Recipe Round-Up: Pumpkin

Pumpkin is one of my favorite things to bake with. I didn’t even know I liked pumpkin until college, when I started trying all the pumpkin baked goods on menus around town. From pumpkin gooey butter cake to pumpkin pancakes… I was hooked. I fell madly in love with a Pumpkin Pie Concrete at the local frozen custard stand too. Imagine a slice of pie blended INTO smooth vanilla frozen custard. Oh how I miss easy access to that great treat!

I stumbled into a Google rabbit hole yesterday and discovered a lot of canned pumpkin is actually not quite what we imagine. Apparently, some brands use a form of squash that is better for canning and baking, but not exactly the standard “pumpkin” we think of. It appears to be a bit contentious whether these squashes should be classified as “pumpkins” or not.

Squash, pumpkin, whatever the right word: I’m digging it. There’s just something so delicious about the texture pumpkin adds to baked goods, and the hint of flavor. Pumpkin itself is actually not that strong of a flavor in baked goods on its own, so spices usually help elevate the flavor profile to the type of taste experience you expect to have. Below are some of my favorite pumpkin recipes I’ve made in the past… and I already have a ton of recipes lined up for this year!

Oh, and if you’re curious about baking with other kinds of squash: I highly recommend it! I loved these Butternut Squash Cupcakes when I tried them, and have been itching to try this Squash and Cheddar Bread for a realllly long time.

My favorite pumpkin recipes (so far!)

20151031_205653Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter Blondies: This is one of my top recipes on Sugarsmith. It’s basically a simple blondie recipe… but with the Trader Joe’s special edition Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter blended into the batter.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars: One of my perennial fall favorites–I break my “don’t repeat” rule for this one. The perfect blend of spices really makes the pumpkin shine.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding: Having people over for a fall-ish brunch? This bread pudding is super simple and really delightful. You can make your own pumpkin spice mix or buy it at the store to save a step.

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Mini Pumpkin Oreo Pies from Just Jenn. This is her picture, because I made these before I even had a baking blog (!!!!)

Mini Pumpkin Oreo Pies: I made this for Thanksgiving a couple years ago and it was a hit! Muffin tins are lined with an Oreo crust, then you pour a pumpkin filling on top. It’s a great blend of chocolate and pumpkin!

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing: The brown butter icing makes these pretty rich, but it’s a great complement to the soft pumpkin cookies below.

Pumpkin Cornbread: If you’re looking for something more savory, this pumpkin cornbread will hit the spot. It’s a really nice accompaniment to stews or you could even eat it for breakfast!

Have pumpkin recipes you think I should add to my baking to-do list? Let me know below!

Web-Hopping vol. 24

It’s a gloomy weekend here in San Francisco. That’s quite alright by me, because I have nowhere to go, and nothing to do! My last couple months were pretty jam-packed, so I decided to lay low this weekend. My plans for the next couple days? Reading, writing, baking, repeat. In other words: it’s gonna be awesome.

Don’t worry, though. I’m not missing out on Halloween entirely. We had a super fun Halloween party yesterday at work and wore costumes all day. My team dressed up as characters from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in a tribute to Gene Wilder. It was loads of fun… but now I have the Oompa Loompa song stuck in my head!

img_2148After work, the whole company headed to a costume contest and Halloween bash. There were some creative nibbles, from Cookie Monster cupcakes to “mummy in a blanket” hot dogs and monster Rice Krispie treats. I’ve been eyeing those monsters on Pinterest for a while, so it was fun to see them come to life!

Now, on to the links! Here are a few favorite food-ish things from the past week:

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From the Butter Baking site

A new cake crush: How beautiful are these cakes? I stumbled on Butter Baking’s site the other day and fell in love with Natasha’s style. Natasha lives in Australia… any Australian readers want to take one for the team, and order a custom cake?

Cream cheese Funfetti bars: The NYT did an awesome piece on Funfetti a couple days ago so I have sprinkles on my mind. Fun fact: Pinterest users ages 25-34 have saved 260% more Funfetti ideas this year! That’s a lotttttta Funfetti.

