Pumpkin spice and brown sugar creme brûlée

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A few years ago there was a run on cans of pumpkin at the grocery store. For some reason, it was just gone. I learned my lesson and made sure to stock up on pumpkin well in advance of pumpkin season. So I have a fair amount of pumpkin sitting around, waiting for some baking love. I also have a brûlée torch sitting around, waiting to set sugar in fire. The obvious solution was to make pumpkin creme brûlée.

Creme brûlée is one of those dishes that sounds really difficult because of the fancy name, but is pretty easy to put together. It’s a great dessert for dinner parties, as you can bake and chill the custard ahead of time, and then just caramelize the sugar as people are finishing their dinner.
As the custard baked, I realized that I’d probably be content to bake this just for the smell. Breathing in the spices will make you feel like you’re being enveloped in a warm hug. The spices do not overpower the dish, as so many pumpkin dishes are wont to do. The finished custard is creamy, but light, and the crunchy brown sugar adds a punch of smoky flavor.

Pumpkin spice and brown sugar creme brûlée

Ingredients
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light/golden brown sugar
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups heavy whipping cream
8 tablespoons raw sugar or light/golden brown sugar

Heat 12-15 cups of water in a pot on the stove. Preheat oven to 325°F. Whisk pumpkin, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks and vanilla, then spices and salt. Bring cream just to boil in medium saucepan. Gradually whisk hot cream into pumpkin mixture. (You’re tempering the eggs, or slowly adding the hot cream, so as not to cook the eggs.)

Divide mixture among eight 5×1-inch ramekins*. Divide ramekins between 2 large roasting pans. Add enough hot water to pans to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until custards are just set in center, about 35 minutes. Chill custards until cold, about 6 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

ETA: I found this makes for a better crust- remove custards from the fridge for 30 minutes prior to torching. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon raw sugar over pumpkin custard in each ramekin. Using kitchen torch, melt sugar until deep amber. (Alternatively, use broiler. Place ramekins on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with brown sugar [not raw sugar] and melt directly under broiler until deep amber.) Refrigerate 15 minutes to allow sugar to harden. Allow creme brûlée to sit for 5 minutes before digging in.

*You can use 3 inch diameter ramekins with 1 1/4 inch high sides. Bake for 50 minutes. If you want to make a thicker custard, lower the cooking temperature to 300 degrees and cook for a longer time.

Recipe via Epicurious

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Pumpkin gingersnap ice cream

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After I made a bunch of pumpkin purée yesterday, I realized I didn’t have any freezer bags in the house. Oh. Woe is me. Whatever shall I do with all this pumpkin. The horror.
I didn’t want to do the same old things I usually do: muffins; bread; cupcakes; pie. I then remembered we had a couple quarts of heavy cream in the fridge. Ice cream! I also still have a ton of gingersnaps from when I made pumpkin pie. (Speaking of pie, I know I owe you guys another pie for October. I made a mincemeat pie the other day that was delicious, but not exactly cohesive. So I’m working on it. I won’t make it this weekend, though, because then I’ll eat them all. I’m working on not shoving extra food in my face.)

So, I have a bone to pick with most pumpkin ice cream I’ve had before. It always ends up being heavy, spicy, and one note. Whenever I’ve eaten it by itself, I’ve been left with a coated tongue feeling. Most of the time, now, I won’t eat it without drowning it in hot fudge sauce. As I searched for a recipe, I had hope that I could find a recipe that didn’t have a custard base, (eggs) and that would help with the heavy taste.

Dude, seriously, this is the best pumpkin ice cream I’ve ever had. Like, smack you in the face good. Using the fresh pumpkin helped make the ice cream light and bright. It plays to the sweet and fruity aspects of pumpkin without actually being a fruity ice cream. The cinnamon and ginger add a kick without making it taste overly spicy. The cookies help give the ice cream texture, even after they begin to soften. (You’ll want to use thick, crispy gingersnaps so they won’t immediately disintegrate in the ice cream.)
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“No disintegration!”

Pumpkin gingersnap ice cream

Ingredients
16 oz heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk*
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup fresh pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coarsely crushed gingersnaps

Whisk together all ingredients, except the cookies. Freeze the ice cream mixture in an ice cream maker according to your maker’s directions. (I churned my ice cream for about 17 minutes.) Add the cookies to the ice cream mixture during the last two minutes of churning. Transfer ice cream to a freezer safe container and freeze for at least two hours.

Note: The original recipe calls for straining the ice cream mixture before placing it in the ice cream maker. I didn’t do this and the consistency and texture was just fine.
If you want to get some paper board ice cream containers, I’ve used these with great success.

*You can use lower fat milk, but it will change the consistency of the ice cream depending on the fat content of the milk you use.

