Pumpkin Sandwich Treats

We were in NYC not too long ago and happily spent some time doing nothing in Sweet Melissa’s Patisserie. One of my favorite spots in the city, this laid back bakery and cafe has pastries, ice cream, light meals, and lots of interesting hot drinks (complete with homemade marshmallows.) Melissa’s baking book is one of the treasures of my collection and a book that I think any baker should have on her shelf. Every recipe is reliable, a little unique, and solidly delicious. The directions are always clear and uncomplicated, so you can have confidence that even a beginning baker will find success.

On the search for a new pumpkin dessert that would use up some of the pumpkin I’ve roasted for Thanksgiving pies, I decided to make Sweet Melissa’s Pumpkin Cookie Cakes.  I was curious to see molasses in the ingredients list and was afraid that it might overpower my sweet, fresh pumpkin. Having faith in the book paid off, of course, and the cookie cakes turned out to be a lovely balance of flavors. My homespun variation on the recipe was to add some yogurt cheese to the filling.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies, 2 dozen sandwiches
(You’ll want to serve 2 per person.)

Filling:
6 tbls. homemade yogurt cheese
6 tbls. unsalted butter, room temperature

I usually have a cheese hanging hook installed under my cabinets but haven’t done that yet in this new kitchen. Here’s my improvisation: small skillet as hook, large skillet as weight. Worked!

3/4 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Sandwich cookies:
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
8 tbls. unsalted butter

3/8 c. molasses
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin puree

2 c. AP
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh nutmeg, ground
3/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 c. milk

  1. To make yogurt cheese:
    Place a large piece of cheesecloth over a bowl and scoop the yogurt into it. Tie or rubber band the ends and hang for about 10-12 hours, letting the whey drip into the bowl. (You will know that it is done when it no longer looks wet.)
  2. Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the molasses, egg, and pumpkin. Mix until smooth.
  3. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add, alternating with milk, to the pumpkin mixture.
  4. Using a 1 1/2 inch cookie scoop, drop carefully onto a baking sheet covered with parchment.
  5. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Cool.
  6. To make the filling:
    Be sure that your butter is at room temperature. Beat with confectioners’ sugar. Then, beat in yogurt cheese and vanilla. (If your filling appears lumpy, it is because your butter was not quite right. Fix this by blending it in the food processor just until smooth.)
  7. Sandwich a small dollop of frosting between two cookies and serve!

Notes:

  • These cookies could certainly be eaten as a breakfast treat.
  • They are pretty sticky, once cooled. Be sure to place the bottom of the cookie on the cooling rack. Tops stick. When packaging, add a layer of parchment between cookies or they are likely to stick together.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Well,  after posts on gruel, cabbage, and root vegetables, I figure it’s time for a little dessert!

Here’s a good, quick cake to make for dessert when you don’t know what else to make (and find yourself out of eggs). When served warm, it’s a cake with its own fudge sauce. When served at room temperature, it’s pudding and cake.  It easily comes together with no mess in just a few minutes. In fact, it’s one of my favorite recipes to teach to kids. Here’s a printer-friendly recipe just for them. I’ve written the directions so that they can read and cook independently.

What to do:

1. Rub a piece of butter all over a 9-inch round or square cake pan. Preheat your oven to 350F.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together:

1 cup of flour
¾ cup of the sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cocoa.

3. Stir in:

½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons melted shortening or vegetable oil

4. Mix it until it is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

5. In a clean bowl, mix:
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa

6. Sprinkle the mixture over the batter. Do not mix.

7. Heat 1 ¾ cup water in the microwave or in a teapot.

8. Drizzle the water over top of the batter. Do not mix it in.

9. Bake the cake at 350F for 40 minutes. Serve the cake hot or cool.

Makes about 8 servings

Notes:  For extra fun, sprinkle on a few chocolate chips with your cocoa/sugar mixture. Top with ice cream.

How to Make Cream Puffs

Mm. Cream puff.

