Monday, October 31, 2011

Cream Cheese Filled Pumpkin Muffins

These all started with a trip to the pumpkin patch.  Every year our daycare center goes to the local pumpkin patch.  It is like a child wonderland for Halloween.  Hot cider, doughnuts, haunted houses, and lots of land for running wild once your sugar high kicks in.  Last year when Monkey was an the only little one in the house we kept him home with us until it was time to meet up with the school bus to drive to the pumpkin patch.  We figured he wouldn't want to ride the school bus but would prefer to ride to the pumkin patch in the quiet SUV with his parents.  We were wrong.  Oh so very wrong.  So wrong in fact that we listened to him talk about missing the chance to take the yellow bus to the patch all morning.  "Eh... he's two," we thought "he will forget about it in an hour."  He did not forget about it in an hour, nor a day, month, or the rest of the year.  The topic came up enough that I began to count down the days until the next pumpkin patch trip so he could ride the yellow bus and get it out of his system.  At least we didn't have to ride in this.

So month after month he brought up the bus, and it was always followed by this.... "remember we went to the coffee shop before the pumpkin patch and we got the pumpkin bread with the squishy stuff inside?"  "Yes buddy, I remember that." "Can we have the bread again?" "Yes buddy, we can have the bread again."  However in the mad rush that is always present in our house we did not get leave on time.  My husband tried to calm me by saying "It's not a big deal, we can drive him if we're late." To which I replied "No flipping way!  I am not listening to his mourn the loss of a school bus ride again for an entire year.  It might drive him to pre-school therapy sessions."

We managed to literally get on the bus this year but we did not have time for bread.  So to make amends and forego a year of.... "Remeber when you forgot the bread because you are the worse Mother EVER and it was worse thing that has ever happened to me since you made me ride with you to the pumpkin patch?" I decided I could just make the bread at home.  How hard can it be.

Step one... find a pumpkin

Or two, or a few hundred

Roast the pumpkin and puree, or simple open a can of pureed pumpkin from the store.  For ease this year I did not make my own pumpkin which is sill really because I made fresh baby food every day and there is no difference really.  Next?  Locate your loaf pans... or if your kitchen is a disaster and you can't bear the thought of the avalanche that will be caused when you attempt to extract a loaf pan or two, use your very readily available muffin tins instead.  The concept is the same.  The recipe makes two full size loafs, 5 mini loaves, or 18 muffins.

While picking out your pumpkins at the pumpkin patch watch out for spiders,

and bees.

Cream Cheese Filled Bread Goods
adapted from The Joy of Baking


Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Pumpkin Bread
1 cup pecans or walnuts
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 - 15 ounce can pure pumpkin, or homemade
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter and lightly flour two - 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pans, 5 mini loaf pans, or your muffin tins
Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 - 10 minutes or until brown and fragrant. Cool completely and then chop coarsely.
Cream Cheese Filling
In your food processor, process the cream cheese just until smooth. Add the sugar and process just until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing just until incorporated. Do not over process. Stir in the flour.
In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
In another large bowl, whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Add the sugar and melted butter and whisk until blended. Whisk or stir in the pumpkin, water, vanilla extract, and nuts.
Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir just until the ingredients are combined. (A few streaks of flour is fine.) Do not over mix as it will make the bread tough.

Divide the batter in half. Take one half and divide it evenly between the two prepared pans. Divide the cream cheese filling in half and place each half of filling on top the two pans of batter, smoothing the tops. Top with the remaining half of batter (use two spoons to place small dollops of batter on top of the filling). For muffins, divide the batter in two. Use half for the bottom of the muffins and half for the top. To be honest in the future I will take the extra effort to pull out the bread pans it has to be easier. Bake the breads for about 55 - 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Place pans on a wire rack and let cool for about 10 minutes before removing breads from pans. Can serve warm, cold, or at room temperature. Store leftovers in the refrigerator or else freeze for later use.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oatmeal Pancakes with Blueberry-Maple Compote

Some days I am a genius.  A culinary Goddess if you will, everything I touch in the kitchen is gold.  Baked to perfection, rich and creamy, filling, heart-warming, and all done with a touch of extreme exaggeration.  Okay so I can cook some things that taste nifty once in a while, and some of the time I can pull it off without a hitch.  This was not the case in any sense for this recipe here. 