Slightly adapted from myrecipes.com

Pumpkin Pie

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This morning began spectacularly! After I got home from the bus stop, I realized I had gone to and from the stop with my fly down. Seriously, my awesomeness is all natural! A friend suggested that it was a classy way to advertise. I’m considering a sign in neon that says, Prime gunt location. Inquire within. That, coupled with all the rain we’re getting from Karen, made it seem like a good day for my next pie month installment. See last week’s installment, here.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with pumpkin pie. While I liked eating it, for a long time I couldn’t figure out what my problem with pumpkin pie was. Was it the texture? Was it the flavor? Was is just years of holiday pie overload and I craved something different? I figured out it was probably a combination of all three. I hated how a regular pastry crust didn’t stand up to the spicy custard. I didn’t like the fact that there wasn’t any texture; it might as well have been a pudding, rather than pie. And while I like the warm, fragrant spices that come with pumpkin pie, I felt like they needed something to accompany them and brighten up each bite.

This pie solves many of those problems. A gingersnap crust adds some texture. It was a bit chewy on the upper edges, in a good way. I was hoping for something more crunchy. But I think that’s going to require adding nuts, which isn’t going to happen. The flavors in the crust did not get in lost in the custard of the pie. Adding the orange zest brightens up the pie, making it taste fresh and light. The added bonus of this pie is that it’s one of the easiest I’ve ever made. The crust can be whirled together in a food processor, (if you don’t have a food processor, you can use the “bang the shit out of it” method with a rolling pin and bag, but it’s harder to get a fine crumb since the gingersnaps are so hard) and all the ingredients for the custard can just be whisked together in one bowl.

Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

Crust
6 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 2 cups crumbs)
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
Zest from one large navel orange
1 ounce unsalted butter, melted (about 2 Tbsp)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place cookies in a large plastic bag and break up cookies with a rolling pin. Place pieces in food processor bowl. Add brown sugar, ginger, and orange zest to work bowl. Run processor to combine and until the cookies are fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse processor until butter is integrated, about 10 pulses.
Place crumbs in a 9 inch pie plate and gently press into the bottom and up the sides. Place pie plate on a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Allow crust to cool for at least 10 minutes on a cooling rack.

A couple notes…
My pie plates are 9.5 inches. I added 1.25 ounces, for a total of 7.25 ounces, to the gingersnaps. (About 3 cups of crumbs.) I added 1/4 tsp brown sugar. You’ll need about 3 1/2 Tbsp of melted butter. Don’t worry. You won’t need to adjust your filling recipe.
I found it’s easier to get the crumbs pressed in and evenly distributed if you drop crumbs in one handful at a time. Start by covering the bottom. Once you’ve pressed the crumbs where you need them, you can drop in your next handful. I spent much less time keeping the crust from breaking using this method.

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Pumpkin pie filling

15-oz can canned solid-pack pumpkin (about 2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Whisk ingredients together and pour into cooled crust. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Cool completely on cooling rack. Store covered in the fridge.

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Tips about your final product
1) Jiggliness
Your pie is still going to jiggle a little when you pull it out of the oven. If it doesn’t, it’s been overcooked. But you also don’t want it to be undercooked, with the custard still looking soupy in the middle. To put it another way: You want it somewhere between a mild Miley twerk and a Beyoncé bootylicious bounce. A Shakira shake is right out.

2) Color
You want your pie to be uniform in color. You’re going for a nice George Hamilton browrange. If it’s still John Boehner orange in the middle, it’s not quite done. (New challenge: work John Boehner into all my pie recipe posts!)

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I’m a fan of whipped cream on my pumpkin pie. Please please PLEASE just make your own whipped cream at home. I understand it’s easy to buy a can, but it’s super easy to make your own whipped cream. Just remember, it’s a 1:1 ratio: 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 Tbsp sugar. (I don’t like my whipped cream too sweet, especially since it’s usually going on something already sweet.) Beat with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form, which should only take a few minutes.

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No peak-ing
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Soft peaks
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Twin peaks
Seriously, if you buy Cool Whip, I will come punch you in the face!

Crust recipe adapted from Alton Brown for Food Network. Filling recipe from Epicurious.

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread pudding

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It’s that time of year! The time to bake everything pumpkin. I can’t think of any other time of year that would be better for making pumpkin treats.

…..November. November would be better.

Really, it boils down to me needing to clean the frozen pumpkin purée out of my freezer before I bring in more pumpkins for new purée.
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Last year I told Mike that this pumpkin bread would make a fantasmic bread pudding. I’ve never met a bread pudding I haven’t liked, and this was no exception. It was soft, without being mushy. The top had a nice crunchy texture from the caramelization of the sugar sprinkled on top just before baking. The chocolate combined well with the pumpkin, but I believe it would have been just as scrumptious without it.

