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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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.

Sour Cream Rhubarb Crostada

I remember the first time I heard of sour cream being used in making a rhubarb pie. I could hardly imagine it but once I tried it there was no going back! If you look through some of the older recipe books, there are at least eight or nine different pies made using sour cream. These nostalgic desserts certainly take you back to a simpler time.

Basically this is your classic rhubarb pie except with a sweet/sour cream, custard filling. The sour cream is not assertive; its presence simply provides a rich, creamy background for the rhubarb.

I’m not sure why, but I never get tired of cooking (or eating) rhubarb. Every season, I can’t wait until its ready to use. Last year, Brion and I found another spot for three new plants to grow in our yard, so hopefully they do well. I realize its not for everyone but it is certainly versatile in its uses.

For this rhubarb crostada, I’m using an spiced-oat streusal topping which almost mimics a baked fruit crumble taste. Serving this dessert chilled brings it to its full potential. Of course, when you add a scoop of ice cream!

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Sour Cream Rhubarb Crostada
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Course Brunch, dessert
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Cornmeal Pastry (OR use purchased refrigerated pastry if you wish)
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cornmeal Pastry (OR use purchased refrigerated pastry if you wish)
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Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using your fingertips, cut in the butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the liquid mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed. Do NOT over work pastry. Press dough into a disk shape; wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate until ready to use.
Spiced-Oat Topping
  1. In a bowl, combine all topping ingredients with fingertips until crumbly; set aside.
Filling
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, Mix 1 cup sugar, 3 Tbsp flour, 1 tsp cardamom & orange zest. Stir in slightly beaten eggs & sour cream, add rhubarb; toss gently.
  2. Remove pastry from fridge. Preheat oven to 375 F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out pastry into a 12-inch circle. Place pastry in a 9-inch pie pan, leaving parchment paper underneath it. Pour filling into crostada; gently fold the 1/2-inch of pastry remaining above pie pan rim over edge of crostada. Sprinkle spiced-oat topping over filling. Brush pastry edge with egg wash.
  3. Bake 50-60 minutes until edge is puffed, filling is slightly jiggly & topping is golden. Cover loosely with foil if topping begins to brown too much. Cool at least 3 hours before serving. Slice & serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.

Rhubarb/Rose Turkish Delight & Rhubarb Cream Cheese Truffles

Anyone following my blog is well aware of my love for rhubarb. I think I’ve tried to use it in every capacity possible. Well, get ready for my next adventure — rhubarb Turkish delight! I refrain from eating a lot of chocolate bars, not that I don’t enjoy them, but seriously –. In Canada, the Nestle company sells a chocolate bar called ‘Big Turk’ for which Turkish delight forms the basic foundation. Of course, I love it!

Just a bit of food history background on the subject first. The Turkish name for the sweet comes from the Arabic rahat-ul hulkum which means ‘soothe or heal the throat’. This was abbreviated to rahat lokum and then lokum. The name ‘Turkish Delight’ was coined in the 18th century to make it easier to pronounce. As an improvement on the original recipe of honey or molasses, a mixture of water, flour, cornstarch and refined beet sugar were used to make a firm, chewy jelly.

Little has changed in the last 240 years. Although there are more than 24 different flavors, the biggest seller that still remains is a plain jelly studded with pistachios. Traditional Middle Eastern flavors include rose-pistachio, orange-blossom walnut, mint and rose-lemon.

Back to the rhubarb. Somewhere in my travels, I came across a recipe for rhubarb truffles that peeked my interest. After more research, I decided why not go right out on a limb and test my skills at making some rhubarb/rose Turkish delight. Actually, the end result was not bad. I have acquired a taste for the use of floral water in baking, Brion, not so much. It has to be used very sparingly or it becomes overpowering. I made three versions: Turkish delight plain or covered in white chocolate and a rhubarb truffle. A bit time consuming but a very unique flavor.


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Rhubarb/Rose Turkish Delights & Chocolates


Instructions
Rhubarb/Rose Turkish Delight
  1. In a saucepan, put 1 1/4 cups water with sugar, rhubarb & lemon juice. Cook over low heat , stirring until sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat a little; simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; leave the rhubarb to infuse for 10 minutes, then pass through a sieve, reserving the juice & pulp separately (the pulp can be used in the truffles that follow).

  2. Line a baking dish with cling film (the size will depend on how thick you want your candy) & set aside. In a small dish, blend cornstarch with remaining 1/4 cup water until smooth. In a saucepan, add rhubarb juice, gelatin powder, dissolved cornstarch & heat gently, stirring until gelatin has dissolved, then bring to a rolling boil.

