Autumn is upon us and love it or hate it, pumpkin spice season is well underway. 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.
The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling and the air is filled with the ‘flavors of fall’. With both apples & pumpkins in season right now its hard not to enjoy making use of them.
As usual, this recipe started out with a simple little no-cook pudding but got an upgrade with some spiced, caramelized apples. Yum!
Pumpkin Spice Custard w/ Caramelized Apples
Caramelized Apples & Cranberries
Caramelized Apples & Cranberries
In a medium pot, melt butter then add water & sugar. When the caramel is golden brown, add the cranberries, swirling them into the caramel. When the cranberries begin to burst, add the apple & orange zest, then sprinkle with the spices. Lower the heat & simmer 5-10 minutes to thicken. Do not over cook the compote as it will thicken when cooled.
Transfer to a heat resistant glass bowl & cool to room temperature, then cover & chill.
In a large bowl, beat pudding mix, pumpkin puree, milk, brown sugar & spices until smooth & creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Chill for an hour before assembling with fruit.
In serving glasses of choice, layer the pudding with caramelized fruit compote. Top with a dollop of whipped cream & a sprinkle of gingersnap crumbs if you wish.
I enjoy to make miniature versions of food whether its sweet or savory. I’m not sure where that ‘obsession’ came from. It could be that having worked in the commercial food industry for many years, you always prepared food in large quantities or maybe because now its just for the two of us. Whatever the reason …. its fun! I’m sure you are probably quite familiar with the Dutch Baby or German pancake. I have featured them on the blog numerous times over the years.
A cross between a pancake and a crepe, a Dutch baby begins with the thin pancake-like batter which is poured into a hot skillet or an oven proof dish. When the edges of the pancake are brown, it is ready to come out of the oven. The center is perfect for adding sweet or savory ingredients.
The recipe is a basic, universal one that can be adapted in a number of different ways:
- Add berries or other fruit to the batter
- Add different spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, chai spices, or switch up the extract to use almond, lemon or orange.
- Top with whipped cream, mascarpone, whipped maple butter, jam, peanut/almond butter or a fresh fruit compote.
- To make a savory version, omit sugar & vanilla and add veggies & herbs.
Brion & I are having mini rhubarb Dutch baby pancakes today. Should be good!
Mini Rhubarb Dutch Baby Pancakes
In a saucepan, combine rhubarb, brown sugar, flour & spices. Stir until combined. Roast in oven, uncovered, for about 25 minutes or until tender & thickened. Remove from heat & keep warm.
Dutch Baby Batter
In a blender, combine pancake ingredients & blend well until frothy. Leave in blender while you prepare muffin tins.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Place a 12-cup muffin tin in oven.
When the oven is heated, melt the second 2 Tbsp butter. Remove hot muffin tin from oven & quickly brush bottoms & sides of pan with melted butter. Turn blender on for a few seconds to re-mix batter, then quickly pour into hot muffin cups, dividing equally between 12 cups, filling about 1/2-2/3 full.
Place in oven & bake for 15-18 minutes, or until puffy & deep golden color. Remove from oven (pancakes will quickly deflate). Place pancakes on serving plates & spoon warm rhubarb sauce in them. Top with a bit of either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
I guess I’ll have to take the blame for Brion’s love of dessert. When we were first married years ago, he really didn’t care much about sweets. I, on the other hand, had grown up in a German family where every meal was finished with something sweet. It didn’t have to consist of anything more than a dish of vanilla pudding, but it was sweet and that’s what mattered. Funny how something like that can become so ingrained in your life. Of course, over time Brion has come to like dessert as much as I do, not really a good thing now that we are getting older … hmmm!
But I need to explain today’s decadent blog dessert. I just happens, we are celebrating Brion’s birthday so we are pulling out all the stops and having cheesecake! Of course, some of it will probably end up in the freezer but that works to.
Brion and I have never been much on giving each other ‘gifts’ for special occasions. Our time spent together ‘just living’, whether its at home or on a vacation has always been the best gift. Throughout our married life Brion has always gone above and beyond to look after us. I’m grateful to have the privilege of such a loving and caring husband.
