Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes

Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes 9

We sent Gren ahead of us to Ottawa a week before we moved, so he wouldn’t get stressed out during the chaos of moving.  But in the days following his departure, we kept finding ourselves looking for him, or expecting him to suddenly appear.  We kept  having to remind ourselves we would see him shortly, but it was still sad.  Anyway, you all know that we feed Gren pumpkin regularly to keep him, well, regular.  After he left, I had almost a full can sitting around, so we decided to use up the last of our flour and whip ourselves up some pumpkin pancakes for breakfast one day.  Not very seasonal for August, but they were darned tasty anyway.

Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes 1

Turn your oven on to 250°F and chuck in a heatsafe dish (this will keep your cooked pancakes warm until it’s time to eat).

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or a gluten-free equivalent), 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.  If you have pumpkin pie spice on hand, that will do instead of measuring out all the other spices.  If you’re feeling lazy.  I also added in 1/4 cup sweetened desiccated coconut, for texture.

Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes 2

In another bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups milk, 3/4 cup pumpkin purée, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 egg, and a drop each of vanilla extract and coconut extract (optional).

Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes 3

Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones.  The batter will be pretty thick.

Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes 4

Scoop about 1/3 cup of the batter into a heated pan and cook for however long it takes for you to be happy with the consistency of your pancakes.  These ones are pretty thick so it took a while at medium heat.  The batter makes about 12 pancakes.

Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes 6

Serve with butter and maple syrup, or whatever else floats your boat.  LIKE BACON.

Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes 7

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Caramel Corn

Caramel Corn 28

Caramel Corn 33

I’ve been experimenting quite a bit recently with caramel (not “carmel”, like Newfoundlanders and many Americans call it, that drives me bonkers) corn — something to which I am entirely addicted, but usually too lazy to make.  I think I’ve finally come up with a recipe I like, however, so now you can have it.  This version is plain jane, but feel free to jazz it up with chopped salted nuts for extra pizzazz.

Caramel Corn 1

First, start with 10 cups popped popcorn.  This is generally about 1 cup of the unpopped stuff.  We don’t have an air popper here, and I’m afraid of the chemicals in microwave packets, so I’ll let you in on how I make my own popcorn (when I’m not doing it this way).  Take about 1/3 cup of popcorn and plop it in the bottom of a brown paper lunch bag.

Caramel Corn 3

Fold the top edge down once and then again, over itself.

Caramel Corn 4

Put that on its side in your microwave and cook away.  Every microwave is different when it comes to popcorn, but I’ve found that on mine, cooking it for 2 minutes and 35 seconds on power level 9 (out of 10) pops nearly every kernel, every time, without burning anything.  Make sure to save people’s teeth by sifting out all the unpopped kernels before you use this stuff.

Caramel Corn 6

Now, preheat your oven to 250°F and spray a large roasting pan.  I used the one I save for turkey time.  You could also use a large metal bowl if that’s all you have. Plop your popcorn in the roasting pan for now.

Caramel Corn 5

Scrounge around and find yourself a wooden spoon (always preferable to metal in candy making), a spatula, a whisk, and a candy thermometer.  Keep those all handy.

Caramel Corn 2

Find a large pot, too, and plop in 1 cup butter, 2 cups brown sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup (any colour, doesn’t matter), and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Caramel Corn 8

On the side, have two small dishes ready with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Caramel Corn 7

Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, stirring often, and clip the candy thermometer to the side. The reason you use the wooden spoon here is because sugar crystallizes more quickly on metal than wood, and crystallization is not what you want at this particular juncture.

Caramel Corn 9

Once the mixture starts boiling, stir it constantly for 1 minute.

Caramel Corn 10

Then take the spoon out and let it boil on its own for 5 minutes.  It’s going to boil up pretty high, so make sure you use a large pot for this. At this point, your candy thermometer should be reading 250°F, which is the magic number for the hard ball stage — exactly what we want.

Caramel Corn 12

Turn off the heat and stir your mixture for about a minute.  Then remove it entirely from the heat.