  3. Keep mixture at a steady rolling boil, stirring constantly, for about 12-14 minutes or until syrup reaches a soft ball stage. Cool slightly & then pour mixture into lined baking dish. Allow to cool at room temperature for about 12 hours or until the mixture is set; do not refrigerate.

  4. Once the jelly is set, cut into pieces. Combine 1 Tbsp cornstarch with 2 Tbsp powdered sugar in a bowl, then roll the jellies in this mixture to coat them. Keep jellies in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 3 days; do not refrigerate. If you want to dip some of your jellies as I did, I found using a mini ice cube tray as a mold was helpful. I just set the piece of jelly in each cup & poured the white chocolate over & around it. Can be frozen until needed.

Rhubarb Cream Cheese Truffles
  1. In a double boiler over medium heat, melt 55 grams of white chocolate chunks. Transfer to a bowl; add remaining ingredients EXCEPT milk chocolate & beat with an electric hand mixer until smooth. Cover & chill until solid enough to roll or scoop into balls.

  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt milk chocolate. drop balls of rhubarb/cream cheese mixture, one at a time, into milk chocolate to coat. Carefully remove onto parchment paper & allow to harden. Can be frozen as well until needed.


Recipe Notes
  • I also tried freezing the plain jellies without putting cornstarch/sugar mixture on them and it worked fine. They were actually nice tasting right out of the freezer.

Kumquat & Walnut Stuffed Chicken Breast

Kumquats are believed to have originated in China with their earliest historical mention being around the 12th century. Orange in color, this small bite-sized fruit can be eaten skin and all. The peel is the sweetest part of the fruit and the sourness comes from the pulp, seeds and juice.

Unlike it’s citrus kin, kumquats are able to withstand low temperatures and frost. A small evergreen shrub that can also be hydrophytic, which means they can grow in aquatic environments, and the fruits will drift towards the shore during harvest season. Kumquats are in season January thru April.

Commonly cultivated in Asia, the Middle East, parts of Europe and the southern United States. They can be used in every imaginable combination including pies, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, marinades, salsa and vinaigrette. My choice today is in a stuffing for chicken breast. The combination of kumquats and orange tastes very unique.

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Kumquat & Walnut Stuffed Chicken Breast
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Instructions
  1. Wash & chop kumquats (do not peel). In a small bowl, combine with walnuts, onion & pepper.
  2. Between two pieces of plastic wrap, pound chicken breasts to an even thickness. Spoon half of the filling on each breast. Fold over to encase filling; secure with picks if necessary. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Set out 3 shallow dishes. In one combine bread crumbs, orange zest & parsley; fill another with orange juice & in third beat the egg with water. Dip each stuffed breast carefully in orange juice, then in bread crumb mixture to coat, then in beaten egg & again in bread crumbs. Place coated breasts, seam side down, on a lightly buttered baking pan. Drizzle with melted butter.
  4. Bake, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover & bake 10 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Easter Bread with Anise & Orange Blossom Water

Rich with tradition, symbolism and treasured ingredients, Easter breads figure prominently in many cultures’ Easter celebrations. These yeast breads, full of eggs, butter, fruits, nuts and spices are a symbol of breaking the Lenten fast on Easter morning. Each ethnic group seems to have its own unique version of this sweet bread. Bread has long played an important role in religious ceremonies and holidays and is often baked in symbolic shapes. It has been said that bread is the ‘staff of life’ with Easter being the ‘celebration of life’.

I have wonderful memories of my mother’s Easter bread. It wasn’t iced or decorated but it had such a glorious flavor. She would bake it in tall cylinder shaped loaves and it always had a nice yellow color. Oh, the taste of a memory!

Every Easter I like to try something slightly different from the previous year when making Easter bread. Lately I have been using orange blossom water in different recipes with good success. So why not in Easter bread with anise seeds and almonds? The method is a little different in that the egg whites are beaten separately. Brion and I both thought it tasted real good.

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Easter Bread with Anise & Orange Blossom Water
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Course Brunch
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Instructions
  1. In a large mixer bowl, combine 1 cup flour, yeast, 2 Tbsp sugar & salt; mix well. Add lukewarm water, butter & egg YOLKS. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat about 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in orange zest, mixed peel, aniseed, almonds & orange water.
  2. In a small bowl, beat egg WHITES until stiff; gradually add 1/4 cup sugar. Fold into flour mixture. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a SOFT dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth & elastic, 3-5 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl & turn to grease top. Cover & let rise until doubled in size.
  3. Punch down dough. On a lightly floured work surface, pat to a 14 x 7-inch rectangle. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly, pressing dough into roll with each turn. Pinch ends & edge to seal. Place in a greased 9 x 5-inch bread pan. Cover; let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. If you wish, you can glaze the loaf with egg wash before baking. Bake about 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan & cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Hazelnut & Dried Cranberry Bites with Orange Coulis

Creativity and imagination is part of the fun of baking from scratch. The pairing of flavors been going on ever since people put food to mouth, but the science of it has now become big business.