So here we are, celebrating you, my love with rhubarb cheesecake and all the trimmings. Life is good!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITH LOVE!
Candied Rhubarb Curls
Make the simple syrup, combining the sugar & water in a small pot and heating until dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, add gel food coloring stirring to combine. Using a paring knife (or try a vegetable peeler), slice long, thin strips of rhubarb from the outer stalk. Soak the ribbons in the cooled simple syrup for about 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 F. Line or lightly grease a baking sheet. Lay each ribbon on the baking sheet. Bake until the ribbons have dried out. Note: they will still be sticky and flexible from the heat.
If you want to make curls, work with one or two ribbons at a time so the remaining ribbons can stay soft in the oven. Wrap each ribbon loosely around skewers or the handles of cooking utensils, and let dry for around 10 minutes before gently sliding the curled ribbons off.
Cook rhubarb, sugar & water. Simmer for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add in the cornstarch & cook 2 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
Beat together the cream cheese with icing sugar until smooth then add eggs. Try not to overmix at this point. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Line a 9-inch springform pan with foil paper. Crumble together butter, flour, oats, brown sugar & salt. Add two thirds of the mixture to springform pan & press firmly. Add walnuts to the remaining crumbs & set aside.
If using a silver springform pan, bake at 325 F. If using a dark nonstick springform pan, bake at 300 F. Bake bottom layer of crumbs for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, pour cheesecake mixture over the crust & spread with a spoon, being careful not to disturb the crust layer too much.
Spread the rhubarb mixture on top of the cheesecake.
Crumble the remaining crust/crumb mixture evenly over the top & lightly press down.
Bake until topping is golden brown & cheesecake is set, about 50 minutes.
Cool completely, then decorate with fresh strawberries, rhubarb curls, chocolate malt balls & silver sugar pearls or as you wish.
- You will have extra candied rhubarb to nibble on!
Today, March 21, our family celebrates the birth date of my father. Although he left this earth many years ago, I have so many memories of the wonderful childhood I enjoyed due to the parents I had. As my life unfolds, I realize more each day the impact having had a strong role model has made on my life. The word ‘thank you’ is so inadequate.
This meal seems so fitting to have today in honor of my father’s birthday. I’m sure he would have loved it. Brion & I seem to have a natural affinity to smoked cheeses. I had first thought I would make some pork chops stuffed with smoked gouda & bacon but then the caramelized onions started were calling me ….
Smoked Gouda is a semi-hard to hard, cow’s milk cheese which is creamy and mild with a natural smoked flavor and rich musky aftertaste. The rind is typically brown rather than the yellow rind on the unsmoked version. Only cheese exposed to real smoke may be called ‘smoked’. Cheese that has only had liquid smoke added to it must be labeled with ‘smoke flavor’.
Smoking cheese imparts a unique flavor, everything from the intensity of the heat or kind of wood chips used, can effect the flavor outcome. Every part of the process, no matter how small it may seem, has some bearing on the final taste of the product.
Smoked Gouda Pork Chops w/ Caramelized Onions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper then dredge in 1 cup flour; shake off excess flour and place pork in skillet.
Sauté pork for 3 minutes on each side then place pork in a baking dish. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon paprika over pork.
Clean skillet and add 2 tablespoons oil; heat over medium-high heat. Add onions and brown sugar; sauté for 15 minutes or until brown and tender. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the remainder 1 tablespoon of paprika. Place onions and broth over pork. Cover with foil and bake until pork is tender, about 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove pork from oven and use tongs to transfer pork to plate; cover plate with foil. Reserve onion and liquid content from baking dish.
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Add 4 tablespoons flour and cook for 4 minutes or until flour just starts to brown. Whisk in reserved contents from baking dish and half-and-half. Whisking constantly, bring to a boil, about 5 to 8 minutes, or until thick. Remove from heat and whisk in Gouda cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer pork to plates and spoon sauce over pork.
Plantains aren’t meant for eating right out of the peel, but they are transformed into a gently sweet dessert when caramelized.
