Monday, November 29, 2010

It's The Great Pumpkin

It's The Great Pumpkin! I couldn't resist making that the title of this blog because my son and I absolutely love watching Charlie Brown. He and I both are too old to be watching cartoons but that's another post altogether.

Many of us are accustomed to having something with pumpkin during the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s just that time of year. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cheesecake…

So who am I to break tradition? I decided on some pumpkin bread to grab during the week for a quick, simple breakfast treat. This recipe can be made in just minutes and is great paired with a cup of Tazo’s Organic Chai...the perfect start to your day.

Pumpkin Bread

1 ½ c sugar
1 2/3 c flour
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
½ c vegetable oil
½ c water
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp bourbon
1 c mashed pumpkin (I prefer Libby’s)
2 eggs
½ c nuts, optional
¼ c raisins, optional

Sift all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Gently stir in remaining ingredients. If using nuts and/or raisins, incorporate them last by gently folding them into the batter.

Pour batter into 4x8 buttered and floured loaf pan or line loaf pan with parchment paper. This recipe usually makes enough for two loaf pans (or one loaf pan and a muffin pan). Bake at 350 for an hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, baked by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bread Pudding

Fall is officially here and with fall comes a desire for warm, hearty comfort foods. Typically when I think of fall I think of sweet potato and pecan pie, pumpkin and banana nut bread, apple crisps and peach cobbler…but today my thoughts were centered around bread pudding. I had never tried bread pudding before so I was a little unsure of how this would taste. Would the bread be too soggy? Would it taste any different than French toast? What is so exciting about bread pudding? Well…now I know.

I didn’t have time to make my own challah for the bread pudding this time around because I am a right now kind of gal - and did not want to wait a day or two for the challah to get stale. So, off to Trader Joe’s I go to get some Tuscan Pane artisan bread. The entire recipe may seem a little complex because I am a little “extra” or at least that’s what they tell me. But the basic recipe is really quite simple.

Bread Pudding

1 loaf French bread, at least a day old, cut into 1-inch squares (about 6 cups)
1 qt milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp vanilla
1 Tbsp orange juice
1 cup raisins (soaked in 1/4 cup bourbon)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Soak the bread in the milk in a large dish or mixing bowl until all of the milk is absorbed. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, and spices. Gently stir into the bread mixture. Incorporate the raisins into the mixture gently. Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with baking spray. Pour in the bread mixture and bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, or until set. The pudding is done when the edges start getting a bit brown and pull away from the edge of the pan. You can also make in individual ramekins, which is my personal favorite in terms of presentation. Note: Bread pudding tastes best when eaten the day it is made.

Alcohol makes everything taste better! So my bread pudding would not be complete without a warm bourbon or caramel sauce.

Bourbon Sauce

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons bourbon
Pinch of salt

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Simmer until thickened, whisking often, about 3 minutes. Cool slightly.

Caramel Sauce
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter with all three sugars and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook over moderately high heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the cream and boil for 2 minutes longer. Stir in the vanilla and salt and serve.

AND…I did mention I was a little “extra”, didn’t I? I had to go and add some homemade vanilla bean ice-cream. Viola! Dessert was served.

Vanilla Icecream (Cuisinart recipe)

1-1/2 cups whole milk
1-1/8 cups granulated sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1-1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the milk and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Turn the machine on; pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Now, needless to say, I will have to add in a few extra crunches and an additional day of cardio. But hey, what’s life without a few sweet treats? Enjoy! I know I did. 

All photographs are actual pictures of the recipe listed, baked by Virtually Everything Sweet, and cannot be used without the owner’s consent.