As a rule of thumb, desserts usually have one or two predominate flavors, but some may have small amounts of additional flavor elements to help support the main flavor combination.

I have always loved the sweet, nutty flavor of hazelnuts especially in baking. The other day I was thinking about a square my mother used to make at Christmas. It had a very simple ‘shortbread’ base that was neither too sweet or buttery. My next thought was to pair hazelnuts, dried cranberries and glazed citrus peel to form the top layer. To add a little pizzazz, I baked them individually in different shaped tartlet pans. 

I was real curious to see what Brion would think of these little ‘bites’. After tasting one, he felt they had good flavor but were a little dry. My solution to this was to make an orange coulis sauce to serve with them.

There’s something about the citrus notes of orange with the tarty sweetness of cranberries that makes for an aromatic amorous marriage of flavors. The end result produced a great tasting Christmas dessert!

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Hazelnut & Dried Cranberry Bites with Orange Coulis
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Shortbread Crust
Orange Coulis
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Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Orange Coulis
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Instructions
Shortbread Crust
  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt & orange zest. Add butter, mix until well combined. Divide shortcrust among 24 tartlet pans. Evenly press pastry on bottom & up the sides of each. Set aside.
Filling
  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugar, flour, extract, corn syrup & melted butter. Fold in chopped hazelnuts, cranberries & citrus peel.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place tartlet pan on a foil lined baking sheet. Carefully fill tartlet pans (should be enough for 24). Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.
Orange Coulis
  1. Peel orange in a circular fashion, being careful not to go to thick & getting the pith. Cut in slivers. Juice the orange, straining into a small saucepan. Heat water, orange juice & sugar, bring to a boil. Add slivers of orange peel; simmer about 15 minutes until peel is cooked.
  2. When ready to serve, make a design with some coulis on dessert plates, place tartlets on top. Decorate with a bit candied orange rind!
Recipe Notes
  • If you don't care for the orange coulis, try serving these little bites with a bit of Grand Marnier flavored whipped cream OR some white "Old English" cheddar.

Pumpkin Cranberry Spice Roulade

Thought of by some as old fashioned or outdated, the ‘Roulade’ cake may have been around a long time, but done right  they are moist and deliciously nostalgic.

Sweet dessert roulades are based on a whisked egg mixture and contain very little or no flour. They bake faster than most cakes and are finished with any filling you choose, from simple to elegant.

Pumpkin Roulades bring the comfort and tradition of a pumpkin pie. This particular one that I have featured in today’s blog, brings together three great flavors — pumpkin, cranberry and cream cheese.

It comes together quickly, keeps well, travels well making it perfect to take along to Thanksgiving or Christmas gatherings.

 

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Pumpkin Cranberry Spice Roll
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Course Brunch, dessert
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Ingredients
Pumpkin Spice Cake
Cranberry Jam
Cream Cheese Filling/Topping
Course Brunch, dessert
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Ingredients
Pumpkin Spice Cake
Cranberry Jam
Cream Cheese Filling/Topping
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Instructions
Cranberry Jam
  1. In a small saucepan, bring sugar, salt & water to a boil. Add cranberries, reduce heat & simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly then process for a few seconds in a food processor. Add orange zest; stir & set aside to cool completely.
Pumpkin Spice Roll
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices & salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs, vanilla & sugar until mixture is pale yellow & fluffy. Add pumpkin puree & mix to combine. Fold in the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, spread the cake batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake for about 10-13 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched & tests done in the middle.
  3. While cake is baking, make CREAM CHEESE FILLING. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter & vanilla until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Remove cake immediately from the oven; invert onto a clean tea towel that has been lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar. Remove parchment paper & carefully roll cake in jelly roll fashion in tea towel.
  5. When cake has cooled completely, carefully unroll & spread with a layer of cranberry jam. Next top with a layer of cream cheese filling. Carefully re-roll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.
  6. Decorate with remaining cream cheese topping & cranberries (I saved a few whole ones from the cranberry jam). Add a few 'kiwi' leaves & you got it!

Harvest Pie / Tarts

The name of this pie definitely conjures up a cornucopia  of fall flavors. The idea of combining fruit and vegetables has forever appealed to me.