It’s easy to confuse a plantain with a banana because they look so much alike. Both fruits come from the same family of plants. Though they look alike, the biggest differences between bananas and plantains is in their flavor profile, size, skin thickness and how they’re used in the kitchen.
Like bananas, they start green and progress to yellow and then a dark brown-black as they ripen. The darker they are, the sweeter they’ll be. Plantains can be eaten at any stage of ripening, but you’ll need a knife to peel them.
Plantains are starchier and usually larger and tougher than bananas, with a much thicker skin. Very versatile in that they can be boiled, baked or fried.
We grew to like plantains after our extended stay in Ecuador some years ago. Every so often they are a nice treat to have again.
Plantain Ginger Cakes
Slice plantains into slices of equal thickness. In a small saucepan, combine butter & sugar; cook until butter has melted & sugar has dissolved. Cook until syrup has thickened; add sliced plantains. Gently stir to coat plantain well. In the bottom of 8 ramekin baking dishes, arrange overlapping slices. Divide any remaining syrup between them. Set aside.
In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices & salt.
In another bowl, beat the butter with sugar until light & fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time then the vanilla. Slowly add one third of the flour mixture & half a cup of the coconut milk. Mix until incorporated.
Add the second third of the flour mixture & the other half of the coconut milk. Finish with the final third of the flour mixture. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined. The batter is smooth & fluffy. Pour the batter over the caramelized plantains, dividing it evenly between the ramekins.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown & a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Transfer ramekins to a cooling rack & allow to cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges of the cake with a spatula & carefully turn each ramekin upside down onto serving plates.
- For something different, I decided to make my plantain cake in an oblong tart pan so I could cut it in 'fingers'. Use whatever baking dish you chose, the cake is very adaptable.
Roly poly pudding also known as shirt sleeve pudding is a traditional British pudding. It was probably created in the early 19th century. The dessert was traditionally made with a ‘suet’ (hard animal fat) dough that was spread with jam and then rolled up and steamed or baked. It got the name ‘shirt sleeve‘ as it was steamed in an actual shirt sleeve.
The pudding is a nostalgic one for many British adults, as it was very popular 30-40 years ago as part of British school dinners, topped with a custard.
Today, roly poly is not only made with a jam filling but also with fresh fruit and served when one needs a comforting ‘retro‘ dessert.
Blackberry Roly Poly Pudding
In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Cut in shortening & butter until crumbly. Add sour cream & blend until ball forms. Roll out on a floured surface into a 15" x 10" rectangle. Spread with 1/4 cup softened butter, sprinkle with remaining filling ingredients. Roll up, jelly-roll style, starting with the long side. Cut into 10 slices. Place slices, cut side down, in a 13" x 9" baking pan.
In a saucepan, combine water, brown sugar & cinnamon. Bring to a boil; remove from heat & stir in cream. Carefully pour hot topping over filled slices.
Bake, uncovered for 35 minutes or until bubbly. The center will jiggle when dessert is hot out of the oven but will set as it sits for a few minutes. Serve warm.
Not whole muffins, just the tops. The idea was first conceptualized by Elaine Benes, a fictional character on the American television sitcom Seinfeld, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I was not a Seinfeld fan and rarely even watched the show but the series lasted for nine years so obviously many did. It centered around four single friends dealing with the absurdities of everyday life in New York City, USA. Something as simple as soup or muffins became the focal point of the show but with a unique twist that only the actors on the show could make funny and memorable.
In a 1997 episode, The Muffin Tops, Elaine helps her old boss open his own business where they only sell the tops of muffins. ‘It’s the best part (nobody likes the stumps), it’s crunchy, it’s where the muffin breaks free of the pan and sort of does its own thing’.
Nowadays we have specific baking pans made just for making muffin tops and I think most food stores sell them. Muffins are an item I’ve certainly made my fair share of over the years in the food industry. But I have to say, I love the whole thing, especially if its soft and cakey.
This time of year is usually filled with pumpkin and sweet potato dishes and treats. These muffin tops are quite special with a slight sweet potato flavor packed with plenty of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and an added bonus of some pepita seeds.