Caramel Corn 13

Whisk in your vanilla and baking soda.  It will fizz up, so be careful.  See how the texture and colour has changed?  Well, you can’t in that photo because it’s a terrible photo, but it will become smooth and a light opaque brown almost immediately. Keep whisking until it more or less stops fizzing.

Caramel Corn 14

Slowly and in a controlled stream, pour your caramel over your waiting popcorn, mixing with a spatula.  Don’t worry if you don’t get it entirely incorporated.

Caramel Corn 15

Caramel Corn 16

I suggest leaving all your caramel tools soaking in hot water for a few minutes.  It makes cleanup so much easier.

Caramel Corn 20

Pop the roasting pan filled with popcorn in the oven and bake it for an hour, stirring it all over every 15 minutes.  While the caramel had started to harden on you before you stuck it in there, baking it at this low heat enables it to ooze all over the place and cover everything evenly.

So when you’re stirring, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, because you will always find a nice puddle of caramel down there.

Caramel Corn 22

Spread a counter with waxed paper and spray it, too.  Once the hour is up, take the pan from the oven and spread the popcorn in a thin layer on the waxed paper to cool. Squish it down with your spatula to spread it out. Doing that now will make it both cool faster and be easier to separate after it’s cooled.

Caramel Corn 24

Once it has fully cooled, break it up into pieces and store it in a sealed container for up to a few days.

Caramel Corn 25

Or package it in wee bags for a bake sale, which is what I did.

Caramel Corn 31

I found the “Hello” stickers lying around in my office supply cupboard.  I figured what the heck, eh?

Caramel Corn 34

MUGS Bake Sale 1

That’s a Spicy Ice Cream!

Tabasco Ice Cream

I may have told you this already, but a while back my parents took a road trip down to Louisiana with the specific goal of visiting the Avery Island Tabasco factory.  As a result all their family and friends received a plethora of Tabasco-related gifts.

Tabasco Ice Cream

One of these is this, a Tabasco ice cream mix.

Tabasco Ice Cream

 

I’ve had saffron ice cream.  Black bean ice cream.  Taro ice cream.  Hemp ice cream. Even wasabi ice cream.  So this can’t be too weird, right?  Granted, I didn’t really ENJOY any of those (well the saffron was pretty good), but I’m always willing to try something new.  The Pie, not so much.

Tabasco Ice Cream

It’s a mix, so I can’t really give you the recipe here (because I don’t know it), but it involves milk, cream, the mix, and Tabasco’s Sweet & Spicy Sauce (which we also received as a present).

Tabasco Ice Cream

So here goes.

The mix is revealed to be sugar, vanilla, and xanthan gum.  So nothing too scary.  Sweetener, flavour, and thickener.  Fine.

Tabasco Ice Cream

Put that in a bowl, add the cream.  Whisk.

Tabasco Ice Cream

Add in the sweet and spicy sauce.  Whisk.

Tabasco Ice Cream

In the ice cream maker, it reveals itself to be a lovely pale peach colour.

Tabasco Ice Cream

And it actually froze up pretty quickly. You are supposed to put it back in the container in which the mix came, but ours didn’t fit.

Tabasco Ice Cream

The verdict?  The Pie, Fussellette, and I all tried it, and as Fussellette says, “It tastes like stir-fry.”  So if you like that, I recommend this stuff.  If you’d prefer your ice cream to be a little more traditional, you might want to leave this on the shelf.  I wonder if there’s anyway this could be saved.  Any suggestions?

Tabasco Ice Cream

Chocolate Moose Cake

My siblings-in-law Rusty and Mags are arriving today for a couple of weeks.  It’s Rusty’s first time on a plane, so something tells me he’ll need some chocolate when he gets here.  And possibly booze.

I borrowed the actual cake recipe from here, but everything else I made up on my own.  Make sure you’ve got some time when you make this cake, or at least a list of other things to do.  There’s a lot of waiting around for things to cool.

First, you need a springform pan.  Mine here is 10 inches.  Anywhere around that size should be fine.  You see how it has a little lip on the bottom?

Well, flip that so the lip is facing down and lock it in place.