I have always had a love for zucchini as far back as I can remember. Even though it is served as a vegetable, its technically a fruit because it comes from a flower. It has a golden blossom that grows under the leaves.

A member of the gourd family, zucchini is an easy to grow, summer squash, native to Central America and Mexico. Zucchini became quite popular after the 1940’s with the interest in Italian cookery.

In 1992, I came across a recipe in a little ‘Pillsbury Classic Cookbook’ for HARVEST PIE.  It had a great combination of apples, zucchini, carrots and spices. If you like these ingredients, this ‘classic’ will become a favorite fall ‘go to’ dessert recipe for you.

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Harvest Pie
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a 9-inch DEEP pie with pastry.
  2. In a large bowl, combine apples, zucchini, carrots, nuts & flour; toss to coat.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat brown sugar & margarine until well blended. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, vanilla, orange zest & 2 eggs; blend well. Add to apple mixture; mix well.
  4. Spoon filling into pie crust-lined pan. Top with second crust & flute; slit crust in several places. In a small bowl, blend egg & water; brush over top crust. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cover pie loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.
  5. Serve with whipped cream if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • Oven temperatures often vary, so if you prefer, bake pie at a bit lower temperature.

German Banana-Orange Pancakes

You could say the German pancake is a cross between a souffle and an omelet. Baked in a round pan with sides, it is quite similar to a Yorkshire pudding in which the center is sunken. It derived from the German Pfannkuchen  and is also called Dutch baby pancake. This light, airy pancake is crispy around the edges while retaining a tender, custard like middle.

In most cases these pancakes would be served with lemon slices, powdered sugar and butter. My choice today is to serve them with sliced bananas drizzled with orange sauce.

This is one of the simplest dishes to prepare and one of the most impressive to serve. I don’t actually recall my mother making these but we certainly did eat the more ‘common’ pancakes, which were so good as well.

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German Banana-Orange Pancakes
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Pancakes (2 - 9" pancakes)
Banana/Orange Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Pancakes (2 - 9" pancakes)
Banana/Orange Sauce
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Instructions
Pancakes
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Generously butter two 9-inch cake pans. In blender, process eggs gently until light in color. Add remaining ingredients; process until smooth & pour into pans. Bake 20 minutes; reduce heat to 350 F. & bake 10 minutes more. Slide onto warm plates. Prepare banana/orange sauce WHILE pancakes are baking.
Banana/Orange Sauce
  1. In a skillet, combine butter, sugar, orange juice & zest; bring to a boil. Peel bananas & slice; add to orange sauce. Stir to coat. Remove from heat. Pour banana/orange sauce over baked pancakes & serve.

Easter Hot Cross ‘Scones’

Eostre is an obscure Germanic and Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and dawn, and it is thought to be the namesake of the Christian holiday Easter. Because food has always had a close association with Easter, special dishes were cooked in her honor. Most important of these was a small spiced, sweet bun from which our ‘hot cross bun’ derives. These little spiced buns are a rather old English tradition, which are still traditionally eaten on Good Friday. They are marked on top with a cross which is of ancient origin connected with religious offerings of bread.

Hot Cross ‘Scones’ are an easy take on the seasonal classic bun. They are the best of both worlds; hot cross yeasted buns and a tender spicy scone. Scones work for me in the way that most of the time I have the ingredients on hand and they only take about twenty minutes or so to make.

As always, I enjoy the idea of variation in just about everything. I had three scone recipes in mind for today’s blog. One recipe is a hot cross scone made by changing out the regular flour for ‘Kamut’ flour. This flour is made from an ancient grain originally grown by the pharaohs of Egypt. It contains more protein, minerals and other nutrients than modern wheat.

The other two recipes are Spiced Orange & Fresh Apple Hot Cross Scones,  both made with a sour cream batter. Hopefully they will become part of your Easter recipe collection.

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Easter Hot Cross 'Scones' X 3
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American
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Scone Batter
Glaze
Icing for Crosses
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Scone Batter
Glaze
Icing for Crosses
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Add butter; using a pastry blender, blend until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in spices, dried fruit & orange zest.
  2. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, & vanilla; whisk until well blended. Add to flour mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.
  3. Scoop onto lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, combine water & honey glaze. Warm very slightly in microwave; brush over tops of scones. When scones have cooled, decorate with icing crosses.
Recipe Notes

FOR VARIATIONS:

  • To make Kamut Scones use 1 3/4 cup kamut flour & 3/4 cup white flour instead of all white flour.
  • To make Apple Scones add 1/4 of a large apple, peeled & cut in 1/4" dice. to basic recipe.