Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

I love fall and all of it's flavors. It's by far my favorite season, and I'm already salivating at the thought of pork tenderloin with bacon apple and cheddar stuffing that will hit my table at some point this week. Apples, pumpkin, pork, caramel, soups, braising...everything about fall screams comfort to me.

This time of year Trader Joe's releases their cans of organic pumpkin. This stuff is amazing. I have made pumpkin puree from scratch before, but I think this tastes better. The pumpkin has almost of a caramelized type flavor to it that give it extra depth. Apparently others think it's amazing as well because it sells out quickly. So when I walked into the store and they were setting up a brand new tower of the beautiful golden cans, I grabbed 8. Or 9. A lot. I had just used my last can from the year before so it was perfect timing. And 8 or 9 cans will not get me through this year, I full plan on restocking again at least once.

Part of the reason for that is because I make pumpkin bread about once a week during the fall. It freezes great, makes great little thank you gifts (way better than a note!), is easy to throw together, makes a good snack, lunch treat or breakfast and results in a heavenly bread pudding. This is one of those items like bananas that will never go to waste, there is always a use for it.

Pumpkin Bread
(adapted from Bon Apetit)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 cans Trader Joe's organic pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar (if you prefer a very sweet pumpkin bread make this 1 cup)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat over to 350. Spray pans with nonstick cooking spray ( I usually use a combination of 4 mini loaf pans, 1 muffin pan and 2 tin cans (directions below)

Beat pumpkin, brown sugar and sugar in mixer until combined. Gradually beat in oil, then eggs adding on at a time. Sift in baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt, mix until blended.

Add whole wheat flour, mixing until just combined then slowly add buttermilk. Once incorporated add all purpose flour. Once blended add to pans.

Bake until tester comes out clean or with moist crumbs. For me the muffins took about 17 minutes, and the breads about 1/2 and hour.

One of my favorite ways to bake these is in tin cans. Not only is it eco friendly, I remember my grandma doing this to be thrifty long before green was anything more than a color. I love using cooking tips and tricks and recipes from my grandmothers and remembering the wisdom they passed down.

You should have two tin cans laying around after using the pumpkin anyways, so might as well go ahead and use them. Make sure they are the type of can that is coating free. Rinse thoroughly and let dry. Then spray with oil. Fill just under 2/3 full. If you're paranoid about your oven getting dirty (I'm not as mine never stood a chance) place a sheet of aluminum foil underneath just in case the overflow. For me these took a little longer than the mini loaves, I would check every 5 minutes with a tester after 20 minutes.

Now depending on your can opener you may have a rough edge on the can. My can opener doesn't do this (Pampered Chef), so it's not an issue for me, but if yours does you may either want to get a new one since it's cheap and safer, or just file down the sharp edges. Or just not use this method since filing it down sounds like a pain.

The thing I like best about the tin can method is it's a super easy and cute thank you or hostess gift. Either grab some cellophane or one of those clear plastic treat baggies they sell at all the craft stores for parties. Wrap it over the tin can (or slip it in the bag) and tie it with some cute ribbon or raffia, throw on a tag and you're good to go. This would be a great teacher gift around the holidays with a gift card attached.

Salted Caramel Spread

We went apple picking last weekend.

It was wonderful, to head to the mountains and just have a fun day with the family. To say we've been busy is a bit of an understatement so it was a special time to get away and play.

After coming home with several bags of apples (about half of which were Honeycrisp, our fav!) I wanted to make something that would make the apples a bit more indulgent while still eating them raw.

Most people would probably run to the store and buy the caramel dip, but I didn't want to run to the store and I know how easy caramel is to I'd seen the recipe for this salted caramel spread on Pinterest and knew I had to try it.

It was ridiculous, and everything I had hoped it would be. Plus a little goes along way, and it makes a fair amount so I actually still have a whole jar in the fridge. I plan on making several large batches of this around the holidays for teachers, friends, coaches, etc.

The beauty of it is it's versatility. You can use it as a dip for apples and other fruit, to drizzle in hot chocolate, swirled in an apple pie, mixed into buttercream or whipped cream, dotted onto an apple crisp or tossed with freshly popped popcorn. The possibilities are endless.

Salted Caramel Spread
(adapted from Kathrin Koschitzki as featured on Design*Sponge)


1.5 cups sugar
3 1/2 Tablespoons water
2 sticks + 1 Tablespoon butter cut into small pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
Just over 1/2 cup warmed heavy cream but not quite 2/3 cup
2 tablespoons corn syrup


Place sugar, water and corn syrup in saucepan stire to combine then cook on medium low heat until amber in color (this doesn't have to be stressful, golden brownish color is what you're looking for, no thermometer necessary, just DON'T TOUCH IT after the initial mix).

Reduce heat to low and slowly add the butter while stirring. The mixture is VERY hot so be careful while stirring and maybe even step buck as the butter will sizzle some.

Add the salt and cook an additional two minutes.

Remove from heat and slowly stir in the warmed cream. Mix until just combined.

It will initially be more sauce like than spread like, but thickens upon cooling. Let cool a bit and then pour into jars and store in the refrigerator. Mine filled about 3 smaller mason jars.

Cupcakes I've been cooking

Just a few of the cupcakes I've been baking recently.

Double Vanilla Hungry Caterpillar

Double Vanilla for a baby shower

Chocolate mini cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Mini Chocolate Guinness stout cupcakes with Bailey's buttercream