Apple monkey bread muffins: These easy muffins look like the perfect morning treat. I love that they use apple butter–it’s one of my favorite fall flavors! And since this recipe uses biscuit dough, you don’t even have to worry about yeast.

img_2125Vampire donuts: These vampire donuts totally made my Wednesday morning. Sitting near the marketing team has its perks! They had some leftover supplies, so we all got to make our own spooky treats.

Cherry lime gooey butter bars: I’m a huge fan of gooey butter cake, a St. Louis classic that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Bakers Royale added an awesome fruity twist with this cherry-lime combo.

For many, many more recipe ideas, take a peek at my Pinterest boards.

Web-hopping vol. 24

It’s been a while since I wrote a Web-hopping post, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped adding to my recipe lists! I’m always scheming about baking experiments and I save new recipes pretty much daily. So many recipes, never enough time!

To reintroduce Web-hopping, let’s talk about my favorite baking season: fall. The apples! The pumpkins! The squash! It’s enough to get this baker giddy. In fact, I’ve already started amassing tons of recipes on a dedicated Pinterest board.

As a kid growing up in southern California, “fall” was more of a concept than a reality. It wasn’t until I moved to the Midwest that I truly understood the crisp feel of a fall day, the comfort of warm cider, the seasonal menus. Now that I’m back in California, fall is the season I miss most. Any time we have a crisp San Francisco morning, I flash back to my years in the Midwest and wish I could head down to the farmer’s market for some fresh pumpkin butter, hot cider and apples galore.

Even if I can’t have fall weather, I can certainly have fall flavors. Here are some of the frontrunners for my fall baking season:

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Apple Cinnamon Streusel Pull-Apart Bread from Girl Versus Dough

Apple Cinnamon Streusel Pull-Apart Bread: I love cinnamon streusel and I love soft, pillowy breads – so this recipe looks like a winner! I think I’ll bring this to work on a Monday, to make Monday morning just a little sweeter.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Salted Caramel Icing: These make me nostalgic for the brunch potlucks I used to host when I lived in Chicago. Sadly I don’t have the space to host friends for brunch anymore, but maybe I can convince a friend to host and bring all the goodies! I love this combo of pumpkin and caramel, and think the salted icing will add a special touch.

Roasted Butternut Squash Cornbread: Butternut squash adds a really unique flavor to baked goods. I’ve made butternut squash cupcakes in the past that were a huge hit. This year I want to incorporate squash into more types of treats, and this cornbread looks like a good place to start.

Apple Blondies: I’m digging the idea of apple chunks in a blondie. These look delightful, and they’re on my radar for fall party treats.

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Pumpkin Brookies from Crazy for Crust

Pumpkin Brookies: I adore a good combo dessert, and I’m really excited about this one! The bottom layer is a pumpkin blondie and the top layer is a brownie. TBD when I make these, but they’re definitely popping up in my kitchen at some point this fall!

Baked Apple Cake with Cinnamon Frosting: This recipe is written in German – but Google Translate can come to our rescue! I’ve made some apple cakes in the past and love how chunks of apple nestle into soft cake layers. This recipe looks especially delicious thanks to its cinnamon frosting.

Bonus round! Here are a few of my favorite fall-tinged recipes from previous years:

Web-Hopping vol. 11

I can almost smell Thanksgiving in the air. The turkey, the stuffing, the apple crisp my mom always makes. My mom does all the cooking and most the baking- I just add 1 more dessert every year. This year I’ve decided to make this Nutella Pumpkin Pie. I’ll let you know how it goes! I have some other Thanksgiving-ish ideas down below, but also a bit of variety from around the web- enjoy!

Bittersweet Chocolate Pumpkin Tart: I love chocolate and pumpkin together, so I considered making this instead of the Nutella Pie listed above… but I’ve already sold the Nutella Pie into my family so it shall remain on our menu this year. Maybe next year for this one….

