Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes with Pepita Oatmeal Topping

Love it or hate it, pumpkin  spice season is well underway. Every year our obsession with the ‘flavor of fall’ continues to grow with weirder, more unique, pumpkin themed products invading the bakeries, grocery stores, coffee shops, you name it—

It all started with the introduction of the famous Starbucks ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ in 2003. Strangely enough, as a kid, I wasn’t crazy about pumpkin at all. But that was then, now I’m one of those who loves everything pumpkin.

Some time ago, Brion had picked up a bottle of Pumpkin Cream Liqueur. It has a wonderful taste on its own but of course it only seems fitting that I would want to bake with it.

I believe one of the secrets of having incredible flavors in both savory and baked goods is with the use of alcohol. You can’t help but notice, over the last number of years how the humble little cupcake has been elevated to a whole new level. Many of these specialty cupcake stores that have popped up are featuring alcohol-inspired, adult-friendly options.

Now, today, I’m back to ‘recipe development’ to see what I can come up with.

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Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes / Pepita Oatmeal Topping
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Cupcakes
Pepita Oatmeal Crumble Topping
Servings
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Cupcakes
Pepita Oatmeal Crumble Topping
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper cups.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients & set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt & spices. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together egg, liqueur, milk & pumpkin puree. Stir into flour mixture JUST until moistened. Place a small scoop of batter in each cup. Divide topping. Using half of topping, divide evenly between cupcakes, creating the 'filling' for the cupcakes. Divide remaining batter between cups; top with remaining topping. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done. Remove from pan & cool on a wire rack.
Recipe Notes
  • Technically, pepitas and pumpkin seeds are the same thing. But pepitas (which mean “little seeds of squash” in Spanish) don’t have a shell and are found in only select pumpkin varieties.

Seafood Shepherd’s Pie

Very often, when I’m deciding what to make for our supper, an idea is derived from the taste of a memory. I don’t know if you’re familiar with smoked Haddock fish. I recall a meal my mother made that was called ‘Finnan Haddie’. It was a perfect cold weather meal. Basically, smoked haddock cooked in milk and served with potatoes and peas.

Finnan Haddie is cured with the smoke of green wood, turf or peat. The name comes from the Scottish town of Findon and the slang word for haddock. In the 1800’s, Findon fishwives hung lightly salted haddock in their chimney’s to be smoked gently over peat fires.

Finnan Haddie has a distinct and unique flavor and can be made into many dishes. It can be combined with other seafood where the smoky flavor carries through and influences all the elements such as in a seafood pie.

This brings me back to supper, which is going to be a seafood pie that I’m going to top with mashed potatoes. I guess in essence could be called Seafood Shepherd’s Pie.

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Seafood Shepherd's Pie
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
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Instructions
Mashed Potato Topping
  1. Bring potatoes to a boil & cook until fork tender. Drain; return to pot & add salt (to taste), margarine & cream. Mash & set aside. Preheat oven to 400 F.
Seafood Filling
  1. In a saute pan, melt 1 Tbsp of margarine; add shallots, celery, mushrooms, thyme & a pinch of salt. Saute, stirring often until soft & fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. Turn off heat & set aside.
  2. In another saucepan, add cream, chicken broth, flour, salt, mustard & cayenne pepper. Whisk together to incorporate all ingredients. Bring to a boil, whisking often then turn down heat & continue cooking until thick, whisking for about 8 minutes. Turn off heat & add remaining 1/2 Tbsp margarine along with the vegetable mixture. Blend well, taste & adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside.
Assembly
  1. Spray or butter a casserole dish. Place cod (or finnan haddie), scallops, shrimp & drained, sliced water chestnuts on the bottom of the dish in an even layer. Sprinkle with paprika & parsley. Add lemon juice & a pinch of salt & pepper. Pour cream sauce over seafood. Top evenly with mashed potatoes.
  2. Bake for about 25 minutes, until bubbly & potato peaks are browned. Allow to rest 10-20 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • For an extra flavor boost you could top it with some grated 'old' cheddar cheese before baking the casserole.

French Fruit Tart

European bakeries are famous for their colorful, not to mention, mouthwatering displays of fresh fruit tarts. In France, fruit tarts are one the biggest selling desserts after the eclair and the vanilla custard slice. Many households keep their recipes top secret and the fillings vary according to the region where one lives.

Although there are both savory and sweet variations, over time culinary trends took tarts primarily in the sweet direction. The sheer beauty of the fruit draws one in like no other.

In a blog at the end of June 2016, I featured a FRESH FRUIT PIZZA  with loads of variations you may enjoy to re-visit.

Today’s FRENCH FRUIT TART  has the simplicity of a shortbread crust combined with the sweetness of vanilla custard and a wonderful blend of banana, kiwi and strawberry flavors. It should make a stunning addition to your summer barbecue.

