Wednesday, October 19, 2011

spooky pumpkin treat & spiced cream

Lovely October...

windy crisp weather, carved pumpkins, warming spices,
just-zested citrus, luscious cream cheese
and spooky sweets for Halloween.

Yes, sounds like autumn to me.

Celebrate the season with these delish spooky cake creatures simple enough even for the most novice of bakers.

Spooky Pumpkin Orange Cake
with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

yields approximately 15-18 servings

15-ounce can pumpkin
1 Tablespoon orange zest (reserve juice for frosting)
4 eggs
1 and 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1.5 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9 inch baking pan with foil then spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla, orange zest and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth-- do not over mix or cake will become tough. Spread the batter evenly into prepped baking pan. Bake approximately 30 minutes until cooked through. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into rectangles.

To make the frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar, orange juice, vanilla and cinnamon and mix at low speed until combined.

Transfer frosting to a piping bag with a large star tip.

Don't have a piping bag? Fill frosting into a large ziploc bag with a small snip in one corner to "pipe" with.

Pipe 2 rows of 3 star-tipped dots on each cake rectangle.

Finish with two round dark chocolate candies (I found mine in the Central Market bulk section) to act as "spooky eyes."

These guys are actually more cute than spooky but hey, I had to stick with the Halloween theme!

Serve with spiced cider or mulled wine for the perfect after trick-or-treating treat.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

brussels & brown butter

I'm obsessed with brussels sprouts.

Hmm..maybe even more than avocados?
Nah. That's pushing it.

But, I really really like brussels and I could eat 'em like candy.

Not the old fashioned notion of over-boiled sprouts with that gosh-awful olive green color.

But simply roasted, crisp and caramelized. Roasted brussels are ah-may-zing.

Over the years, I've mixed & matched brussels with a few different textural and flavor combos:

...sautéed with pecan butter & orange rind...
...roasted with balsamic syrup & pomegranate...
...broiled with parmesan & chile flakes...

For thanksgiving last year, I paired these delicious green jewels with roasted rutabaga (such a funky root), and an earthy hazelnut brown butter. The flavor combination is rich, silky and elegant-- a perfect autumn snack or holiday table side dish to share.

Roasted Brussels & Rutabaga
with Hazelnut Brown Butter

yields 4 side dish servings

1 pound brussels sprouts, washed, ends trimmed & halved
1 large rutabaga, peeled and diced in 1/2 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh-cracked pepper, as needed
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
zest of 1 lemon
kosher salt to taste

Begin by peeling the outside skin of the rutabaga by running your knife down all sides of the root to remove thick skin. Slice bulb into 1/2 inch thick disks then dice into cubes. Toss diced rutabaga with halved brussels sprouts, olive oil, kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper.

Roast at 400 degrees approximately 45 minutes, tossing once, until caramelized.

Meanwhile, make hazelnut brown butter.

Chop hazelnuts roughly and toast in a pan on medium high heat for approximately 3 minutes until nuts begin to get fragrant. Add butter and a sprinkle of salt to hot pan with nuts (butter will sizzle and bubble), until butter turns a light brown shade. Take off heat immediately so butter will not burn.

Pour hot hazelnut brown butter over roasted vegetables and toss together with a large spoon.

No garnish necessary-- this rustic dish speaks for itself!