Spiced Sugar Buns: I bookmark tons of “morning bun” recipes and rarely make them, because as much as I like to think I’ll get to it, I rarely find myself home long enough to make a dough that rises. I have to tackle these soon though because the ‘to bake’ list is piling up!

Pumpkin Butter Caramelized Fig Rugelach: I’ve never made rugelach but if I’m going to start, I might as well try some intriguing fillings, right?

Roasted Garlic Artichoke Bread: A few months ago, a friend posted a picture of delicious-looking artichoke bread from a bakery in Pescadero, a sleepy town about an hour outside of San Francisco. My boyfriend and I trekked to try it, and gobbled it all up. This recipe reminds me of that delicious loaf, so I want to give it a shot.

 

Hot Cocoa as a Flavor: I read that “hot cocoa” is the hot new flavor for packaged products, e.g.  Hot Cocoa Chips Ahoy, hot cocoa gum, etc. I love hot cocoa but fear a lot of these products would taste too artificially sweet!

Pretzel, Peanut Butter Beer Cake: When I saw this, it screamed ‘Super Bowl’ to me. That’s not for a while but it’s never too early to plan a cake strategy, right?

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

I am not a creature of habit when it comes to baking. It’s not because I hate tradition- in fact, I love food-centric traditions. It’s just that there are so many recipes I want to try, and so few chances to try them. So I tend to try something new every time I bake, hoping to cross more things off my rather long “to bake” list.

20151116_000259But: these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars are a notable exception. I first made this recipe in 2013, and the last couple years, I’ve just started to crave them as fall sets in. They’re such a wonderful mix of a comforting, cake-y texture with a great mix of spices, smooth subtle pumpkin, and bits of chocolate in every bite. And they’re really easy to make, too: a classic bar recipe that has you mix the dry ingredients, cream the wetter ingredients, then blend the two together. You can pull these together in about an hour- which means you’re only 60 minutes away from enjoying them right this second!

I brought this batch to work, but I’ve brought them to parties in the past. And then there was that time I brought them to a lecture and passed them out to friends in little baggies. As one does.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

Source: Two Peas and Their Pod

Yield:  1 9×13 pan of bars- I think I ended up with 30 pieces somehow but that just means I wasn’t cutting very evenly! 

Suggested equipment: a mixer 

Total Time: ~1 hour 

Cook Time: ~40 minutes 

I broke the original recipe into a few more detailed steps and wrote my own commentary below.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice (easy to make your own, sample recipe here)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (so set it out a bit before you start to actually make the recipe) 
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Step by Step Directions

Get prepped to bake 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and set aside

Make your dough

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside
  2. With a stand or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth
  3. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined
  4. Add pumpkin puree and mix well. The mixture will look somewhat curdled
  5. Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined
  6. Fold in chocolate chips (I do this part by hand)

Bake your bars 

  1. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan
  2. Bake bars for 35-40 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached
  3. Cool bars completely in pan. Cut into squares and serve

 

Web-Hopping vol. 9

This was a rather busy week for me, but I did manage to squeeze in some culinary explorations: excellent Afghan food one night, a slice of decadent chocolate cake on Wednesday, and a farmer’s market visit earlier this morning. I didn’t manage to bake anything myself, but plan to rectify that situation over the next couple days. In the meantime, I salivated over all the yummy-looking things popping up on my screen- so shall we take a look?

From Floating Kitchen

Salted Thyme Chocolate Chip Cookies: I literally said WOW aloud when I saw this recipe on my Pinterest feed. I love baking with herbs and unexpected flavors, so I’ll definitely need to try this soon.

How to freeze cookie dough: This is a helpful tutorial from Sally’s Baking Addiction about the best ways to freeze cookie dough for later use. It’s a baking best proactive, because it guarantees easy cookies whenever you want them. Of course, this assumes you’d have the self-control to not eat all the frozen dough straight from the freezer.

Sea Salt Sweet Book: This new cookbook about baking with salt caught my eye. Sea salt has been uber popular in the U.S. these last couple years, and it really does impart something special to baked goods.

