The Great Pumpkin

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It’s finally fall(ish) and our first pumpkin of the season went into the oven. I haven’t used gross canned pumpkin in many years. I had once figured fresh was a pain, or wouldn’t taste right or would be expensive. Not only is that just not true (one good-sized pie pumpkin can bake three-four pies) but fresh just tastes better and isn’t artificially orange. (fresh pumpkin bakes up brown, an orange pie or other baked good is a surefire canned giveaway)

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Baked Elements has instructions for making pumpkin puree from a fresh pumpkin, but I didn’t use directions since I have done it lots of times before. I just poke holes (or employ two stabby 8 year to do the job) and put the pumpkin on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake on 225 and go do other things.

This time I started in the evening and by the time it was done (a fork will pierce the skin very easily) it was bedtime so I turned the oven off and left the pumpkin to hang out in there overnight.

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The next day I cut off the stem, reached inside and scooped out most of the guts/seeds (the fun part) then cut it into quarters. Using a fork, I gently scraped off the rest of the stringy bits and seeds Those went into a colander to be cleaned later. Using a large spoon I scooped out the flesh and scraped the skins clean.

The pumpkin chunks went into a large bowl with a lid (there are about 4-5 cups) and when I am about to use the pumpkin in a recipe I will toss a cup or so into a strainer and drain any liquid off before putting it into the food processor to blend until smooth.

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I almost always roast my seeds but this time I used the Baked Elements book and made the Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle.

Brittle is so so so easy, and I’m happy most people would assume it was difficult: it makes great gifts when tucked into a cute tin. This recipe is salty and sweet and cinnamon-y and makes me (and all my guys) very happy.

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What side are you on? Team Canned or Team Fresh?

Redemption Cookies

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*check out the blister I got from planting the school garden–IT WON’T GO AWAY!!!*

Last Monday was magical. It was rainy and my sweetie and our little guy were cuddled in bed. G slept and C and I finished up our last episodes of Girls. (which I *do* want to write about in another post) We climbed out of our cocoon to seek out some food. C made some beautiful ramen from some broth he had made over the weekend. We slurped our yummy noodles, then I got to work on some Compost Cookies. It was the first time I truly was making a real compost cookie. Usually I buy full bags of what I plan on including, but this time I put in a little of this and a little of that–half a bag of peanut butter chips, chopped up candy melts leftover from G’s birthday, mini pretzels, leftover graham crust that I had been saving in the freezer, and our new favorite coffee.

I have been making so many Baked recipes for the past few months that I was a bit of of practice with the Milk Bar method. I was thinking to myself how quickly the dough was coming together when I realized I totally skipped a step and added the flour mixture BEFORE I put in the egg and vanilla.

My sweet man was waiting patiently for cookies and I sat there for a second, stumped. I tried to think WWCTD? But came up with nothing. I finally just took the initial mixture, tossed it in the fridge, washed my mixer bowl and started over.

I kind of forgot about the ill-fated dough, but came across it just now in the fridge. I’m out of eggs but had some egg yolks leftover from something (?) we made recently. I tossed a couple of yolks and some vanilla and oatmeal into the dough, scooped it out onto prepared half sheet pans and chilled them for an hour.

The resulting cookie was sugary, chewy and super vanilla-y. I’m happy I could salvage it, and now my big littles will have yummy cookies waiting for them when I see them after school on Monday. (after a whole week!!!)

Baked Sunday Mornings: Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

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These are beautiful, perfect cookies that everyone loves. Their puffy, soft texture and crackly tops get me every time. The only problem is that the recipe only yields 2 dozen and they go quick!

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The only kind of tricky part is browning the butter but that is a skill that I mastered many Snickerdoodles ago, so luckily it didn’t slow me down this time.

Head on over and see if everyone else loved them as much as I did!

Next up: Pumpkin cheesecake bars! Yay, can’t wait! I’ve been itching to buy a few pumpkins! This is one of the best times of year here in Texas!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Orange Almond Ricotta Cheesecake

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When it came time to bake this cheesecake I realized I had an 8″ and a 10″ springform pan, but not a 9″. Ah, well. We were going to dinner at our friends’ house so the 10″ seemed like the way to go.