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French Fruit Tart
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, French
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Pastry
Filling
Fresh Fruit Topping
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Ingredients
Pastry
Filling
Fresh Fruit Topping
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon & salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle with ice water, tossing with a fork just until evenly moistened. Shape into a disk; wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Filling
  1. Using a double boiler, heat milk over simmering water just until bubbles form around the edge of pot. Beat egg whites, sugar & salt in small bowl. Beat a spoonful of hot milk into egg mixture. Whisk egg mixture into milk in pot. Cook, stirring, over simmering water until mixture thickens slightly & coats a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease an 8-inch flan pan with a removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry into a 10-inch circle. Fit pastry into pan; pierce in several places with a fork. Bake just until golden brown. Remove to wire rack & cool completely.
  3. Spoon custard over cooled pastry. Bake for another 18-20 minutes. Remove to wire rack & cool to room temperature. Refrigerate up to 8 hours. Just before serving, arrange banana, kiwi & strawberry slices over custard. Serves 6.

Brunch in St.Thibery, France

Brunch! The word evokes thoughts of a lazy week-end morning, sleeping late, eating ‘brunch’ while sipping a glass of sangria in the late morning or early afternoon.

In the food industry, brunch was a fun meal to prepare. Being a combination of both breakfast & lunch means the options are endless. If you are serving a large amount of people, generally eight food groups make up the menu along with beverages. I always enjoyed the visual beauty of a large brunch presentation all carefully prepared and set out.

At our house, Brion and I have always been early risers so brunch isn’t a meal that really works for us. That being said, I do have some special memories of a time when we enjoyed brunch.

It was in the south of France. In 2001, after we had left Paris, we drove 613 km (380 miles) south to the sleepy village of St. Thibery. This little medieval village, population of 2481, can be traced back more than 4000 years of known history.

As I had mentioned in an earlier blog, my sister Loretta had joined Brion and I on this French vacation. For this segment of the trip we had rented an apartment in St Thibery to use as ‘home base’ during our time there. Many of these houses are from the 14th, 15th and 17th century. The apartment was quaint but adequate even having a roof top patio. What’s not to love, amidst the beautiful French vineyards, close to that blue Mediterranean. 

We spent about a week in St Thibery and it was there that the three of us made some special memories enjoying our leisure French brunches. In view of all the world crisis we are experiencing today, I cherish the many memories we have from our world travels in more peaceful times.

A few brunch options that I think are noteworthy and would like to share with you today are Bacon & Egg Croissants with Lime-Ginger Fresh Fruit, Peaches & Cream French Toast as well as Asparagus Cordon Bleu Crepes.

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Bacon & Egg Croissants/Lime-Ginger Fresh Fruit * Peaches & Cream French Toast * Asparagus Cordon Bleu Crepes
Instructions
Cheese Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, dry mustard salt & pepper. Add milk. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens & bubbles. Reduce heat to low & stir in cheese. Cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted. Keep warm.
Lime-Ginger Fresh Fruit
  1. In a saucepan, mix sugar & cornstarch. Stir in water. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook & stir until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in lime peel, lime juice & gingerroot. In a large bowl, gently toss prepared fruit. Pour lime mixture over fruit; gently toss. Cover & refrigerate until ready to serve.
Bacon & Egg Croissants
  1. Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Split croissants, lay on a barely warm griddle to warm. In a saucepan, pour water to a 3" depth & bring to boiling. Reduce to simmering. Break an egg into a shallow dish; gently slip into water. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs. Cook 2 -3 minutes. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon.
  2. Place 2 bacon slices on bottom half of each croissant then top with a poached egg. Ladle some cheese sauce over egg, placing croissant top on the side. Serve with side dishes of Lime-Ginger Fresh Fruit.
Peaches & Cream French Toast
  1. In a small bowl, whisk eggs & 3 Tbsp peach preserves. Beat in half & half. Place a single layer of bread slices in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover & refrigerate a few hours or overnight until most of the liquid is absorbed. In a small bowl, beat 1/3 cup peach preserves & 4 Tbsp softened margarine with an electric mixer on high until fluffy; set aside until ready to serve.
  2. At serving time, Heat griddle to medium-high heat; melt 2 Tbsp margarine. Add bread slices & cook until lightly browned, turning once. Serve French Toast topped with peach butter & fresh peach slices. Sprinkle with toasted almonds & powdered sugar.
Asparagus Cordon Bleu Crepes
  1. Prepare crepes (see recipe on 'French Crepe' blog from July 25/16). Trim asparagus spears. In a large saucepan, cook asparagus spears in boiling salted water just until tender-crisp; drain. Place a slice of ham on each crepe. Spread ham slice with mustard. Top with a slice of cheese, asparagus spears & tomatoes. Sprinkle with parsley & tarragon, as desired.
  2. Roll up crepes. In a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, place crepes seam-side down. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium saucepan, melt margarine; blend in flour, 1/2 tsp tarragon, salt & pepper. Whisk in half & half, stirring constantly over medium-high heat until mixture thickens & bubbles. Stir in sliced mushrooms. Pour sauce over crepes in baking dish. Bake 25 minutes or until heated through.
Recipe Notes
  • Lime-Ginger Fresh Fruit adapted from from pillsbury. com
  • Brunch ideas adapted from Pat Jester's Brunch Cookery (1979)