, of course, that's why I post: so you can taste. Only you have to do the work. Or, if you're masochistic, you can simply read what I'm writing, stare at the pictures, and ache for what you're missing.

The orange in the bread is bright and vibrant against the mellow dough, but it doesn't overpower the bread and nicely complements the cinnamon. The vanilla is slightly angelic, and I'm keeping it in the recipe, but if you don't have any beans around, feel free to make this bread with everything else and leave that out. But don't leave anything else out. (By the way, I buy my vanilla beans for a very low price on eBay and keep them in a sealed bag inside an airtight jar in my pantry.)

Since it's Thanksgiving week, I highly recommend you make this tonight and tomorrow (it takes 2 days) and have a lovely breakfast Thanksgiving morning (you'll be having leftover pie on Friday morning). Or do what I'm doing, and make several loaves over the next few weeks and pass them out as Christmas gifts. You could make friends pretty quickly that way.

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

Cinnamon Swirl Vanilla-Orange Bread

approx. 7 1/2 - 8 c. white bread flour
2 c. cold water
1 1/4 t. instant yeast (if using active dry, you'll need to proof it first)
1 1/2 c. lowfat milk
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
zest of 1 large orange
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (optional)
1 T. salt
a good supply of cinnamon sugar (1 t. cinnamon for each 1/4 c. sugar)

In a medium bowl, stir together the water, 2 c. flour, and 1/4 t. yeast. Cover. Set aside 8-12 hours (overnight).

Heat the milk and butter until the butter has melted, then stir in the honey.

In a large bowl, combine the sponge from the night before, zest, vanilla seeds, and remaining 1 t. yeast. Stir together, then add 5 c. flour, salt, and milk mixture. Begin kneading with a stand mixer or by hand, adding more flour as needed until the dough is no longer sticky but still soft and tender. Knead 8-10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large bowl coated with oil or cooking spray. Cover and let rise 2-3 hours, until doubled in size.

Divide the dough into two equal parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll each out into a rectangle about 9" x 22". Sprinkle the dough generously with the cinnamon sugar, creating a nice, even layer, not too thick, but covering the entire surface. Roll up the short ends to short ends. Seal the ends by pinching them to the rest of the dough, then turn that side down and set loaves in two generously sprayed 9"x5" loaf pans. Cover and let rise about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350˚. When the loaves have risen to the point that they are an inch or so above the top of the loaf pans, place them in the oven. Quickly add 1 c. of ice cubes to the bottom of the oven and close the oven door. Leave the door closed during baking, especially the first 20 minutes.

Bake until golden brown all the way around and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom of the loaf, 45 minutes for me. Don't underbake your bread. If you want to measure the temperature, it should be around 200˚ in the middle.

Turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack and cool all the way to room temperature before slicing into, or the cinnamon sugar will not be set and will be gooey, sliding out and abandoning future slices of bread from the same loaf. So tempting, but DON'T do it.

Enjoy. :)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Chewy Cinnamon Cookies

I've been anxious to post these cookies for a while, namely because I'm afraid I'll lose the recipe and have to stop making them. That would be a tragedy.

My sister told me a couple of weeks ago that she prefers her cookies not to have chocolate in them. I was shocked. Really, are there more people like this out there? Unless you have a natural aversion or allergic reaction to chocolate, this is something I don't really understand. Well, I can understand it to a degree, I suppose, because I prefer taking bites or chocolate chip cookie dough without chunks of chocolate in it. And I really, really like these cookies. So I'm starting to get it.

About seven years ago (holy cow! how time flies!) when we lived in Ann Arbor I first tasted Carol's Cookies. If you live within purchasing distance, I recommend you try them. Anyhow, my favorite by far was the cinnamon swirl. I've never been a snickerdoodle fan, though at least for part of my childhood they were my sister's favorite. I'm not a fan of the cream of tartar – who really is? – and there wasn't nearly enough cinnamon on there. Carol solved those problems for me. No cream of tartar (at least none I could taste), and lots of cinnamon. Plus the cookie was thick, so it was nice and golden on the outside but still moist and chewy on the inside. I loved them.

After we moved to California, there was no way to have Carol's cinnamon swirl cookies anymore except by mail order, which was too expensive for me. But I never forgot them. I actually started trying to figure out how to make really wonderful cinnamon cookies about halfway through my brownies project, but it wasn't until I'd made the Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookies a few times that I realized I might be able to get the cookie I want. To me, cookies always needed to mixed by hand. If you beat them in the KitchenAid, you'd whip too much air into them and they'd fall flat on the cookie sheet. What I learned from this recipe is that you should whip them a good long time, creaming the butter and sugar, and then refrigerate them. This helps in two ways: 1. a higher butter content in the dough which means more flavor, and 2. baked from a cold temperature keeps them from falling flat; they have just the right amount of height for me (not way huge like a Carol's cookie, though).

So I took the chocolate chip cookie recipe and tweaked it a bit. I like a good amount of brown sugar with cinnamon, and a couple of other things here and there. I didn't want the flavor to fall flat, either, so I top the unbaked balls of dough with a generous shake of cinnamon and sugar.

Also they won a neighborhood dessert contest when served with drinking chocolate, so I'm not the only one who likes them.

They're very good. You should try them.

for a printable version of this recipe, click here
Chewy Cinnamon Cookies

2 c. + 2 T. (8 1/2 oz.) cake flour
1 3/4 c. + 2 T. (8 1/2 oz.) bread flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. Kosher salt
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. (5 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
1 3/4 c. (12 1/2 oz.) light brown sugar
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
granulated sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon together on medium high for 5 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Mix in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Cover at surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate at the very least 4 hours, but preferably 24 hours before baking.

To make the cinnamon-sugar topping, combine 1 t. cinnamon for every 1/4 c. sugar.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350˚. Place a silpat or parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Place 8 2-oz. rounds (2 1/2 - 3 T.) on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each ball heavily with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake 18-19 minutes, until golden brown but still slightly moist on inside. Cool 5-10 minutes on sheet, them cool completely on a wire rack.

The unbaked dough will keep in the refrigerator up to 72 hours (if you keep it well hidden).