Here’s a delicious dessert to enjoy when you have plenty of eggs. Cream puffs are actually easier than they look! Give them a try.

one batch of double chocolate pudding (or pudding of your choice)

1 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tbls. unsalted butter
1 cup AP
4 eggs

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. In a medium saucepan, mix the water, salt, and butter. Bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat.
  3. As soon as it boils, remove from heat and sift in the flour. (A fine mesh strainer works well here. Measure your flour into the strainer and then shake it over the mixture.)
  4. Stir with a rubber spatula and return to the medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly over the heat for about 3 minutes. It should come together in one piece and begin to look a little drier.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and let cool for 1 minute.
  6. Add eggs one at a time. Mix well after each addition. (This will become easier, though it’s tricky after the first egg.)
  7. Fill a pastry bag with your pastry mixture and fit it with a large, round tip. (Alternatively, you can improvise with a plastic bag. Cut the corner off and it will work just fine.) Pipe your cream puff onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Begin by making a tight spiral of your desired width, and then continue adding about two smaller spirals on top. (You want to do this all in one continuous piping motion. If you do not make a complete disc on the bottom, you may wind up with a hole in the bottom of your cream puff.) For larger, single serving cream puffs, begin with a bottom disc of about 3 1/2  inches. For dainty ‘tea size’ servings, being with a disc about 2 inches.
  8. baked cream puffsBake these cream puff shells for 20 minutes. Then, lower the temperature to 350F degrees and bake for 20 minutes longer. Cool on a rack.
  9. When cool, cut the top off the cream puff and fill the bottom with pudding. Put the ‘lid’ back on and finish by sprinkling with powder sugar.

Notes:

  • Have fun with fillings! Ice cream and chocolate sauce would be extra decadent. A fruit filling is intriguing. How about a savory cream puff with fromage blanc and herbs?
  • Pastry shells are best used on the same day. Fill right before serving. After a day, they will taste just as delicious, but be a little less crunchy. Store by wrapping tightly in plastic or by freezer.
  • When I made these the second time, I used a pastry tip to fill the cream puffs from the side. It worked very well and I’ve been told has a more ‘sophisticated’ result.
  • Here’s an easy chocolate pudding recipe for those days you are in a hurry.

Anytime Cake

Have a slice of rhubarb cake anytime.Here’s a light cake that is a wonderful dessert but can also pass as a breakfast treat.  I made it with rhubarb this time, but you could make it with any frozen  fruit that you have stored.

Last summer, my goal was to put away a lot more fresh produce than I had the year before. This goal was fresh in my mind when rhubarb, one of the first ‘fruits’ to appear at the market, came out. Consequently, I wound up with a whole lot of rhubarb hoarded in my freezer.  What are we waiting for?  It’s time to start using those delicious things in the backs of our freezers! Soon, we’ll have some fresh delights.

Anytime Cake (with rhubarb)

1 stick butter, unsalted
1 cup sugar
3 eggs from happy chickens
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. AP flour, plus more for dusting fruit and pan
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups rhubarb or prepared fruit*

*If you use rhubarb, you’ll swear that you taste citrus in this cake, which is a pleasant illusion. To prepare the rhubarb: wash, peel away any extra-tough strings, and cut into small pieces. This can be done before it goes into the freezer bag. For other fruits, prepare them as you would for a muffin. Use berries straight from the freezer – no need to thaw.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. (This cake mixes up so quickly that you’ll be done before your oven is ready, so think ahead.) Prepare a 9-inch round cake pan. Butter it and dust with flour.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy, using an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  3. Gently beat in the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the milk and vanilla.
  5. Pour about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, leaving the rest in the mixing bowl.  Dust the fruit with flour and toss until coated, then add it to the remaining batter. Mix. Pour this batter and fruit mixture onto the batter that is already in Rhubarb cake, just out of the oven and smelling good!the cake pan. (This procedures will keep your fruit from falling to the bottom and sticking to the pan.)
  6. Bake for 40 minutes.
  7. Cool in pan for about five minutes and then invert onto a rack.