Sweet Potato Muffin Tops
In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon & salt. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add pepita seeds, mix & set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a MUFFIN TOP PAN or line with paper cups. (This recipe makes 10 muffin tops the size shown in the blog picture). Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & spices. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar & eggs together; add sweet potatoes, oil, milk & orange zest (or vanilla) & whisk again. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & stir until JUST combined. Do not overmix the batter.
Scoop batter into muffin top pan; Sprinkle with streusel topping.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
Switching up the way we cook rhubarb makes us fall in love with it all over again. Quite often rhubarb is stewed to use in various recipes. A good alternative is to roast it in the oven with a little orange juice & brown sugar. The roasting helps the rhubarb to keep its beautiful color, intensifies the flavor and it will retain its shape rather than turning to mush. Once you have roasted the rhubarb use as you would in any recipe using stewed rhubarb.
Cornbread is one of those culinary creations that pairs well with almost anything. Some dishes that include cornbread are well known and fairly common pairings, while others are still relatively new.
This particular recipe was adapted from the 1932 edition of The Guide to Good Cooking, published by Five Roses Flour. In the book, the basic recipe is for cornmeal muffins with a slight adaptation for fruit-topped Johnny Cake.
If these scones appeal to you, nothing says you can’t swap out the rhubarb for other fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, peaches or apples. Yum!
Roasted Rhubarb Cornbread Scones
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash & dice rhubarb; spread over parchment paper. Drizzle with orange juice & sprinkle with sugar. The rhubarb will lose about half the volume during roasting. You will end up with about 4 cups. Roast about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from oven to cool until needed. Refrigerate any leftover rhubarb.
Coat 8 ramekins with baking spray & evenly distribute roasted rhubarb between them. Place on an edged baking sheet & set aside.
In a food processor, pulse oatmeal for a few seconds then add flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, cardamom & anise powder. Pulse for a few more seconds to evenly mix. Add cold butter & pulse just slightly to cut in; do not over mix. Place in a bowl, add egg, orange zest, buttermilk & vanilla; combine ONLY until just mixed.
Place equal amounts of scone batter into each ramekin, filling no more than 3/4 full. Using an offset spatula, level the batter in each ramekin.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until batter has risen & tests baked. Remove scones from oven; allow to sit for 5 minutes, then invert each onto a serving tray.
Apple season is upon us, so its a good time to make some of those ‘homey’ kind of desserts. During the summer we have an endless array of fresh fruit available in the grocery stores. Apples are often taken for granted because their kind of a staple fruit you could say. We have countless varieties to choose from for fresh eating or cooking. One that is well known is called the Granny Smith apple. Its acidity and strong flavor makes it a frequent choice for both baking and fresh eating. Consistently rated among the top ten apples in popularity, its hard to believe it wasn’t part of the North American experience until the 1970’s.
It turns out there really was a ‘Granny Smith’. As the story goes, Maria Ann (Granny) Smith was cooking with French crab apples and discarded the remains in a compost pile near a creek flowing behind her farmhouse outside Sydney, Australia. From the pile sprouted a seedling unlike any apple she had ever encountered. She was so taken with its bright flavor and versatility, she decided to propagate the trees herself.
In the season from September through November, Granny Smith apples have become a staple of fall baking. Used extensively in seasonal pies, cakes, cobblers and crisps, it all began with a happy accident discovered by its namesake halfway around the world.
Apple Crumble w/ Vanilla Cardamom Cream
Peel, core & slice apples. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, toss the apple slices with lemon zest & juice, sugar, cinnamon & salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, oats & salt with a fork until uniform. In a glass pie dish, melt the butter in the microwave until about half melts. Pour the butter into the flour mixture & incorporate with a fork. Leaving the excess butter in the pie pan, arrange the apple slices in the pan. Top with the flour-oat mixture.
Bake until apples are cooked through and the topping is golden, about 45 minutes.
Vanilla Cardamom Cream
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together 'cream' ingredients. Simmer over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly until cooked & custard will coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat & cover with plastic wrap, making sure to lightly press it over the custard to avoid a 'skin' forming. Serve over or with crumble.