Pumpkin Dinner Buns

Autumn is in full swing with all its fabulous foliage and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The second Monday of October has been the day Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1957. For Canadians, this holiday is linked to the tradition of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia or horn filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. The cornucopia, which means ‘horn of plenty’ in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Pumpkins, turkeys, ears of corn and large displays of food are used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.

The ‘flavor of fall’ always brings pumpkin to mind (or butternut squash) for me. Since there are only two days left before our Thanksgiving day, when we will stir, boil, grate & grease our way to a table filled with wonderful food. While everyone has their own traditions and ‘must eat’ dishes, these pumpkin yeast buns are a perfect compliment to this autumn feast.

Lightly sweet and beautifully light and fluffy, this recipe can be made in two ways. One as a dinner bun to have with the main course and two as a cream cheese filled sweet roll for breakfast.

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Pumpkin Dinner Buns
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Course Main Dish
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
Pumpkin Dough
  1. In a small bowl, place yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to rise for about 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, brown sugar, butter, salt, spices, eggs & pumpkin puree. Mix well. Add flour, one cup at a time, until well combined. Knead dough for about 8-10 minutes or until smooth & soft. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a tea towel & allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, knead for about 2-3 minutes. Divide into 16 equal pieces, shaping into balls. For 16 buns you will need about 16-90 cm pieces of kitchen thread. Tie thread around the dough ball in a way that the ball is divided into 8 parts. Do not tie the ball too tightly as it will continue to rise a lot more during the second proofing & baking. Cover the pumpkin shaped dough balls with a tea towel & set aside to proof until buns have doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush rolls with melted butter. Allow buns to cool completely before cutting thread to remove it. Insert pecan pieces to mimic a pumpkin stem.
For FILLED Buns
  1. In a small bowl, beat together filling ingredients. Follow directions above. At the point where you have divided the dough into 16 pieces, fill each one with some cream cheese filling ( I had divided my filling into 16 portions to make it easy). Gather the corners together to form a ball. Follow tying directions in above instructions to form the pumpkin effect. Cover & allow to rise until doubled in size.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush rolls with melted butter. Allow buns to cool completely before cutting thread to remove it. Insert pecan pieces to mimic a pumpkin stem.
Recipe Notes
  • If you don't have the time to do all this tying, place the dough balls onto the lined baking tray about 3-4 cm apart. Gently flatten the balls a little. Dip the tip of a scissors into oil. Cut the dough into 'petals' to form the pumpkin look. After they are baked, insert a piece of pecan or even use pumpkin seeds to make the stems.

Russian Salmon & Cabbage Pie

The ‘stuffing’ principle seems very predominate in Russian cooking, from pelmeni (little meat dumplings) and vareniki (dumplings with potato & cheese) golubzi (stuffed cabbage), meat or cheese blintzes and of course, blini wrapped around lox.

Then there’s kulebiaka, the ‘grand’ oblong pie, that features several fillings. Its main distinction from any other Russian pie is that the quantity of the filling should be two or three times the quantity of pastry.

The word was derived from the verb ‘kulebyachit’ meaning to make with hands, to shape, to bend and to knead. This pie contained a flavorful mixture of salmon, rice, cabbage, mushrooms, shallots, hard-boiled eggs, dill and/or visiga — a spinal marrow of the sturgeon.

The crust was classically made with a yeast dough or puff pastry, although modern adaptations often include French crepes. In the 19th century, French chefs, who had worked in Russia, brought the recipe to France and adapted it to modern cookery.

This kulebiaka has a wonderful flavor with its many layers. I wanted to make it in the authentic oblong style but it can easily be baked in a 9-inch deep dish pie pan.