I had a very large container of oats and was thinking they had been hanging around the kitchen longer than required and I thought... hmmmm what about those oatmeal pancakes we (and by we I mean me, but I was talking to myself so that makes me a we) saw when looking up OAMC.  Those looked tasty.... but could they really use up the gigantic vat of oats.  Well.... let me tell you my friend.  If you screw up a recipe not once but twice you will not only use the vat you will run out and have to go purchase another container since you now have a vendetta against the recipe.  And yes when you are done you will be left with more oats than you started with.  Please note that you make the oatmeal according to the directions just in case it does not jive with the recipe below... but that is only the top portion.  Do not get confused by the oat flour... this should be added later in the recipe. NOT say into the boiling water to make a paste that could hold up buildings. I contemplated throwing out the pot.  When the world ends that concrete oatmeal mixture will still be alive and well living out its elderly years with a family of baby oats telling the tail of when it escaped the Bossy Chef's kitchen.  I considered using it as a child friendly sculpting media but thought I might lose a child in its stickiness.
Trouble aside, these were delicious.  And I should know better than to cook while tired. 

On my way to work this morning I had the worse craving for these and wished I had some in my freezer, but once again the Monkey Man has access to that freezer and he loves himself a pancake.  And thanks to leaving the room for two seconds when the doorbell rang we know that Baby girl also loves the blueberry compote.  When I came back into the kitchen she had a purple smile and Monkey was saying... Juliet likes the blueberries Momma.... ahhhhh thanks for sharing buddy.

I made this on my griddle pan but feel free to  make them however you want.

Why can't my pancakes just stay together and make cute little silver dollar pancakes.  I believe this is some kind of punishment for a wrong doing in a past life.  Not something major mind you but like maybe I let my dog chase the neighbors cat or something to that effect.  Just a little annoyance to spice up life.  Seriously this does not go well with my OCD.  How to make it all better?  Hmmm.... conundrum... I think maybe by listening to a little Marcus Foster.... ahhh that's better.

I made a double batch, flash froze them in a single (kind of ) layer and then portioned them into freezer bags.  I used the new handy dandy bell plastic jar things to freeze the compote.  I highly recommend all of these things.

These are best when you first make them, but refrigerated are just as good (warm them before eating obviously).  Once you freeze them, they lose a little airiness but not enough to keep me from making them again so I'm going to say they are more than safe to add to your OAMC, or grocery list. 

Oatmeal Pancakes with Blueberry-Maple Compote
adapted from The Flour Sack Blog


1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup water
Pinch of kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for the pan)
1 1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsulphered (not blackstrap) molasses
2 eggs
3/4 cup oat flour (or pulse 3/4 cup rolled oats in a food processor until finely ground)
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons natural cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Cook the oats according to your package.  You will need about a cup or so of finished oatmeal.  Let cool until you need it for the recipe.

Now separately... this is where it all fell apart when I first made them... Whisk the flours (including the oat flour you made by pulsing oats in a coffee maker or blender), sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk the melted butter, milk, cooked oatmeal, molasses, and eggs together until thoroughly combined.  I did not do this well enough and had some oatmeal lumps but you couldn't really tell once they were cooked.  Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Use a light hand and be careful not to over mix.  You want them tender a.k.a.... fluffy.  The batter will be slightly thick with a holey surface

Heat a cast iron pan or griddle over medium eat until water sizzles when plashed onto the pan.  Rub the pan generously with butter.  Working quickly, dollop 1/4 cup mounds of batter into the pan, 2 or 3 at a time.  Once bubbles begin to form on the top side of the pancake, flip the pancake and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, about 5 minutes total.  Continue with the rest of the batter.

Serve the pancakes hot, straight from the skillet, reheated from the fridge or freezer works too.  Spoon on a bit of blueberry compote, and if you froze that too... you might want to give it a little heat as well.

Blueberry-Maple Compote


5 ounces blueberries, (I used fresh but honestly I think frozen would work just as well... we'll find out I saved the difference this time and bought frozen)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (NOTE... NOT fake maple syrup that is sacrilege)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of lemon zest


Heat 3 ounces of blueberries, maple syrup, water, and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the berries begin to split (I think this took roughly 3 minutes for me), cool and portion for freezing or spoon over pancakes and enjoy.  I cheat and add a touch more maple syrup too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Myer Lemon-Cranberry Scones

Lately I wonder if I should have ever bought a real website.  I don't know how to access it and the waiting for it to get up and running is zapping my will to blog!  However, these were so good it gave me a little motivation.  These should have been made with fresh cranberries but alas as always Lincoln is a culinary joke and cranberries and myers lemons are not in season at the same time.  I'm sure you can make these with regular old lemons, or with dried cranberries like I ended up doing but do not.... I repeat DO NOT try to make them with frozen cherries instead as you will end up with a very wet, very odd concotion in deed.  These are perfect for OAMC, and I even made a double batch and froze them to make sure before I let you know.  Of course it was pointless to freeze them really because our 3 year old can reach our drawer freezer and they were pulled from their freezer bag one by one until only some scone crumbs were left for the following week.  No matter they don't take very long so I just picked up more lemons yesterday to make a TRIPLE batch. I'm sure you could do a single batch in your sleep.  Give them a try.  And if cranberries aren't your thing you could click on over here for the pumpkin scone recipe stolen from Starbucks.

