Pumpkin Cupcakes

 

Ask anyone who knew me growing up and they’ll tell you – Halloween is my favorite holiday. I used to go overboard making my own costume every year, determined to have the best one out of everybody. It’s a shame that Halloween isn’t really a “thing” here in the UK – it actually made me a bit sad not dressing up, carving a jack-o-lantern, or going to Halloween parties, pumpkin patches, or haunted hay rides. *note to self – must throw a Halloween party some year.

And fall is pretty much my favorite season from a culinary perspective. It marks the beginning of the best cooking and baking season that leads up to Christmas. One of the best seasonal ingredients is pumpkin. Cooking with pumpkin just instantly signals fall – so I special-ordered a few cans of pumpkin to load up for a few rounds of pumpkin baking.

As a Halloween treat to my co-workers, I decided this week to throw together a batch of pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. As I was baking these on a weeknight and ended up staying up pretty late, I completely forgot to take photos. Luckily I had a photo from another time I baked these a few years ago. So while I apologize for the poor-quality photo, I will not apologize for the presence of Jack Skellington.

If anything, he just adds a bit of the Halloween spirit.

 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes (makes 24):

  • 2 1/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (or cooked and mashed up)
  • 3/4 cup milk
For the frosting:
  • 1/4 cup (57.5 grams) butter, softened
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 pound (1 box, about 4 cups) icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375° F (approx 190°C). Place cupcake liners into the pan.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3. In the bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs. Once everything is incorporated, add in the pumpkin.

4. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients, alternating each addition with the milk. Make sure everything is blended in and smooth before adding the next addition. If you’d like, you can also add in some chopped walnuts or pecans at this stage. Once the batter is completely mixed, fill your prepared cupcake pans – filling each cup about 2/3 full.

5. Bake the cakes for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking time. Once they are ready, let them cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese in your mixer until it starts to become creamy. Then turn the mixer to low speed and gradually add in the sifted icing sugar. Finally, add in the vanilla and mix until it is completely blended. The consistency of this frosting is best spread on with a spatula, rather than piped. If you’d like a stiffer frosting, then add more sugar.

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Apple Strudel

The other week on Bake Off, the contestants were challenged to make a strudel – making strudel dough from scratch. Even Mary Berry admitted to buying premade dough because it’s such a pain in the butt! Well, if Mary Berry caved in, I certainly couldn’t; therefore I had no choice but to make a strudel.

It was surprisingly difficult to even find a recipe for strudel dough. So big thanks to Linda at A Tender Crumb for posting a recipe that had both a filling and a dough.

There are two keys to making this strudel work:

  1. Take your time when stretching the dough. Seriously. Don’t rush it.
  2. Don’t use store-bought breadcrumbs to make the filling. I made that mistake and my strudel was a bit mushy in the middle. Definitely make breadcrumbs fresh at home!

This, I will admit, was a challenge, not to mention I made a huge mess in the kitchen because the flour just goes everywhere.  Anywho… here goes!

Ingredients

For the strudel dough:

  • 1 1/3 cup flour (unbleached)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 7 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

You will also need a clean bedsheet or tablecloth!

For the filling:
  • 2 Tablespoons golden rum
  • 3 Tablespoons raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs – key word: fresh
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 pounds (900 grams) cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

Directions

1. First make your strudel dough: Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. In a glass measuring cup, mix together the oil, vinegar, and water. Add this mixture to the flour while slowly mixing to bring everything together into a soft dough. Then knead it on an unfloured work surface for a few minutes to help activate the gluten – this will allow the dough to stretch more easily. Take the dough and throw it hard down onto your work surface every now and then, which is great for getting out a bit of pent-up aggression.

2. Once you’ve needed for awhile, shape the dough into a ball and place it on a plate to rest. Oil the top of the dough slightly, then cover it tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30-90 minutes (the longer the better, I did mine for about 40, and it didn’t want to stretch as much). While your dough is resting, you can make part of the apple filling.

3. In two small bowls, mix together the rum and raisins in one and the cinnamon and sugar in the other. Then heat 3 Tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add in the breadcrumbs and cook them for about 3 minutes, until they are golden brown and toasted. Set them aside to cool.

4. To make the strudel, you will need to stretch your dough out so thin that you can pretty much read through it.  To do this, first cover your work surface with your clean bedsheet or tablecloth. Dust and rub some flour into the fabric, then place your dough onto the surface and roll it out as much as possible.