Now butter it like there’s no tomorrow, making sure to fill in all those wee squares, and then dust it with flour.  Knock out the excess and set that sucker aside.

Preheat your oven to 325°F.

In a large bowl, sift in and whisk together 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup water and 3 large eggs.

Chop up about 8oz bittersweet or dark chocolate (or milk, if you prefer, it’s your cake — who am I to tell you what to do?).  Melt that in a double boiler with 3/4 cup butter.

Remove that from the heat and whisk in the egg mixture until it’s smooth and feels like pudding.

Then whisk all that chocolate goodness into the flour mixture and get out all the lumps.

Add in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and keep on whisking.  Make sure to rest your whisking hand often, as this is a very whisk-heavy recipe.  How many more times can I say “whisk”?

Pour that glop into your prepared springform pan.

Make sure to rap the pan on the counter to get out all those pesky air bubbles.

Bake for 75 to 90 minutes, until the cake is starting to pull away from the side of the pan and a wooden stick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove the ring and let the cake cool completely, about an hour.  Once the cake is cool you can carefully remove it from the bottom of the pan.

At this point, I brushed the cake with the contents of a wee bottle (50mL) of Grand Marnier, an orange-flavoured liqueur, to keep the cake moist while it awaits the arrival of its consumers.

While your cake is cooking and cooling, you can work on your fondant covering.

We’re going to do a cocoa-mocha fondant today.  So, in the bowl of your mixer, plop in 3/4 cup butter, softened, 3/4 cup corn syrup, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  Mix that until creamy, then add in 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder, and, slowly, so you don’t start an icing sugar mushroom cloud, about 5 cups icing sugar.

You may need to adjust the level of icing sugar until you get the appropriate doughy texture.  You can always knead in more icing sugar with your hands.  Set that aside.  Possibly in the fridge to firm up a little.

Now we’re going to make the decorating fondant.  In a clean bowl, mix together 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/4 cup lily white corn syrup (because otherwise it won’t turn out as light as you want it to), and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Mix that until it’s creamy, then add in about 2 cups icing sugar and mix until doughy.  Set that aside.  Again, you can put it in the fridge.  Or next to an open window to catch the cold Newfoundland breeze.  Of course if you live anywhere else at this time of year you probably have your air conditioning on so you could always use that.

Normally, you would create a buttercream icing to go under your fondant, a nice solid glue to hold everything together.  But since when do I obey the rules?  We’re going to go with a ganâche, and that’s all there is to it.

Chop up another 8oz chocolate (your choice, of course), and melt that in a double boiler.

When it’s completely melted, whisk in 2 cups whipping cream until smooth.  Chuck that in the fridge to let it cool completely and thicken.  Stir it around every once in a while.

As this cake is a welcome-to-Newfoundland dessert for my siblings-in-law, I thought I would put a moose on the cake.  The moose, in case you didn’t know, was introduced as a hunting species to Newfoundland at the end of the 19th century and, having no natural predators other than man (because introducing species to island ecosystems is a bad idea), has proliferated and is now one of the province’s biggest pests, wreaking havoc on people’s gardens within the city and accounting for high numbers of traffic fatalities for those unfortunate (or stupid) enough to drive across the island at night.  The moose is an extremely dangerous animal, for all its vegetarian-ness, but Newfoundlanders have adopted the moose as a cute symbol of what makes Newfoundlanders a bit different than everyone else.

What I’m saying is that it’s entirely appropriate to put a moose on your cake when you live in Newfoundland.

I printed out a stencil of a moose from the internet and cut it out.  I rolled out the white fondant onto a piece of waxed paper and laid my stencil on top.

I traced the outline of the stencil with a thin, sharp knife.

Then I peeled away the excess fondant.

And thar be me moose.  I set that aside to dry a little.

When your ganâche is cooled and thickened, you can slather it on your cake.

Like that.  Holy crap does that ever look good.  Chill that in the fridge to let the ganâche set a bit more while you roll out your coffee fondant.