Meyer Lemon Cranberry Scones
 Gourmet | May 1997
The small, sweet Meyer lemon, common in California backyards, has a thin, smooth skin and a juice interior and is particularly fragrant. These scones, which are lighter than most, will spread slightly during baking.
Yield: Makes 16
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (from about 3 lemons; preferably Meyer)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons additional if using fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries, chopped coarse, or 1 1/4 cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400°F. and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
With a vegetable peeler remove the zest from lemons and chop fine, reserving lemons for another use.
In a food processor pulse flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and zest until mixture resembles coarse meal and transfer to a large bowl.

In a small bowl toss together fresh cranberries and 3 tablespoons sugar and stir into flour mixture. If using dried fruit, add to flour mixture.
In another small bowl lightly beat egg and yolk and stir in cream. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined.

On a well-floured surface with floured hands pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round (about 8 inches in diameter) and with a 2-inch round cutter or rim of a glass dipped in flour cut out as many rounds as possible, rerolling scraps as necessary. Arrange rounds about 1 inch apart on baking sheet and bake in middle of oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until pale golden.

Serve scones warm with crème fraîche or whipped cream. Scones keep, individually wrapped in plastic wrap and foil, chilled, 1 day or frozen 1 week.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rustic Apple Tart

I was hoping to chronicle all my treasures from my once a month cooking (OAMC) experiment for weeks to come but all I have managed to try is my meatloaf muffins based on the recipe I previously posted and the link from last week.  The cilantro chicken, also posted last week (which was fantastic as I mentioned and I am making that again tonight) and a Beef-Ginger Stir-Fry that left me wondering if my love affair with the once a month cooking wasn't unlike my love of bad boys in my early 20s.  While it may have seemed like a good idea at the time it ended up leaving me feeling like maybe I could have done better, not to mention the bad taste left in my mouth. 

Like the bad boys, the Beef-Ginger Stir-Fry did NOT make the cut for things to try again.  In fact I have a second batch all frozen are ready to go if someone would like a dry, sub-par version of NY strip steaks.  What a waste (hangs head in shame).  I will let you know how we continue to do and maybe I will just have to start making a pre-cooked menu of my own for tried and true recipes.  You know I am picky about the way food should look and taste... I would not steer you wrong.  Observe something that did make the cut.

Anyway, to uplift my poor broken food spirits, I dug deep into my bag of tricks and by this I mean my iphone and realized I never told you about the tart.  Ahhhh the tart.  Bright and fruity and buttery, and seasonal and a good way to help use up those 50 pounds of apples you picked because your 3 year old just had so much fun picking them with his parents and visiting Uncles.

What to do with so many?  I was told they would keep forever, and so after taking them home and washing them and tossing the bags we brought them home in I looked up their website on how to best care for our lovely little treats.  The website said and I paraphrase a quote "do not pre-wash your apples.  Leave them in the bags we have provided with a damp paper towel in the crisper of your refrigerator."  Oops.  Oh well maybe I could make individual versions of the tart for my own freezable meal.  I could handle eating apple tarts for breakfast with coffee.  In fact this recipe is light and despite the sugar does not feel overly dessert-like because it doesn't have a hint of cinnamon.  Not a trace of nutmeg or any other traditional spices that scream apple dessert to me.  Such a nice change of pace although I had to really work on restraining myself.  My hand was just dying to sprinkle some cinnamon somewhere!  And should we run out of apple since I did not store them properly, we can always go back.  It was fun after all.

and delicious... don't forget the delicious part.

Free-Form Apple Tart
Food and Wine
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
About 1/2 cup ice water
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 1 teaspoon juice
4 Arkansas Black or Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 large egg white, beaten
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the flour with 1 teaspoon of the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the butter and mix at low speed until it is the size of small peas, 30 seconds. With the machine on, gradually add 1/4 cup of the ice water. Add as much of the remaining ice water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is just evenly moistened (it shouldn't mass on the paddle). Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400° and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 17-inch round, then trim it to a neat 16-inch round. Transfer the dough to the cookie sheet.
In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Add the apples and lemon juice and toss well. Arrange the apples on the dough in 2 concentric circles, leaving a 3-inch border all around. Fold the edge of the dough up and over the apples, overlapping the dough on itself as needed. Brush the rim with the egg white and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.
Bake the pie in the center of the oven until the crust is golden and firm and the apples are tender, about 55 minutes. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack to cool. Slide the pie onto a plate, cut into wedges and serve.

**Make Ahead
The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month. The tart can be baked earlier in the day and rewarmed before serving.