5. Once you’ve rolled it out quite a bit, pick up the dough and let gravity do a bit of the work.  Use your hands and forearms to support the dough as you stretch it, and try to keep it in as rectangular a shape as possible. Once the dough gets too large to hold, gently lay it back onto the sheet to begin stretching. Reach your hands underneath the dough and gently pull it (coercing, really, more than pulling) by small bits at a time using the back of your hands. You need to be super careful that you don’t poke or tear any holes in it.

6. Stretch the dough until it is super thin, like tissue paper. In the photo above, you can start to see the words on the page through the dough – but it’s not thin enough yet! Once you get it thin enough, trim off the thicker sides of the dough into a straight-edged rectangle.

7. Now, back to the filling. Brush the top of your dough with about 3 Tablespoons of the melted butter, being careful not to tear the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the toasted breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs will act as an absorbant when your filling cooks so that it won’t get mushy. Then sprinkle the walnuts in a strip running parallel to the short edge of the dough, about 2-3 inches away from the edge.

8. Finally, mix the apples with the rum raisin mixture and the cinnamon sugar. Spread this mixture over the walnuts.

9. Now here’s the tricky part, and you may want to get a friend to help. Fold the short end of the dough over the filling. Then lift the edge of the fabric up, basically to create an incline that the roll will tumble down on its own. It’s really nerve-wracking, but once you’ve done it it’s actually quite cool. Then tuck the ends of the strudel underneath and brush the top of the strudel with the last of the melted butter.

10. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with some baking paper, then transfer your rolled strudel to the sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.

Cranberry, Orange, and Cinnamon Bagels

So a new season of Great British Bake Off has started, and I’m determined play along with the contestants. So each week for the next few weeks, I will be attempting at least one of their challenges. I missed the first episode in time to plan for baking last week, so I’ve had to pick it up on episode two, the one where they made bread.

One of the challenges this week involved making bagels, a dozen sweet and a dozen savory. I’m quite a fan of bagels, but I’ve never actually made them before.

Turns out that they’re relatively simple, just time consuming. So I actually spent my entire Bank Holiday Monday in the kitchen baking rather than relaxing, but it was totally worth it!!

Big thanks to Annie’s Eats for the base recipe, which was really easy to adapt for the different flavors I wanted. These turned out so fantastic that had I not planned on taking them to work, I would eat them for breakfast every day this week.

Ingredients

For the starter sponge:

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 cups water, room temperature
For the dough:
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 cups dried cranberries
  • zest from 2 oranges
For boiling:
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • cornmeal or semolina for dusting

Directions

1. First make the starter by mixing the yeast and flour in a large bowl. Slowly pour in the water, stirring until it forms a smooth, sticky batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours until the mixture starts to form bubbles and get foamy. It should be about double in size.

2. Next make the dough by adding the additional yeast to the bowl with your starter. Then add in 3 cups of flour, cinnamon, sugar, salt, and brown sugar. Mix using your dough hook until the mixture forms a ball. As it starts to come together, slowly add the last 3/4 cup flour until the dough starts to stiffen. Then add in the cranberries and orange zest.

3. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes on the countertop. There should be no raw flour – all the ingredients should be hydrated.  If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading.  If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required.  The kneaded dough should feels satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

4. Weigh the ball of dough, then divide the weight by 12. Then use that number to divide the dough into twelve rolls of equal weight. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and let them rest for about 20 minutes.

5. Line a few baking sheets with baking paper and spray with a small amount of oil. Form the dough rolls into bagel shapes either by rolling into snakes and then making into a loop, or just by poking a hole through the middle. Be sure to make the hole double the size than what you want the final hole to be, as they will close up a bit when rising and baking. Spray the tops of the bagels with a bit more oil, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for another 20 minutes.

6. Your bagels will be ready for the next step when they pass the “float test”. Fill a large bowl with water and drop one of the bagels in – if it starts to float within 10 seconds, they’re ready. If not, return to the pan, re-cover with the plastic wrap, and allow them to rest longer, checking every 15 minutes to see if they float. Once they float, place the bagels in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight, to retard.

7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C). Bring a large, wide pot of water to boil, then add the baking soda. Line a few more baking sheets with baking paper, mist with oil, then lightly dust with the cornflour or semolina.