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Russian Salmon & Cabbage Pie
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, melt butter & saute onion about 7 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in mushrooms, cabbage & vinegar; increase heat to medium. Cover skillet & cook 4 minutes; uncover, toss & cook 2 more minutes. Remove vegetables from skillet, season with salt & pepper to taste; set aside.
  2. Wipe out skillet, add oil & set over medium-high heat. Add salmon & season lightly with salt & pepper. Cook salmon 5 minutes per side; remove to a plate & let cool. Flake salmon into large chunks & set aside.
  3. Spread brown rice over bottom pastry. Peel & chop the hard-boiled egg, then add to pie, followed by flaked salmon. Sprinkle with cheese, then bread crumbs. Mound vegetable mixture on top. Sprinkle with fresh dill.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out remaining sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is large enough to cover pie. Brush edge of bottom pastry with egg wash & place second sheet of pastry directly on top. Use a fork to crimp down edges so sheets of pastry will adhere. Cut a few small slits in the top of pie to allow steam to escape. Brush pastry with remaining egg wash. Bake 35-40 minutes until pastry is puffed & golden.

Glazed Sour Cherry Yeast Cake

We seem to have had all the right weather conditions this year for our little cherry tree. It’s yield was close to 8 lbs (3.6 kg) of really beautiful fruit. I personally like using these cherries for cooking and baking as opposed to eating them fresh. The sweet/tart flavor lends itself so well to numerous recipes.

While the warmer summer months certainly slow down my baking activities, they never really stop completely. On the cooler or rainy days, I still heed the call to head to the kitchen for some baking therapy.

My recipe idea today was inspired by the 1970’s ‘Poke Cakes’. Originally created to increase sluggish sales for Jello-O gelatin, poke cakes are colorful and easy to make. A fork, chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon is used to poke deep holes all over the top of the baked cake(mix). Next, it is topped with a colorful Jell-O syrup, which trickles into the cake looking like brightly colored streamers. Once it is refrigerated until set, the cake is then slathered with Cool Whip.

Although it seems like poke cakes are a phenomenon born in corporate American kitchens, drenching cake in flavorful liquids is not new, or entirely an American tradition. England’s sticky toffee pudding, a single layer date cake, is poked all over while still warm from the oven with a fork or skewer and drenched in sticky butterscotch sauce. Genoise, the classic French sponge cake, is almost always soaked in sugar syrups spiked with liqueur, not just for flavor, but to keep the cake fresh and prevent it from drying out. Pastel de tres leches, or ‘three-milks cake’, is a beloved Latin American classic. Made from sponge cake soaked in a milky syrup combining evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. All three called for this hole-poking action long before the 1970’s.

Of course, getting back to my German heritage, brings to mind a German butter cake or Butter Kuchen. This classic yeasted cake (actually more like a bread), seems to be very closely aligned with the poke cake idea. After the dough has risen and been rolled out, deep impressions are made for the filling to nestle in.

For our ‘cake’, I used an almond cream cheese filling to compliment the fresh cherries. We really enjoyed it!

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Glazed Sour Cherry Yeast Cake
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Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cake Dough
Cream Cheese Filling
Glaze
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cake Dough
Cream Cheese Filling
Glaze
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Cake Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. Beat together filling ingredients & set aside in fridge until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Line a 15" X 10"-inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Place dough on paper & press out evenly in pan. Make about 20 deep impressions in dough with your fingertips. Fill each one with a spoonful of filling & top with a couple of cherries. Allow cake to rise 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake cake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients. Remove from oven: cool for just a few minutes then drizzle with glaze. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Cut into 24 serving pieces.

Sheet Pan Bratwurst with Roasted Vegetables

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

The end of September, when we are still trying to hang on to summer and its already Autumn. Seriously! On the other hand, this time of year brings Oktoberfest for 16 days from late September to early October.

Beer enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest, where they feast on everything from steins of beer to plates of sauerkraut, bratwurst, cabbage rolls, sausage and wiener schnitzel. Bavarian music fills the air to promote the fun atmosphere of Oktoberfest.

While the true celebration has to be experienced in Munich, there are actually some great Canadian events that try to duplicate the festivities without having to travel abroad. In different parts of the country, this is a fun and social sampling event featuring many local craft and authentic Bavarian breweries as well as authentic food, Oktoberfest music, dancers, games, etc.