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread pudding

Pumpkin bread recipe, doubled
Make sure you do a really good job buttering your loaf pans. When you think you’ve buttered the pans enough, butter them some more.
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Oh Hannah Hart, you’re so wise.
You may even want to put some parchment on the bottom of the pan. I’ve tried doing butter and flour, and that didn’t stop the massive breakage.
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I made the bread yesterday, so it was all nice and ready to go today. Usually bread pudding is made with old, crusty bread. Since our pumpkin bread is neither old nor crusty, you need to make it crusty so it will absorb all the yummy custard mixture we’re going to pour onto it.

Cut up loaves into 1 inch cubes. Place cubes on baking sheets that have been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until bread feels toasted. Set aside on cooling racks.

Custard

4 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground red (cayenne) pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray.
Place bread cubes in baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips.
Using electric mixer, beat eggs, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups cream and milk. Mix in cinnamon and red pepper. Add cream mixture to bread mixture. Let stand 30 minutes. Gently press on bread to make sure the bread has absorbed the custard.
Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup cream. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Bake pudding until edges are golden and custard is set in center, about 1 hour. Cool pudding slightly.
Adapted from Epicurious

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Clearly, it was awful.

Anniversary cupcakes

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In just a few days, Mike and I will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. I feel really lucky to have married my best friend. I know that may sound cliche, but he really is my best friend. We were friends long before we ever started dating. We could hang out without pretense and just be ourselves. I enjoyed his punny humor and I could make him laugh and relax. We often went to a hole in the wall Chinese restaurant down at Tech. It was sandwiched in between a guitar store and a laundromat, and the food was fast, cheap, and amazing. We can’t remember what it’s called because we always called it Sketchy Chinese. Every once in awhile we’d go drinking together downtown. I made him start falling in love with me because I would sometimes wear overalls to go drinking. Loose pants mean I have room to drink more. *nod* He watched me date a bunch of other guys who were in no way right for me. I watched him pine over other women with whom, for one reason or another, he had no chance. After a couple of false starts trying to date each other and some growing up, we got our shit together by finally realizing we belonged together.

We pretty much knew after a few months of dating that this was it and we wanted to marry each other. So, as it is in my personality to do so, I waited for him to pop the question with a patient and calm spirit. Not once did I ask him to more narrowly define the time table. You see, I absolutely love it when I know really big surprises are coming and I have absolutely no control over what will happen with them. Just. Frickin. Adore. It. So, he finally proposed on an absolutely gorgeous day in May on campus at Virginia Tech. I knew he had the ring, (we had gone down there to pick it up) but he still managed to surprise me. In the middle of the Drillfield, as the bells of Burruss Hall rang out to toll the noon hour, Mike called out my name. I turned to find him on one knee with my gorgeous diamond ring. And in response I yelled, Holy shit!

After seeing Mike’s childhood church in Greensboro, I asked to be married there. I loved the pyramid shape of the sanctuary; its windows let in soft sunlight and brought the outside in with the view of old, towering, leafy trees. Of course that meant a long engagement to allow enough time for long distance planning. Fortunately, one of the easiest points of planning was choosing the bakery for our cakes. Maxie B is a small, yet mighty, bakery, which was recommended to us by my mother-in-law. Not only did they have a delicious version of the wedding cake I wanted, (white cake with raspberry filling and white chocolate buttercream) they had cake that would fit in perfectly with the fact that it was fall for our groom’s cake. Pumpkin chocolate chip with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. I have yet to find anything nearly as good that claims to be the same cake. It is so delicious and rich that you will gladly ride that sugar coma train straight to hell!20130924-204205.jpg
First person to guess what the cake says gets nothing. Well, the glory of winning, but…

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Most awkward cake cutting ever

In honor of our anniversary, I wanted to recreate that delectable groom’s cake.

Pumpkin cupcakes filled with cinnamon chocolate ganache

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Cupcakes
Yield 18

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree. May use mixer with whisk attachment.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
marthastewart.com
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Rachael said, “Look mom, they’re small and sweet, just like me”

Ganache

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Bring whipping cream to a simmer in a saucepan. Pour evenly over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Gently whisk, add cinnamon, and whisk until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Beat chocolate on medium with hand mixer until ganache is light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
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White chocolate cream cheese frosting

1 1/2 packages (12 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ounces fine white chocolate, melted and cooled

Melt white chocolate in the microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar. Mix until combined. Add the vanilla and white chocolate. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.
foodnetwork.com

Assembly

Cut a cone from the center of the cupcake. You can achieve this by running your knife in a circle at an angle.

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Mmmmm, leftovers

Spoon or pipe ganache into the center.
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You will have an easier time piping the ganache with a medium round decorating tip. Place decorating tip at the bottom of the hole and life tip as you squeeze decorating bag. Decorate with frosting.