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I increased the amounts a bit for the crust to accommodate the bigger pan. I wasn’t sure how far up the filling would go so I extended the crust to the top of the pan. I had a bit of crust leftover, so that went into the freezer to be made into Compost Cookies at some point in the future.

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It seemed to take forever to get to 160 degrees. I know it was because of the bigger pan, but finally after about 80 minutes it was all set. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I pulled it out of the oven ten minutes before we had to leave for dinner. (it’s a bit hard to bake with three littles running around! 😉

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We popped it in their freezer the second we got there and settled in to get some very much-needed grownup conversation/cocktail time. Our five wild boys entertained each other and it was a really nice way to end a stressful week.

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After a lovely dinner of tacos and sampling assorted ciders (we all really want it to be fall now) we decided to cut the cheesecake. It had been in the freezer for about two hours and was chilled through. I forgot to bring almonds for garnish so I had to use a larger amount of sifted powdered sugar to cover the 3 thermometer holes. (I’m so glad I didn’t attempt to eyeball it, I would have seriously under-baked it)

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The verdict from the grownups: it was really great, a nice light way to end a meal and a nice balance with the beverages we were drinking. The kids weren’t as into it at all. The filling wasn’t sweet enough for them, but they did all like the crust.

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I hate to admit that I did not seek out fresh ricotta and I can see how that would have made a huge difference in the filling. I also didn’t buy amaretto, I subbed fresh orange juice instead. I loved the almond-orange combo and would definitely make this again. If I wasn’t going to use fresh ricotta next time I would add a bit of honey or more orange or bite the bullet and buy the amaretto. The filling was nice but not quite perfect. (in my perfectionistic opinion) I did notice that unlike a lot of my cream cheese-based cheesecakes this one didn’t crack at all, the top stayed smooth and beautiful.

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Overall I really really liked it and will definitely add it to the rotation. I love sharing food with family and friends and was glad I could include this cheesecake in our festivities.

Go over and see if my fellow bakers were less cheap/lazy than me and if using fresh ricotta improved their fillings!

Next up: Brown Butter Snickerdoodles….awwww yeah!!!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Whiskey Peach Upside-Down Cake

This recipe was made for summer in Texas. There is nothing better than a ripe, local peach this time of year. The ones I chose were a bit firm when I bought them because I wasn’t sure how soon I would be making my cake.

Well, they ripened up at warp speed on my counter so I had to hurry up and use them. I can’t believe it, but I had never made an upside-down cake before. I was really excited to make this cake.

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Luckily the peaches were the only thing I had to buy, I had everything else on hand. The cake mixed up quickly and I had it in the oven in no time.

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I didn’t overload the cake with the peaches, even though it was tempting to. Even still, I had to put a pan under the cake to catch some excess juices. I am used to underbaking my cakes and cookies a bit, so letting it go as dark as I did gave me a bit of anxiety. I let it cool overnight while I pondered my options for toppings.

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I ended up skipping the whipped cream–it turns out my husband doesn’t like whipped cream (I’m just finding this out four years in??! 😉 and so I made a second batch of whiskey caramel to pour on top. I was kind of hoping that cooking the whiskey would burn off the alcohol and the kiddos could help us eat the cake, but the second I tasted it I knew that was not an option.

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The cake was still very, very boozy and so the eating duties fell to the grownups. My husband really liked the cake a lot and didn’t seem to mind. I really did like it too and will make it again, but I have to say: I don’t think it needed the extra topping and I don’t know that I would bother with it next time. I really loved the cake and the peaches on their own: I loved the soft almond flavor and lovely texture.

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All in all, another great Baked recipe–and I had enough peaches leftover to make a yummy smoothie for my boys for breakfast the next morning.

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Go see how my fellow bakers did!
Next up: Mile-High Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream!!! (This is going to be a doozy, I need to get myself invited to a dinner party so I don’t have to eat a whole cake alone!)