8. Remove the bagels from the fridge and gently drop as many that will comfortably fit into the water. They should float quite easily within 10 seconds. Boil for 1 minute, then flip and boil for another minute. Remove the bagels from the oven with a skimmer or slotted spoon.

9. After all of the bagels have been boiled, place in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then rotate the two pans, lower the oven to 450°F (230°C), then continue to bake for another 5 minutes until they turn golden brown.

10. Remove the bagels from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. If you’re storing the bagels, they’ll keep for 2-3 days in a paper bag.

Apple Crumble

It’s been absolutely crazy the last few weeks trying to keep up with everything between work and home, so I apologize for my sporadic posting.  Ben and I just returned this week from a wonderful vacation in the Channel Islands where we were able to escape the internet and catch some sun.

I made this recipe from A Spoonful of Sugar the weekend before we went, making a few adjustments. And while my crumble didn’t look as beautiful as hers, it tasted sooooo good. So just ignore the terribly unphotogenic sample above and give it a go!

Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 1 1/4 cups (185 grams) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) butter
  • 3/4 cup (165 grams) sugar
For the apple filling:
  • 5 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
For the base:
  • 100 grams butter
  • 1/2 cup (110 grams) sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup (150 grams) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon milk

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325° F (approx 160°C). Grease your square tin with butter then line the bottom with baking paper.

2. To make the base: Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg. Once they are combined, fold in the flour and baking powder. Finally add in the milk. Spread this batter evenly into the bottom of your prepared tin.

3. To make the filling: Place your chopped apples into a medium saucepan along with all of the other ingredients. Cook these on a low heat for about 15 minutes or until the apples start to soften. Add the softened apples on top of your batter in the tin, creating a second layer.

4. To make the topping: mix the flour, baking powder, and sugar in a medium bowl. Using your hands, rub in the butter until you get a breadcrumb texture. I also added a bit more cinnamon and about a spoonful of brown sugar to my topping for a bit of extra flavor. Sprinkle the topping onto the apples to create a third layer.

5. Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden on top. Allow the crumble to cool to try and get a better slice from in, or you can be like me and dig in while it’s still warm! It may not look as pretty, but it tastes amazing warm with a side of vanilla ice cream.

 

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

 

I found this recipe over a year ago and never got around to actually making them.  I love the idea of putting these into cupcake liners so that they’re in equal portions. I had to adjust the recipe a bit, as I found the dough to be a bit too sticky.  I’d also recommend chopping the apples a little rougher, as I completely lost the flavor of them once they baked.

These are great for breakfast or with an afternoon tea. Just beware, because they get quite sticky!

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup (115 grams) butter, room temperature

For the filling:

  • 1/4 cup (115 grams) butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups chopped apples

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • approximately 2 Tablespoons milk

Directions

1. In a heatproof bowl, microwave the milk for 30 seconds, stir, then heat for another 30 seconds making sure the milk doesn’t boil. Remove from the microwave and let sit for a few seconds to cool enough that you could dip your finger in it.

2. In a large bowl, or the bowl of your mixer, mix the yeast and sugar. Add in the milk and continue to stir until everything dissolves. At the salt and 2 cups of flour and beat for two minutes.

3. Beat in the eggs and butter. Once they are combined, add in the flour a 1/2 cup at a time, making sure everything’s incorporated before adding the next part. Once all the flour is in, knead the dough for about 5 minutes.

4. Coat a large bowl with a thin layer of cooking oil. Then place the kneaded dough, cover, and set in a warm place to rise for about 40 minutes, or until it is doubled in size.

5. While the dough is rising, mix all of the ingredients for the filling except for the butter in a small bowl.

6. Dust your work surface with flour, then roll out your dough into a rectangle until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Brush the top of the dough with the melted butter (reserving a bit for later), then sprinkle the filling mixture over the top, leaving about an inch of empty space around all the edges. Gently press the topping into the dough a bit so that it doesn’t move around when you roll it up.

7. Roll the dough into a log, beginning at the long edge of the rectangle. Then slice the log into 24 pieces. Place each slice into a cupcake tin with cupcake liners in each well, folding the edges together into a ‘C’ shape. Cover with a clean towel and set to rise in a warm place for another 40 minutes.

8. Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Brush the tops of each of the rolls with melted butter, then place in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops are golden.

9. Let the rolls cool before coating with a glaze made from icing sugar and milk.