Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall Treats: Five-minute Pumpkin Spice Pudding

My college roomie snatched this super quick recipe from a magazine a few years ago and I have no idea where it's from exactly, but I have been making this simple pudding every fall since. I usually force myself to wait until October to make it, but some years, I just can't wait that long!

With just four ingredients, and the option of making this fat free, it's an easy choice when that autumn pumpkin craving arrives. It's very much like the inside of a pumpkin pie, but much creamier... and easier!

Five-minute Pumpkin Spice Pudding
1 package (5.1 oz.) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk (may use fat free variety)
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin pie filling (not pure pumpkin)
1 t. pumpkin pie spice (or any combo of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger you like!)

Beat together pudding mix and evaporated milk. Refrigerate 5 minutes. Mix in pumpkin pie filling and spice. Refrigerate 10 more minutes until set.

Could it be any easier?

Sugar Cookie Cut-outs with Buttercream Frosting

My college roommate Jen is getting married this November and I decided that I would make pretty wedding cake cookie favors for her shower. I knew that I didn't want to use royal frosting this time, since I tend to wait to the last minute and royal frosting takes a very long time to harden 100% (and I had to drive to PA with these things!) so I decided on a traditional buttercream instead. Buttercream, when exposed to the elements, hardens quite nicely and lends itself better to decorations.

For those in the area, if you haven't been to Fran's Cake and Candy Supplies in Fairfax, you really should. She recently moved to a new and larger location near the intersection of 50/Lee Highway and Main Street/236 and Sallee, the owner, has everything from cookie cutters to fondant to piping bags to premade frosting roses. For this project, I picked up a wedding cake cookie cutter and some edible pearls and sanding sugar in green, the bride's favorite color.

I again decided to go straight to the source—Martha, of course—for the perfect vanilla buttercream, and I ended up choosing this one, developed by Billy's Bakery in NYC.

This was a little experimental, but I think it worked out very well. Oh, and I was sure to make extra incase more came than RSVPed or if some broke in transit! The bride and guests LOVED them and kept asking where we bought them! :) Mission accomplished!

Sugar Cookie Cut-outs with Buttercream Frosting
Cookies: (same recipe as here)

Buttercream Frosting:
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 to 8 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, gradually add 6 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency.

Wait until the cookies are completely cool before frosting. As for technique, I covered the entire top of the cookie with my favorite Ateco offset spatula (the smallest one!), trying to make it as smooth as possible with long horizontal strokes. Then, to achieve a cleaner edge, I followed the line of the cookie edge with the edge of the spatula to clear away any stray/ragged frosting.

You should affix any sprinkles or other decorations while the frosting is still wet. You might need to put a small dollop of frosting onto the back of any decorations (like the edible pearls) that want to roll away! I also put some frosting in a piping bag and used my smallest tip to make a few horizontal lines to differentiate the layers of the cake.

And of course, let the frosting dry completely before putting the cookies in cellophane bags. I promise they'll still taste great.

Happy shower, Jen!

Fall Treats: Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze

My friends Amanda and Margaret and I went apple picking out in Loudoun County and had a lot of fun doing so... but all those apples! What to do with them? Once I found this recipe, it was clear: make this recipe four times. :) I became a little obsessed with this one!

I made it into cupcakes several times (cook it for much less time), but my favorite is just as a Bundt cake. This is the perfect apple cake: crunchy exterior, moist interior, and a sweet glaze. Of course it's from epicurious!! We went apple picking too late for Golden Delicious to still be around, but I just used a combination of several varieties (York, Crispin') and it was perfect.

Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 cup + 1 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (about 3 1/2 ounces)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Transfer 3 tablespoons flour mixture to Bundt pan and tilt to coat. Set pan aside. Place apples and 2 tablespoons flour mixture in another medium bowl; toss to coat apples. Combine 1 cup brown sugar, vegetable oil, 1 cup sugar, eggs, and 3 teaspoons vanilla in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until mixture is thick, about 4 minutes. Gradually beat in remaining flour mixture. Fold apple mixture and pecans into batter; transfer to prepared Bundt pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer cake in pan to rack. Let stand while making caramel.

Melt butter in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Whisk in remaining 1 cup brown sugar, then milk. Continue to whisk until topping is smooth and blended and comes to boil, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Spoon 1/4 cup hot caramel topping over bottom of warm cake in pan. Let stand until topping is absorbed into cake, about 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto platter. Pour remaining warm topping over cake. Let stand until cool, at least 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome. Let stand at room temperature.)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cream Pie

My mom adores cream pies. Chocolate cream pies and coconut cream pies are her top two (and my dad asks for a banana cream pie every father's day and birthday)... I guess I have cream pie parents. For mother's day this year, I made her favorite chocolate cream pie, so for her birthday, I wanted to switch it up slightly. For as long as I can remember, my mom's favorite has been peanut butter chocolate anything, and I take after her in that regard. So what better birthday treat than a peanut butter chocolate cream pie?!

I enjoyed this pie because the flavors are separate (not too much chocolate, nor too much peanut butter) and it's pretty when you slice it since it has two layers. And it's quite easy! Another rave for epicurious!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cream Pie
1 9-inch Oreo or graham cracker crust
4 large egg yolks
2/3 c. sugar
3 1/2 T. cornstarch
3 c. half and half
1 T. unsalted butter
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. (6 ounces) semisweet morsels
1 c. (6 ounces) peanut butter morsels
1 c. chilled whipping cream
2 T. powdered sugar

Place yolks in medium bowl. Combine sugar and cornstarch in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk in half and half. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Boil 1 minute. Whisk half of mixture into yolks to prevent curdling. Return yolk mixture to saucepan. Boil 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla.

Place chocolate chips in medium bowl. Add 1 cup hot custard and stir until chocolate chips melt and mixture is smooth. Add peanut butter chips to remaining custard in saucepan and stir until peanut butter chips melt and mixture is smooth.

Spread chocolate mixture evenly into prepared crust. Gently spoon peanut butter mixture over chocolate, spreading to edge of crust. Place plastic wrap atop pie to prevent skin from forming. Cool pie on rack 1 hour. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.)

For the topping, just prior to serving: Using electric mixer, beat whipping cream in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently spread topping on top of pie. Sprinkle with grated semisweet chocolate, if desired.

Happy birthday, mom!

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