Oktoberfest began as a wedding celebration more than 200 years ago (in Munich, Germany), when Bavaria’s, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The wedding was celebrated with multiple days of drinking, feasting and horse races. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done every year since.

This year, to acknowledge Oktoberfest, we are having a sheet pan meal with ‘brats’. Bratwurst is one of the most famous German sausages. Typically this sausage is made from veal, pork or beef and is usually grilled, pan fried or cooked in broth or beer. They are served in a variety of ways depending on the region in Germany, but sauerkraut and spicy mustard are often preferred as a compliment to their rich, meaty flavor. The recipe for the actual sausage varies from region to region with 40 plus varieties.

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Sheet Pan Bratwurst with Roasted Vegetables
Instructions
  1. Pierce the sausages with a sharp knife. Add the beer OR apple juice to a saucepan over medium-high heat & add the sausages & garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat & simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain & set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, mustard & brown sugar until sugar dissolves. Prepare vegetables & apples & place in a large bowl; pour mustard mixture over them & toss to coat. Transfer veg mixture to the baking sheet. Top with brats. Season with caraway seeds, salt & pepper.
  4. Bake for 45-50 minutes, tossing once halfway through the cooking time (flipping the brats), or until veggies are browned. Remove from oven & serve.

Cheesy Shrimp & Rice Casserole

One of the first things Brion and I noticed when we lived in Ecuador for three months, was how much rice the grocery store had on its shelves. Brion is a true rice lover, so when we went grocery shopping, it was definitely on the ‘list’. To our amazement there was an entire isle, from top to bottom, dedicated to rice alone.

Rice has been a staple of the Ecuadorian diet forever, both along the coastal regions and in the mountainous areas. A large scoop of white, starchy rice accompanies most meals. In stores, you can buy brown rice, white ‘new rice’, aged rice (but not minute rice).

Shrimp rice is a classic Ecuadorian and Latin American dish. The fact that Ecuadorians love rice, anything you can think of, there is a rice-based dish for it, especially if it concerns any type of seafood. Because of the fertile soils and the humid, tropical climate of the coast, Ecuador also produces a stunning variety of fruits and vegetables, most notably bananas, melons and other exotic fruits like guava and passion fruit.

This is a short cut version of their ‘arroz con camarones’ (rice & shrimp) dish. Great little meal!

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Cheesy Shrimp & Rice Casserole
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Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, saute onions, peppers & garlic in oil until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce & salsa; simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in shrimp & corn; simmer 2 minutes. Stir in bacon.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spoon cooked rice in a buttered, 9 X 13-inch baking dish; top with shrimp mixture & cheese. Cover with foil. Bake casserole, covered, 35 minutes or until heated through, uncovering the last 20 minutes.

Apple Cinnamon Candy Cakes

It’s that time of year when apples (& pumpkins) seem to be everywhere. I think sometimes we get caught up in the abundance of fresh fruit choices over summer that we overlook these precious little gems. I have heard it said that apples are only second to bananas as one of the most eaten fruits.

The fact that they are so versatile, relatively inexpensive, easy to find, available all year round and keep for a long time, what more could we want!

If you plan to bake with them, keep in mind, not all apples are designed for baking. The texture is uppermost important. A good baking apple needs to have a balance of intense sweet-tart flavor as well as not fall apart when baked. Even though some apples are better suited for certain kinds of recipes than others, don’t limit yourself to using just one kind of apple. Using a mixture of apples will result in more complex flavors and textures.

I wanted to make some upside-down cakes with poaching the apple slices in a cinnamon candy syrup. Hopefully it works the way I think it should.

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Apple Cinnamon Candy Cakes
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Course Brunch, dessert
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Ingredients
Candied Apples/Raisins
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Candied Apples/Raisins
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Instructions
Candied Apples/Raisins
  1. In a saucepan, combine water, sugar, cinnamon candies & heat until sugar & candy dissolve. Add apple slices & raisins to the pan & bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes; drain & return the syrup to the pan. Bring syrup to a boil until it thickens slightly; remove from heat. Divide the apples & raisins between 4 mini bundt pans.
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat until smooth. Divide mixture over fruit in mini bundt pans. Place pans on a baking sheet & bake for 15-20 minutes or until cakes have risen & are firm to the touch in center.
  2. Remove from oven & allow them to cool in pans for a few minutes. Carefully turn cakes out onto serving plates Top with a dollop of whipped topping & drizzle with cinnamon candy syrup.