8/8 Cupcakes

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I am so grateful to have a good kitchen this year. Last year for my boys’ birthday I made some pain-in-the butt cupcakes in ice cream cones for school.

My kitchen then was small and cramped and making over 40 cupcakes was in exercise in masochism. I made chocolate cupcakes for their actual party last year and I loved the recipe so much that I decided to use it again this year. It makes a moist, springy cupcake and a rich, delicious cake.

Normally I take a million pictures when I bake, but somehow (exhaustion!) I skipped that this time. I chose to make owl cupcakes because that is their school mascot, and whooooo doesn’t like owls??!

Here was my inspiration:

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And here was my finished cupcake. I used Reese’s pieces instead of M&M’s because they are all the colors I needed and I wouldn’t have to worry about not having enough brown or orange. (Luckily we don’t have any classmates with peanut allergies this year!)

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The kids seemed to like the end-of-day sugar rush but by then all I could think of was getting out of the heat and into some jammies. Luckily when my husband came home he made me this:

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I skipped the ganache this time and went with a basic chocolate buttercream but I highly recommend using the ganache if you are making this as a cake. It is tasty and shiny and beautiful. It also works for cupcakes, but in this case I wanted the Oreos to stick to the buttercream. I was afraid that once the ganache dried it would be hard to smoosh the Oreos into.

Perfect Chocolate Cake:

(Makes two 9″ rounds, one bundt or 18 cupcakes)

Cake:

2 eggs
2c. sugar
2c. all purpose flour
1/4tsp. salt
1/4 c. buttermilk (or 1/2 c. milk+1tbsp. white vinegar–I’ve done both and they both are fine, but this time I used actual buttermilk)
1tsp. vanilla
1c. butter, softened
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. boiling water

Ganache:

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (baking chocolate or chocolate chips)
1c. heavy cream
6 tblspn. light corn syrup
1c. heavy cream

Cake:
Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl combine buttermilk, eggs, baking soda (skip this if you used vinegar and instead add to finished batter just before baking unless you want a volcano science experiment) In a medium-sized heavy saucepan melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in cocoa powder until combine. Add boiling water and stir well. Pour over flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add buttermilk mixture over and stir until well combined but don’t overmix.

Spray cupcake tins or bundt pan with cooking spray, fill 2/3 full and bake for 18 minutes and 40 minutes respectively. Butter 9″ rounds and line with parchment paper. Pour equal parts batter in each and bake for 30 minutes or until fork inserted comes out clean. Cool completely on a baking rack.

Ganache:

Heat heavy cream and corn syrup until it reaches a simmer. Pour over chopped chocolate or chocolate chips. Whisk until smooth and shiny. Pour over bundt cake or dip the tops of each cupcake. For layer cakes, pour over first layer, add second layer and pour the rest on top, smoothing the sides. Let cool and dry before serving.

I have a feeling I’ll probably use this recipe again for G’s upcoming birthday. I used it last year for his birthday too. Not for him, he got a sugar-free hippie cake for his 1st birthday, but for the grown-ups and big brothers who were helping him celebrate.

Do you have a go-to birthday cake recipe?
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Baked Sunday Mornings: Going Rogue Part One

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I’ve never gone rogue before and I’m surprised at how naughty it feels. I *really* wanted to make the tarragon-lime cookies that were assigned to us but today is my almost-eight year old twins’ birthday party and I just couldn’t fit the cookies in.

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As you can see, my cakes and cupcakes are not frosted yet. I literally just pulled them out of the oven and I plan to frost them in the morning. (well…later in the morning, it’s after 4am here already)

Every year the past few years my guys have requested a Halloween-themed party. This year was no exception.

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I am excited about their party and hope I can find a way to look a bit more awake then I’m sure I will feel tomorrow. I’ve been working on decorations all weekend and tonight was crunch time: baking, decorating, and…a last-minute piñata. I didn’t buy one and regretted it, so I threw one together. It actually didn’t take too much time.