The Pie and I used a rolling pin to ease the fondant onto the cake.  Because the ganâche is soft and squidgy it didn’t provide a very good base for the fondant and so you can see we have some cracks.  But we’re okay with that.  Plus the moose will cover up the worst of it.  For more information on dealing with fondant, check out my Raspberry Trifle Cake experiment.

Trim the excess fondant from the bottom and smooth the sides.

Lay that moose on down on top of the cake and smooth it down as well.

We used Cadbury’s chocolate covered raisins (like Glossette’s) as “moose poop” around the edges of the cake at the bottom.  And of course one big one, just behind the moose in question.

Keep this cake in the fridge to firm up the fondant and to keep the ganâche from spoiling.  Once you have cut into it make sure to keep it covered with plastic wrap, and eat it within a few days.

Toffee Bundt Cake

I got tired of making cookies and squares for my research participants, so one weekend I pulled out this toffee cake, also from January’s Canadian Living magazine.

It’s moist and rich and sweet and satisfying, and for all that is pretty easy to concoct. It’s really good warm, but keeps up to three days.

So let’s begin, shall we?

Take yourself a 12oz/375g package of dried, pitted dates and plop them in a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups water

Bring the water to a boil and stir it around a bit, then let it cool.

Mash up the dates until smooth.  I found this was easiest in a food processor.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Grease a 10″ or 3L Bundt pan (you know, the one with the fluted sides and a hole in the middle).

In a large bowl, beat together 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind until light and fluffy. 

One at a time, beat in 4 eggs, then add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

In another bowl or measuring cup, whisk together 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 2 teaspoons baking soda.

Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

Stir in the dates as well. It’s funny how it’s the dates that give it that lovely toffee taste.

Scrape the batter into your greased Bundt pan.

Bake in the bottom third of your oven for about 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for about 15 minutes, then tip it out onto a plate.

While the cake is cooking and cooling, you can work on your toffee sauce.  Mine didn’t turn out toffee coloured, but still tasted fantastic. 

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 3/4 cup butter.  Whisk in 1 cup granulated sugar until dissolved, and cook, whisking the whole time, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is caramel-coloured.  Whisk in 3/4 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons lemon juice (be careful to avert your face, as adding cream can make it explosive — I’m serious).

Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until thickened, about 3-5 minutes.  Whisk in 2 tablespoons brandy or cognac.

Pour about 3/4 cup of the toffee sauce over your cake and let it stand to absorb. 

When you are ready to serve, drizzle it with the reserved warm sauce, slice and serve.

Vanilla Cake

For his birthday (which was on the 21st), the Pie requested a vanilla cake.  Conveniently for me this is also the type of cake requested by Chel and Invis for their wedding cake, which I will be making next May.  No time like the present to begin perfecting a recipe.

Vanilla cake is also traditionally known as “white cake”, which forms the base for millions of different kinds of cakes.  This one, however, I wanted to make sure that vanilla was what you got out of the whole thing, not just some bland cake designed to set off a fancy frosting.

You may not know this, but vanilla extract is made by soaking cut vanilla beans (which come from orchids) in a strong dark spirit, such as rum or bourbon.  I figured, what the hey, might as well try it myself.  I got two vanilla beans from Belbin’s and poured about a tablespoon of Screech into the little tube.  You’re supposed to leave it for a few months, but I only had a week.  So that’s what I did.

I was also careful to scrape out all the vanilla bean seeds to enhance the flavour.

The batter for this cake was inspired by the Whiteout Cake in Lewis and Poliafito’s Baked.  When I go to Manhattan to visit my brother, I want to see their bakery.  Anyway, I changed the icing, added jam, and of course used extra vanilla, both my own special Screech blend and regular pure extract.

THE CAKE

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Butter three 8″ round cake pans, line them with parchment circles (which I make using my personal kitchen compass), and then butter the parchment as well.

Dust the pans with flour and knock out the excess.  I definitely did something wrong in this step, because my cakes STUCK.  But I’ll get to that later.

Separate three eggs and bring the whites to room temperature.  I set mine in the sun for a few minutes.  Use the yolks the next day in a tasty omelette.  We did.

