Happy 2016!

NYE-cakeHappy New Year, everyone! Goodbye, 2015. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

I made the cake above for a NYE party, and I didn’t love the recipe. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something I didn’t like. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to figure out why, because I hate having cakes go wrong. The scientist in me should be able to work it out :)

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Pumpkin bread pudding

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I’m a bit behind in posting, but now that the holidays are over (except NYE), I have some time to catch up. I made this pumpkin bread pudding for Thanksgiving, and it was really good. It had a very subtle pumpkin flavor, but I think the pumpkin puree gave it a nice texture (so I wouldn’t omit it from the recipe). So this is perfect if you like pumpkin, but don’t LOVE pumpkin.

I used fresh pumpkin, as I always do, but you can use canned as well. I actually made the puree in October and froze it for a month, since there are never any pumpkins around by the time Thanksgiving comes. It worked out fine, and I think you can probably freeze fresh pumpkin even longer. We’re going to experiment next October and freeze some pumpkin for about 10 months so we can use it in a beer. Stay tuned!

Pumpkin bread pudding (adapted from tahnycooks.com)
 
Ingredients
For the bread pudding:
  • 6 eggs
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 1¾ cups half and half
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (can use canned)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 cups of cubed bread (I used Challah bread)
For the butter sauce:
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ⅓ cup light Karo syrup
  • ¼ cup half and half
Instructions
To make the pudding:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat eggs in a bowl by hand. Then add the milk, half and half, sugar, vanilla bean paste, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice. Whisk until combined. Stir in the cubes of bread.
  3. Spray a 9x13 Pyrex baking pan with Pam cooking spray. Add bread pudding mixture and let sit for about 20 minutes so the bread soaks up the egg and milk.
  4. Bake 45-55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Serve with warm butter sauce. You can make the pudding ahead of time and make the sauce a day later to serve, but make sure you bring the bread pudding to room temperature before pouring on the sauce, so it soaks in. You can even make little slits with a knife before pouring so that it gets absorbed. No need to do this if you pour the sauce on when the bread pudding is fresh out of the oven.
To make the sauce:
  1. Heat the brown sugar and butter in a saucepan until it melts.
  2. Then add the Karo syrup and half and half. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until all the sugar is dissolved. This takes 1-2 minutes. Pour evenly over bread pudding and serve.

 

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Happy Halloween! Pumpkin donut holes

donut-holes2I hope everyone had a great Halloween! It’s my all-time favorite holiday, and it lasts a full month in my house. I love to decorate with spooky decorations, go to haunted houses (the scarier the better), and of course cook and bake with fresh pumpkin.

This year, I searched Pinterest for new and interesting pumpkin recipes and found these baked pumpkin donut holes (by livewellbakeoften.com). They are so good! They go great dipped in your morning coffee, or as a dessert. The best part is that they are made in mini muffin pans, so they are super easy.

You can bake them ahead of time, and then dip in melted butter and roll in cinnamon and sugar the day you want to serve them.

Pumpkin donut holes (adapted from livewellbakeoften.com)
 
Makes about 30 donut holes
Ingredients
For the donuts:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
For the coating:
  • 6 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1½ tsp cinnamon
Instructions
To make the donuts:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two mini muffin pans with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, egg, milk, butter, and vanilla paste.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins so they are ¾ full. Take a knife and spread out any lumps so that the tops are smooth.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 11-13 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. After 5 minutes of cooling, transfer the donuts to a wire cooling rack.
To coat the donuts:
  1. When ready to coat the donuts, melt the butter and let cool.
  2. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
  3. Dip each donut into the butter and then roll into the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Donut-holes1

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Kitty in Cookie Form

Hades-cookies1It’s been a looooong time since I’ve posted, and part of the reason is the little guy above. Our poor cat Hades had a urinary block in mid-August, and it has only gotten fully resolved recently. Turns out, he had to be hospitalized 3 times, and ended up having surgery the last time he was there (third time’s a charm, right?).