Chili Mostaccioli

Mostaccioli, known in Italy as ‘penne lisce’, are a specialty of the Campania Region in Southern Italy, which includes the cities of Naples, Capri and Sorrento. This pasta is smooth in texture, tube-shaped with angled ends cut to resemble a quill or pen point.

Without realizing it, the pasta shape we choose plays an important role in the outcome of the dish. Long or short, smooth or ridged, thick or thin, with or without curves and crevices, different shapes of pasta capture sauce differently.

Shaped pastas pair well with sauces that have some texture. The crevices and twists will give pieces of meat and veggies a place to nestle into.

Short tubular pastas are great for sauces that are thick and chunky.

Long, thin, dried pasta need lots of lubrication. Olive-oil based sauces will coat, but not drown the pasta. The thicker pasta, like fettuccine can stand up to cream sauces and ragus. If your adding vegetables or herbs, cut them string-like rather than in cubes for ease in blending them.

This is a quick, low-cost meal but has good flavor.

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Chili Mostaccioli
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Course Main Dish
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine meat, milk, crumbs, garlic, onion & seasonings; shape into 4-5 oblong patties. In a skillet, brown patties in hot oil. Remove to drain on paper towel.
  2. Drain any liquid from skillet & wipe with paper towel. In the skillet, combine soup with water & bring to a simmer. Add meat patties; gently simmer, covered for about 10 minutes then add drained & rinsed kidney beans. Simmer 5 more minutes until beans are hot.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Place on a large warm serving platter. Arrange patties over mostaccioli pasta. Pour sauce over meat & pasta; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese & serve.

Spiced Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce

Over forty years ago I tasted my first ‘poached pear’. We were having a beautiful dinner at my sister Loretta’s house. It was a special occasion and she had made poached pears for dessert. They were so elegant and wonderful tasting, I can remember it clearly to this day.

What’s not to love about this match made in culinary heaven. The pears are fruity and light, while the chocolate sauce gives a touch of indulgence not to mention the little surprise tucked in the center.

There is really no set answer to the question of ‘how many ways can you poach a pear’. Of course, the classic way would be in red or white wine, which certainly has eye appeal. But, besides wine, there is always cider, bold and flavorful beers or ales and even espresso.

I decided to go with pear juice, cinnamon, star anise, vanilla and honey. I think the look is gorgeous not to mention the wonderful flavor.

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Spiced Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce
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Course dessert
Servings
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Instructions
Pears
  1. Core & peel pears, leaving stems intact. In a small saucepan, combine juice, cinnamon sticks, star anise, honey & vanilla. Add pears; bring to a simmer. Cook, turning pears occasionally, until easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, but not falling apart. The length of time will depend on the ripeness of pears. Remove pears from liquid using a slotted spoon & transfer to a large bowl; drain well.
Filling
  1. In a small dish, combine walnuts, powdered sugar & milk; set aside.
Chocolate Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, combine chocolate, heavy cream & butter. Turn heat to low & melt chocolate, stirring until smooth.
To Serve
  1. Spoon nut mixture into pear cavities. Place on dessert plates; drizzle with chocolate sauce. Serve with ice cream. Garnish with a spring of fresh mint if you wish.

Sour Cherry Custard Buns

Fall is that time of year that we can enjoy some more of those wonderful cherries from our own little tree. The fact that we live in the northern part of Alberta, Canada and can eat cherries fresh from our tree is such a bonus.

Even though these cherries are classed as a semi-sweet variety, there are still endless ways to enjoy them. When I was growing up, I remember my mother making something she called ‘dampfnudeln’. The taste was wonderful and as I recall, these were sweet yeast dumplings in a vanilla custard sauce. I’m not sure if they had anything in the center or not.