Serve warm or room temperature anytime of the day. A little sweetened whipped cream or vanilla yogurt is lovely.

If you’re looking for more great rhubarb recipes, you might check out Orangette.

Delicious Ricotta Cheesecake

Here’s a recipe that I worked up for soundfood. It has recently been tested by a reliable group of foodies and dessert lovers. Enjoy!

Ricotta cheesecake is a lovely way to showcase your homemade cheese. Never made cheese? Well, ricotta is a good place to start. It’s easy to do and the flavor far exceeds any store-bought product.  If you arrive at a holiday party with this dessert, it’s sure to invoke ‘oohs and ahhs.’ For a refreshing taste of summer during this dark month, pair it with a sauce made from some of those precious blackberries that you may have stashed in your freezer.

For ricotta:
1 gallon whole milk
1 tsp. citric acid
1/4 cup water

For cake:
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 pounds fresh whole milk ricotta cheese
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
finely grated orange or lemon zest (optional
1/4 tsp. salt

Begin by making your ricotta. Mix 1 tsp. citric acid into 1/4 cool cup of water and stir to dissolve. Add one gallon of whole milk and this citric acid mixture to a heavy pot. (You can make ricotta with a lower fat milk, but the yield will be much higher with whole milk.) Heat, stirring often, to 185F. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Place a colander in a large bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Ladle your curds into your cloth. Then, tie the corners to create a bag shape. Hang your cheese for about 1 hour. (Usually ricotta is hung for about 30 minutes, but you want it to be drier for this cake recipe.)

After you have removed your cheese from the cloth, begin to assemble the cake. Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and sprinkle bottom and sides with sugar.

In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta, egg yolks 6 tbls. of sugar, zest, and salt until smooth. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, whisk egg whites on low speed until foamy. Increase the mixer to high and gradually add the remaining 6 tbls. of sugar.After about 3 minutes, the egg whites become stiff a glossy.

Gently fold in the egg whites into the ricotta mixture. Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula. Bake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Test to see if a toothpick comes out clean after about 45 minutes, as this cake can rapidly go from perfect to too dark. (It’s ok if it still jiggles a little bit. As long as the toothpick is clean, your cake is done.) Cool in the pan and then refrigerate until it is time to enjoy!

-All the supplies (citric acid, cheesecloth, cheese thermometer) can be found by visiting the cheese queen.
-For blackberry sauce, add about one cup of blackberries to a saucepan, sprinkle with sugar, and simmer on low until mushy. Run through your food mill for a seedless affair or press through a strainer with the back of a spoon.
-For a large group, I like to serve this next to next to a flourless chocolate cake (recipe also found in the Gourmet cookbook). The blackberry sauce is a wonderful topping for both desserts.

Blackberry Crisp

If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where you can pick bowlfuls of wild berries, here’s a recipe that’s easy to make and irresistible to eat. Here, the weather has held us up, but we finally have wild blackberries! Now, it really feels like summer! You can make this dessert with any berry that you have. Peaches, nectarines, and raspberries all make wonderful combinations. 

Topping:
1 1/4 all-purpose flour
6 tbls. brown sugar
2 tbls. white sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup ground hazlenuts (or nut of choice) 
12 tbls. butter

Stir the dry ingredients together. Chop the butter, still chilled into many pieces and work it into the dry ingredients. You want to produce little uneven bits of crumbly topping. 

Filling:
5 cups of blackberries 
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbls. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 tbls. unsalted butter

Prepare the berries. You don’t want to wash blackberries (or raspberries, for that matter) until right before you use them. When you do wash them, do it gently with a sprayer. Lay them out on a towel (that you don’t mind staining) to dry, and hand-pick out the little pieces of nature that aren’t berries.

Mix all of the dry ingredients with the berries and pour into 8X8 pan, deep-dish pie pan, or something pretty that you can bake in. Dot with the butter.

Sprinkle the topping on the top of the berries, completely covering. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes. The filling should be bubbling up, and your topping should be a light brown. Serve, of course, with vanilla ice cream. Yum!