Sift together in a bowl 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Set this aside for a spell.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup vegetable shortening on medium speed until they’re creamy.

This will take about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add in 1 3/4 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract.

Beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Scrape down the bowl and add one whole egg, then beat until just combined.

Turn the mixer to low and add your flour mixture as well as 1 1/2 cups ice water.  Add the flour in three separate additions, alternating with the water, and starting and ending with the flour.  Scrape down the bowl and mix on low speed for another minute or so.

In a separate bowl, whisk together your 3 egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until you reach the soft peak stage.

Gently fold the egg whites into the rest of your batter.

Distribute the batter amongst the three pans and smooth the tops.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating halfway through, until you can insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake and it comes out clean.

Invert onto racks and let cool completely before frosting (you can remove the parchment when they’re cool).  You will notice how I lost a few of my cake edges.  But I guess that’s what icing is for — to fill the gaps.

THE FROSTING

In a bowl, plop in 2 250g packages of cream cheese, preferably at room temperature.  Add in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, as well as 3/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream) and 3/4 cup icing sugar

Beat with a hand mixer until mostly smooth.

In a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set above a pot of barely simmering water, melt 12 oz white chocolate.

Add the melted chocolate to the cream cheese mixture and beat the crap out of it until it’s smooth.

THE CRUMB COAT

Set the first layer of your cake on your serving plate and slather the top with a generous layer of icing (don’t worry, you’re not going to run out).  Add several dollops of jam.

We love our Auntie Crae’s.

Plop on the second layer and repeat the above steps.  Plop on the third layer, and now you can begin your crumb coat. 

We do a crumb coat so that you can get all the messiness out of the way beforehand.  Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of icing.  Don’t worry if crumbs or jam gets into the icing.  This is your priming coat in any case.

Pop it into the fridge for at least fifteen minutes for the icing to set.

Bring it out and slather it with more icing.  You see how that sealant coat keeps the cake’s interior from interfering with the exterior.

Decorate to your whimsy and serve. I used dragées and white sprinkles for this effect.

Keep leftovers covered in the refrigerator.  It has a slight lean because I didn’t bother to level the layers before attaching them, but the Pie liked it well enough.

Good Ol’ Egg Pie

Ali’s Note: Things are getting uber-busy here at Elizabeth, so after today I’ll be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays only.

It seems to be a fad these days to make crustless quiches.  The health benefits are clear, and on the whole the process is a lot easier if pastry isn’t involved.

In my family, we’ve always had crustless quiches, for as long as I can remember.  My mother has only recently begun to perfect her pie crust so most of the time we just did without and it worked just fine.

In our house we call them egg pies, because that’s really what they are.  You can get totally creative with what you put in them — you’re only limited by what you have in your refrigerator.  The only tricks are really to ensure that the egg is more the matrix that holds all of your stuff together than it is the main ingredient, and also to cover your pie for the first half of cooking or the top will get too brown.

This particular pie is pretty simple.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

I had some broccoli florets left over from the red curry coconut noodles of the other day, so I decided to make a broccoli-cheddar egg pie.

Butter a 9″ pie plate and set it aside.

Gently steam the broccoli florets (this is from four small heads of broccoli) just until they’re a bright green.  You don’t want to over-cook them as they’ll cook further inside the egg pie.

Drain and chop them up roughly, then set them aside.

In a bowl, whisk together six eggs.  Add in 1/2 cup milk and whisk that sucker around. Sprinkle in a dash of nutmeg, as well as a pinch of salt and season with ground pepper.  The Pie can’t taste the nutmeg, but I can.

Stir in about 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (really anything but mozzarella works well in these things).

Finally, add in the broccoli and stir that up as well until everything is all eggy.

Pour your mixture into the pie plate and level it out.

Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes.  Uncover the pie and bake again until the top is set and starts to brown, probably another 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven and the thickness of your pie plate.

Eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, hot or cold.  It makes a protein-packed and easily-carried brown-bag lunch as well.

Two other variations you might consider for inspiration:

Cheddar, red pepper, green onion, and chorizo.

Broccoli, mushroom, and feta.