It seems there are endless recipes and preparations, variations on recipes and variations on variations …. ROHRNUDELN, HEFENUDELN, GERMKNODEL, DAMPFNUDELN, BUCHTELN and on and on. Basically they are all yeast dumplings, sweet (or savory) but the preparation varies somewhat. Some are poached in a milk/sugar liquid, whereas others are baked. Some are filled, some not. Most seem to be served with a vanilla custard.

For mine, I’m trying to incorporate some of our cherries in a soft, sweet yeast bun with some vanilla custard. I think I’ll call them ‘dampfbuchteln’. Buchteln are a typical Bohemian dish from the region in the middle of Europe that was formerly German. It was from there that recipes like this made their way into German and Austrian kitchens. That name seems fitting, having the characteristics of both kinds of buns.

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Sour Cherry Custard Buns
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Course Brunch, dessert
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Ingredients
Sweet Roll Dough
Vanilla Custard
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Sweet Roll Dough
Vanilla Custard
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Instructions
Sour Cherry Compote
  1. In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch & salt; add juice & stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, simmer until thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Gradually fold in cherries. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. I found it easier to make the compote a day ahead of the buns.
Sweet Roll Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture, 1 cup at a time combining well after each addition. Once the flour has all been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic & a tea towel. Allow to rise for at least 1 hour in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
  4. Punch dough down & turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal sized pieces & roll each into a ball. Place under a tea towel so they won't dry out. Take one ball & shape it into a flat circle large enough to hold a spoonful of compote.
  5. Fold over & pinch the edges, then carefully shape into a ball again. Place in a buttered 12-inch spring form pan, seam side down. Repeat with remaining dough balls. Cover with tea towel & let rise for another 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake buns for about 20-25 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven; cool for just a few minutes then pat with butter. When completely cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish.
Vanilla Custard
  1. Sift together cornstarch & flour. Using a whisk, combine the beaten eggs & the flour mixture until powders are dissolved. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together milk, sugar & salt. Once sugar & salt are dissolved, add in the egg mixture & keep stirring everything until the mixture is thickened. Remove from heat & stir in butter & vanilla. Nice to serve warm under the cherry buns.

Savory Artichoke, Chicken & Mushroom Galette

Over the last few years, marinated artichokes have become one of the ‘go-to’ ingredients on my pantry shelf. Jarred marinated artichoke hearts add an instant burst of flavor and unlike fresh artichokes, they are available all year around. Might I add, they require zero preparation! Keep in mind, these are the ones in glass jars, not the canned ones that can be flavorless and soggy.

Some of the ways I have made use of them were: as a pizza topping, veggie dip, on crostini, with roasted potatoes, omelettes or in au gratin dishes.

As you have probably noticed if you follow my blog, I love savory pastries all year long. Spring through winter they showcase their ingredients so beautifully. If you’re someone who feels intimidated by pastry, galettes give you opportunity to make a free-form masterpiece. This recipe simplifies it even more by using frozen puff pastry. Yet another reason to keep a package on hand in your freezer.

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Savory Artichoke, Chicken & Mushroom Galette
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Instructions
Filling
  1. Slice breast & marinate in artichoke MARINADE (liquid only) for about 30 minutes. In a skillet, cook chopped bacon, onion, garlic & chopped mushrooms over medium heat until bacon is cooked & the mushrooms have released most of their liquids.
  2. Add the chicken & marinade & continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, milk, egg & grated Parmesan cheese & fold into chicken mixture as well as the reserved artichoke pieces.
Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. On a large piece of parchment paper, roll out thawed, puff pastry 'SHEET' into a rough 12-inch 'CIRCLE'. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over pastry, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Spoon cooked mixture over cheese then fold edges of pastry in about an inch, 'pleating' to keep filling in. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top of filling.
  2. Brush pastry edge with egg wash & bake for 25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden & filling is slightly browning. Remove from oven; slice & serve.