From The Kitchn

Gilded Dessert Stands: I always want to buy cake stands but don’t let myself because I have nowhere to store such things. Aren’t these pretty, though?

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice: A lot of people buy pumpkin pie spice, but there’s really no need. This recipe shows you how easy it is to make your own by just combining spices you probably already have. I always keep a jar on hand during the fall/winter baking season.

Pumpkin Apple Cinnamon Roll Muffins:  A mouthful to say, but sounds like a rather delicious mouthful. This combines so many of my favorite “fall” flavors in one tasty-sounding bite.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter Blondies

The minute I saw Trader Joe’s was selling Pumpkin Pie Spice cookie butter, I knew I had to bake with it. Cookie Butter has been on a rapid ascent to U.S. popularity over these last couple years, particularly within the crowd that shops at Trader Joe’s. It’s actually not a Trader Joe’s invention: abroad it’s known as “speculoos” and it’s been popular for quite some time. It’s also been sold as Biscoff spread here in the States. But Trader Joe’s definitely gets credit for making cookie butter accessible to more Americans- and for that, I salute them.

Once I had a jar of Pumpkin Pie Spice cookie butter in my 20151031_191932hands, I had an important decision to make. Should I put it into a cookie dough, adding that flavor into the cookie base itself? Or should I stuff it into chocolate chip cookies, like I did with regular cookie butter earlier this year? The answer was clear: I wanted to see what flavor the cookie butter would impart to dough itself. So I turned to my trusted Cookie Butter Blondie recipe from Confessions of a Baking Queen. I’ve made this recipe with regular cookie butter, to great results. I had my winner.

IMG_2754.jpgI followed Elizabeth’s original recipe, only swapping in the new variety of cookie butter. It turns out that putting Pumpkin Pie Spice cookie butter in her recipe is a really, really delicious choice. The flavored spread added a nice touch of pumpkin, along with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Yes, that’s right- unlike many “pumpkin spice” products, this spread does have pumpkin, along with all the spices usually included in “pumpkin spice.” So you get hints of allspice and cloves, pumpkin, plus the gingery taste of the typical cookie butter ingredients. Add that to a blondie base with chocolate chips- and I think you’ll understand why my friends were excited to see these appear at a Halloween party. Another important note about these blondies: they were the first thing I baked in my new apartment’s oven. Monumental, right?!

I plan to make these again very soon, probably to share with coworkers. Trader Joe’s actually sold out of the spread at the store closest to me, and the worker told me they probably won’t restock. So, dear readers, I encourage you to go out right now and seize the day- and seize some Pumpkin Pie Spice cookie butter, too.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter Blondies

Source: Confessions of a Baking Queen, with just a flavor swap 

Yield: One 9×9 pan of blondies (roughly 20 blondies, depending on how you cut) 

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~45 minutes 

Cook Time: ~25 minutes 

I broke the original recipe into a few more detailed steps and wrote my own commentary below. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, at room temp.
  • 1/2 cup Pumpkin Pie Spice cookie butter (if you can’t find any, I implore you to still make this with regular cookie butter!)
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips/ chocolate chunks
  • Sea salt for garnish

Directions

Get prepped to bake 

  1. Melt your butter
  2. Line a 9×9 inch pan with foil, and spray with non-stick cooking spray
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 350F

Make your dough 

  1. Once the butter is cooled, combine it in the mixer with sugar, brown sugar and vanilla
  2. Then, add in the egg and mix until incorporated
  3. Mix in the cookie butter, and set the bowl aside
  4. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt
  5. Add the dry ingredients (flour etc.) into the wet ingredients (butter etc.) and mix
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips (I always do this part by hand so I don’t over-mix the dough) 
  7. Spread the dough into your prepared pan, trying to make it even on top
  8. Sprinkle sea salt lightly over the top of your dough. Just a sprinkle does the trick, you don’t want the entire top covered in salt!

Bake your blondies 

  1. Bake for ~22-27 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine took a little longer so I ended up leaving it in around 25 minutes
  2. Let cool for 30 minutes in the actual pan, then use the foil to remove the blondies from your pan