Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween: Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing

Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love when the leaves change color, and it starts to get cooler. I also love the baking that begins this time of year. Apples, pears, and especially pumpkin. This is the first of many recipes I plan on making this year. I wanted to make something for Halloween and these pumpkin cookies from The Joy of Baking looked delicious. These cookies are more like little cakes than cookies, light and fluffy. I changed some spices from the original recipe and reduced the sugar a bit. They are very flavorful, and the cream cheese icing is a nice balance with the cookies because it is not too sweet.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup plus 2T light brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil (or other flavorless oil)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree

Cream Cheese Icing:
4 ounces room temperature cream cheese, regular of low fat
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 pure vanilla extract

Halloween sprinkles (optional)

Note: Instead of frosting the cookies, you could add to the batter 1 cup of chopped nuts or 1 cup of chocolate chips.

For the Cookies: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, and salt. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until light and smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the oil, vanilla extract, and pumpkin puree. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Place small mounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. I used a 3T cookie scoop. Bake for about 15 - 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Place small dollops of the frosting on each cookie. Decorate with Halloween sprinkles if desired. Store uniced cookies at room temperature. Store iced cookies in the refrigerator.

For the icing: Beat the cream cheese and butter until combined. Beat in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla until the frosting is soft and creamy.

Makes about 20 cookies

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cinnamon Crumble Apple Pie

I love all things apple, so when my mom's work was hosting an apple pie contest, I knew that i wanted to enter.  I decided to make a version of this pie from  Cinnamon and apples are a classic combination, and I liked that this version was a bit different from a traditional Dutch apple pie.  The crumb topping actually forms a crisp, sugary, cinnamon crust on top.  I thought it was delicious, and so did the customers at my mom's work, who did the voting.

I followed the recipe for the most part, but I did use a different crust.  The crust I use for every pie is Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  It is buttery, flaky, and delicious.  It uses a combination of butter and shortening to give it great flavor and a flaky texture.  It easily comes together in a food processor, and the recipe is easy to double, so you can always freeze half of it to use at another time. 

Cinnamon Crumble Apple Pie

Crust (makes one 9-inch single crust)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose floor
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
  • 2 1/2 T. very cold (or frozen) vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
  • About 1/4 cup ice water
  • 3 1/4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 2 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 T. unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

 To Make the Crust:

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse just to combine the ingredients.  Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse just until they are cut into the flour mixture. Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 3 tablespoons of water.  Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour.  If, after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn't look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water as necessary so the dough will stick together when pinched. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface or between sheets of wax paper.  If working on a floured surface, turn the dough over frequently and keep the counter floured.  Fit the dough into the pie plate, and using a pair of scissors, cut the excess dough to a 1/2 inch overhang.  Fold the dough under itself, so it hangs a bit over the edge.  Flute the edge or use a for to make a decorative edge.

To Make the Filling

 Mix all the ingredients together to coat the apples.

To Make the Topping
Blend first 5 ingredients in processor. Add chilled butter cubes; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles wet sand.
Toss filling to redistribute juices; transfer to crust, mounding in center. Pack topping over and around apples. Bake pie on baking sheet until topping is golden, about 40 minutes (cover top with foil if browning too quickly). Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until apples in center are tender when pierced and filling is bubbling thickly at edges, about 45 minutes longer. Cool until warm, about 1 hour. Serve with ice cream, if desired

Thursday, October 21, 2010

CEiMB: Chicken Pot Pies with Phyllo Crust

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly pick is from Shandy of Pastry Heaven.  She chose for us to make the Chicken Pot Pies from The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life by Ellie Krieger.  I really wanted to try this recipe because instead of the heavy crust that usually accompanies a chicken pot pie (which I do love), this pot pie uses a phyllo dough crust.  Phyllo dough is light and crispy, and typically used in Greek dishes such as spanakopita or baklava.

I must admit, I took a few shortcuts this week, but that is what is so great about Ellie's recipes, they are always adaptable.  Whenever I am making an Ellie recipe, I try to make the most of the ingredients I have on hand because it can get a bit expensive buying special ingredients on a weekly basis.  Fortunately, I had everything on hand for this recipe except the phyllo dough.  Instead of the vegetables called for in the recipe, I used a medley of frozen vegetables from Alexia foods.  It was a combination of roasted red potatoes, carrots, green beans, and onions in a sage broth.  I simply cooked the vegetables as directed on the package, in place of the fresh vegetables, after you cook the chicken, and before you make the broth.  I had frozen peas, so I added them at the end. I didn't have any Parmesan cheese, so I just added some fresh cracked pepper and coarse salt to the top of the phyllo crust.

I quite enjoyed this recipe.  The sauce for the chicken and vegetables wasn't too heavy, and it complimented the light crust really well. I will definitely make this again, I think the recipe lends itself to so many great combinations.  Thanks to Shandy for a great pick, and be sure to check out the blogroll to see what other CEiMB participants did with their pot pies!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

CEiMB: Apple Brown Betty

After a hectic September, and a much needed vacation I am back on track with Craving Ellie in My Belly.  This week's pick is from Jessica of Learning to Love Vegetables.  She chose for us to make the Apple Brown Betty from So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week by Ellie Krieger.  

I had never made an Apple Brown Betty because for some reason the concept of it never seemed that appealing to me.  An Apple Brown Betty is essentially an apple crisp, but instead of an oat and flour crumble topping, the apple mixture is topped with bread crumbs.  So I am glad that this recipe is was chosen this week, and that I belong to a group like this because without it, I probably wouldn't have tried this recipe, and I am really glad that I did. Like most of Ellie's recipes, this was quick and easy to put together.  You simmer the apples in apple cider and brown sugar then place them in a pie plate, top with bread crumbs and nuts (the original recipe called for walnuts, but I used pecans because I like their flavor better than walnuts), and bake in the oven.  

I really enjoyed this.  I liked the fact that the apples were simmered in cider, it gave the dish a wonderful "Fall" feeling, and the dish wasn't overly sweet, which I think is the problem with a lot of desserts.  The sweetness usually overpowers many of the flavors, and this isn't the case with this dish.  I used Honey Crisp apples (my absolute favorite) instead of Golden Delicious. On another note, my dish only took about 25 minutes to bake instead of the 30 minutes called for in the original recipe.  I also doubled the amount of cinnamon called for in the filling because it just didn't seem like enough, and I really love cinnamon, you could smell the dish baking throughout the whole house. I would definitely make this again, and I like the "crust" that the bread crumbs formed on top of the dish.  Next time I would like to mix it up a bit.  I might try it with pears or maybe add some dried cranberries and some orange zest.  So thanks Jessica for a great pick, and be sure to check out the Craving Eliie in My Belly Blogroll to see what other bloggers did with their dish!