The Great Pumpkin

20131010-201837.jpg

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)

20131010-201817.jpg

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.

20131010-204806.jpg

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.

20131010-205632.jpg

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.

20131010-205705.jpg

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

8/8 Cupcakes

20130814-234428.jpg

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:

20130814-235126.jpg

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!)

20130814-235231.jpg

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:

20130815-000245.jpg

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?
.