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I won’t be making the cinnamon frosting because I don’t know that the kids will get it. I plan on making a bright white buttercream, and the boys requested fake blood splatters and a fake knife sticking out of the top, so I am using a beautiful, elegant, understated red velvet recipe and turning it into a bloody nightmare. And yes…I used a ton of red food coloring, although the original recipe is supposed to be a bit more toned-down. But if you ever meet my boys (twins AND Leos) you will see that toned down is not always something they are capable of–and I love that about them.

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I’ll write a birthday party recap with pictures of the finished cakes, and a review on the taste (they smell amazing!!) in a bit. In the meantime, go on over and see what my fellow bakers have been up to!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Oopsy Daisy Cake

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I loved this cake, but it came at a weird time. It really is a special cake, and would be perfect for a birthday. But it wasn’t anyone’s birthday and our A/C hasn’t been being freezing up so the house was a little warm-ish and I was baking and sweating and it wasn’t awesome. But I did have help:

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The name made me giggle every time I looked at it, I couldn’t help but think of this.

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The cake was a classic Baked cake, but with two layers instead of the three I’m used to with the other cakes I’ve made. (Sweet & Salty, Lemon Drop) I used local coffee and local organic chocolate (that was on clearance! I may have bought 4 bars, don’t judge) and the cakes baked up intensely dark and fragrant although they did seem to sink in the middle a bit.

That didn’t matter at all once I filled and frosted them. I always bake the cakes one evening and then frost the next day and that is what I did this time. I finished up the cakes at around 1am and for some reason after I added the chocolate and peanut toppings it just seemed like it needed to be a peace sign. I think I may have been delirious.

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The cake was well-received at home:

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and my kid-testers approved:

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I would definitely make the cake again, but it would have to be for a special occasion.

Go see what my fellow bakers made! Next up: Lime Tarragon Cookies with White Chocolate Lime Topping. (Yum!!)

Baked Sunday Mornings: Cream Cheese Chocolate Snacking Cookies

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It’s a miracle these cookies ended up in the oven– the dough was so smooth and tasty on it’s own. Almost like pudding.

And if you know me at all, you know that chocolate pudding is one of my huge weaknesses.

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But they did get baked and I was very happy with the final product. Soft and chewy cookie, perfect size. They taste even better as they cool. I used a medium scoop and got about 30 cookies.

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We have friends coming over for dinner tonight and my sweetie suggested I make homemade chocolate malt ice cream sandwiches for the dessert.

I was planning on making these cookies for them but loved CCCSCs so much that I made a second batch of dough just for the sandwiches. (without chocolate chips)

The original batch of cookies I am definitely keeping for snacking. 🙂

I had a ladies’ clothing swap to go to and took a bag of cookies with me. Otherwise I know I would have single-handedly eaten them all!

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Since I had to throw out more than half of my Mississippi Mud Pie, I was happy to share the cookies with friends. We made a valiant effort, but it was just too much pie for two people to handle. A batch of cookies is much easier to finish off!

I’ll include the outcome of the ice cream sandwiches in a separate post, it was my first time making chocolate malt ice cream and I can’t wait to let you know how it turned out!

In the meantime head over and see how my Baked Sunday Mornings friends’ cookies turned out!

Next up: (in two weeks) Banana Mousse Parfaits! Can’t Wait!

Baked Sunday Mornings Next Up: Cream Cheese Chocolate Snacking Cookies

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I wrote my last Baked Sunday Mornings post in a hurry. I didn’t write it before I went out of town and was too tired on Saturday when I returned. I wrote it before work on Sunday and forgot to mention what we were baking next!

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We are working from the Baked Elements book and this weeks’ recipe is cream cheese chocolate snacking cookies.

The name is funny to me because in my world every cookie is great for snacking, but I am especially excited about this recipe because I don’t believe I’ve ever put cream cheese in a cookie before. Also, it has the word chocolate in it so I’m in!

I also have to admit that I do not yet own the Elements book, so in between work appointments I am going to stop by the book store and grab it. I saw from another blogger that these cookies are hard to photograph…and the pictures are not my strong point in the first place, so I’ll have to look for a cute plate or something while I’m out!

What’s going on in your kitchen this week?