Without being too graphic, the surgery involved the removal of his male anatomy so that he will no longer get blocked if he develops urinary crystals. Poor guy had to wear a cone for 2 weeks and even though he got his stitches out yesterday, he has to wear the cone a few more days.

It’s like he’s saying, “Mom, why are you photographing my humiliation?”

Hades-cone3   He really has been a trooper through the whole process.

Hades-cone2 Hades-cone1But you know who else was awesome? Our vet and his entire staff. They made sure our Hades was well cared for, and made sure the entire ordeal was affordable for us. At one point early on, I was worried we wouldn’t be able to swing the surgery and THAT was a scary prospect. But they worked with us, so that we could have the procedure done. Hades was so close to death the third time we brought him in, but they worked fast and brought him back (which was amazing). We are so grateful.

So when Hades had his stitches out yesterday, I decided I wanted to make cookies to thank everyone. And since Hades can be difficult at times (as his name suggests), I decided to make Hades cookies so they can bite his head off!

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Mr. Softee ice cream cupcakes

icecream-cupcake4I can’t believe it’s been four months since my last post! Things have been so busy with the work and house…I haven’t had time to do much baking. But I did make these cupcakes last month for Father’s day, and they were a hit!

These were inspired by a tutorial I saw on Cake Central on how to make hi-hat cupcakes. They reminded me of the Mr. Softee cones, which I was first introduced to when I moved to New York. So I looked up how to make ice cream cone cupcakes, and to my surprise, you can actually pour the batter into the cone and bake it right in there for the same amount of time you would use for a cupcake liner. You can still bake them in a cupcake tin, just put one cone in each hole.

icecream-cupcake2Then you make the hi-hat frosting, freeze for 10 minutes to solidify, and dip in melted chocolate. Easy! I used red Mercken Melts so they would look like a Mr. Softee cone. Also, because my husband hates regular chocolate (weird!).

icecream-cupcake5icecream-cupcake3What is cool is that when you cut it down the middle, there is cake all the way to the bottom! The cone gets a little softer and chewy, and takes on the taste of the cake. I used my go-to recipe for vanilla buttermilk cupcakes for this one.

icecream-cupcake1The only real difficulty is how to transport these. My sister-in-law showed me some pics online of a setup where people cut holes in a foil tin and sat the cupcakes in the holes. I decided to do a variant of this, and got one of the chafing dish stands to help.

icecream-cupcake7icecream-cupcake6These are really fun to make, and also really fun to eat! Perfect for summer.

Mr. Softee cupcake frosting
 
Ingredients
For the frosting:
  • 1¼ cups white sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
For the dip:
  • 1 lb red Mercken's melts (or whatever color you prefer)
  • Crisco
Instructions
To make the frosting:
  1. In a stainless steel mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, water, sugar and cream of tartar. Whisk until foamy. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and continue whisking until the egg whites are hot (about 160 degrees F). I used a candy thermometer.
  2. Using a heavy duty mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and the frosting has cooled to room temperature. This takes a while. I just let it go and came back occasionally to check on it.
  3. Using a piping bag and a large round tip, pipe the frosting in swirls onto the cupcakes, until they are tall & pointed on top. Place frosted cupcakes on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before dipping them in melted chocolate.
To dip:
  1. Microwave ½ cup Mercken's melts at a time with 1 TBSP Crisco. Microwave at half power for 30 second intervals and stir until it is smooth and flows freely from the spoon.
  2. Pour melted chocolate into a tall cup, so there is enough depth for dipping. Gently hold cupcake cone upside down into the chocolate and swirl so that all the frosting is covered. Add sprinkles if you desire, while the chocolate is wet.
  3. Place cupcakes on a plate and keep in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes so the chocolate solidifies.
  4. Enjoy!
Notes
Whichever cake recipe you use, bake cupcake batter in cones for the same time as specified on the recipe. Fill cones about ⅔ full.

 

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