Life is funny, nothing ever stays the same. Friends, please forgive me for getting all sentimental and philosophical on you, but this time of year brings back lovely memories for me. It doesn’t seem so long ago that by mid-October every year my boys and I would spend hours planning their costumes for Halloween, who they would walk the neighborhood with, and which candy I should buy to give out to the local revelers. But things have changed, my boys have moved on to begin their own lives, and my husband and I have been left here to celebrate Halloween alone, just us and a few bags of mini Snickers bars. I know, so sad.
In fact, things have gotten so bad that the local children will not even walk up my long, steep driveway for a measly mini candy bar anymore. In recent years I’ve had to go stand at the bottom of the driveway with “full sized” candy bars if I wanted to see any action.
Halloween is also that time of year when I can use pumpkin with reckless abandon. I love to use it in muffins, cookies, cakes and pies, and I really can’t understand why it’s not popular all year round. One of my fall favorites is this Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze. The cake part is mildly flavored with those traditional autumn spices, and the streusel filling is a perfect little surprise in the middle of the cake. What could be bad about pumpkin, nuts and chocolate.
So, one last thing. Do you think it would be weird if I asked my 25 year-old son to let me dress him up as a Power Ranger so we could go house to house trick-or-treating together? I’m just kidding, kinda’.
Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze
Adapted from “Very Best Baking”
- 2/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup pure pumpkin (15 ounce can Libby’s brand)
- 1 – 8 ounce container sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 – 3 tablespoons milk
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and using melted butter and a pastry brush, brush the insides of the bundt pan with butter and lightly flour the pan, tapping out the excess flour.
- To make the Streusel: lightly toast your walnuts in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Constantly stir so they don’t burn. Toast just until they become fragrant. Allow to cool. Toss walnuts, cinnamon, brown sugar and mini chips in a medium bowl until all ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.
- For the cake batter, sift the flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl, and stir with a whisk to incorporate all ingredients.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin, sour cream and vanilla and mix well. With the mixer on medium-low, gradually add the flour mixture.
- Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Spoon the streusel topping over the batter but don’t allow the topping to touch the sides of the pan. You can choose to only use the streusel inside the cake, or you can also sprinkle some streusel on top of the cake also. Spoon the remaining batter on top making sure the batter layer touches the edge of the pan.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes then turn out to a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely before you top with the glaze.
- To make the glaze: Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder into a medium sized bowl. Add the vanilla. Add the milk a spoon at a time and whisk until you have the desired drizzling consistency.
Be sure to use the size egg that any recipe calls for when baking. If a recipe calls for “large eggs”, don’t use extra large eggs as it will definitely effect the final product.
You could also use mini bundt pans to make this cake. Just make sure you adjust the baking time accordingly.
The mini paper bundt pans used in this post were purchased from Cost Plus World Market.
Ooooh mama, look what I got in the mail today! If you follow my blog then you know I recently featured a posting for an almond pear cake. Apparently someone at Frog Hollow Farm saw that posting and realized that I must be a serious pear lover, and offered to send me a box of their pears. Well Mama never turns down offers of food.
It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon and the husband and I haven’t eaten lunch yet, so I’m thinking grilled cheese and pears because it’s a perfect combination. I always have arugula and pecans on hand so this is pretty much a done deal. It’s buttery, it’s creamy, it’s sweet, it’s crunchy…do I have your attention yet???
I really want to thank the folks at Frog Hollow Farm because these were probably the best pears I ever had, and I’m not just saying that. These particular pears that they sent were called Warren Pears, and they were sweet and juicy and devoid of that grittiness that pears can sometime have. If you’re a pear lover like me, then I would recommend you check them out.
Grilled Brie & Pear Sandwich
- 4 slices of bread – I chose a hearty multi grain variety
- 1 firm, ripe pear – any variety
- small wedge of brie, cut into 1/8″ slices
- handful of fresh arugula
- handful of toasted pecans
- 1/2 stick butter, at room temperature
- Using a mandolin on the larger setting, slice your pears and with a sharp knife, slice out the core and seeds.
- Butter the four slices of bread making sure you cover every square inch of bread with butter to insure perfect toastiness. Layer a bread slice with the arugula and pecans, several pear slices, and the brie. Then place the second bread slice on top.
- Heat a cast iron skillet to medium and place the sandwich in the pan. Let the sandwich get a nice sear on it, then cover the pan with a lid to allow the cheese to melt better. When the sandwich is golden on the first side. Flip it over until it browns on the other side.
Makes 2, darn good sandwiches
I just couldn’t get enough of these scrumptious pears, so I sliced some up on the thinner setting of the mandolin and made some pear chips to serve along with our sandwiches. However, to really savor the loveliness of this fruit, one should just eat it in it’s natural state!
It’s September, and son #2 is out of the house again living the high-life as a student in Santa Barbara where he’s studying to be an EMT. It’s a hard program, so let’s all pool our positive thoughts together and send them in his direction. Thanks guys! Anyway, he’s been up there about a month, but he’s coming home this Sunday and we’ve decided to have a little brunch in his honor…cause his mama misses him so much! My parents are coming over, because they too miss him a great deal, and his big brother, son #1 is coming, but he won’t admit how much he misses his younger brother. Ah, kids!
I’m preparing all his favorites; homemade waffles, fresh fruit and crispy bacon. He has requested that I bake this Chocolate Chip Cornbread which he likes toasted and topped with a big slab of butter. I’ve made cornbread a million different ways, but I particularly like this one for breakfast because it’s a little bit sweet and a little bit savory. If you can, it’s a treat to serve it right out of the oven.
Chocolate Chip Cornbread
From Bon Appetit
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 3/4 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- Place the oven rack in the middle position, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9″ x 5″ metal loaf pan with cooking spray, or you can use mini loaf pans or muffins tins if you wish. Just adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the milk, oil and eggs. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir just until all the ingredients are incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).
- Bake the cornbread until the top starts to turn a little golden, and when a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. For the 9″ x 5″ pan, bake about 35 minutes. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. The cornbread is best served warm with a little butter.
As with all batters, mix this one just until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix.
Southern Californians are a funny lot. No matter how cold it gets, and for the past two weeks it has been very cold, Southern Californians will wear shorts and flip-flops no matter what. I noticed this strange phenomenon yesterday as I was shopping at an outdoor mall. Me, bundled in a winter coat and scarf, and everyone else lollygagging about in their Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts and sundresses. I really admire their spirit, and for some folks it really is an endless summer. And why not. Maybe it’s the thin, east-coast blood that runs through my veins, but I was headed home to have a big bowl of chili and these homemade corn muffins. I was embracing the brisk winter weather with some down-home comfort food.
Anyway, son #1 had given me the Bouchon Bakery cookbook for a gift and I was anxious to try out some of the recipes. What I like most about the book is that it’s recipes are written in both cups and grams. As a gal whose obsession is baking, naturally I prefer gram measurements. Why, because baking is a science and grams are a precise measurement. When you weigh your ingredients your chances of a successful end product are almost guaranteed. Even if you’re just an occasional baker, I highly recommend you get yourself a digital food scale. You know I would never steer you wrong.
Thomas Keller explains in the book that the reason for allowing your batter to sit overnight is for the purpose of hydrating the flour. When the mixture absorbs the liquid ingredients, the result is a very moist corn muffin.
From Thomas Keller Bouchon Bakery
- 1 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons (201 grams) all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (51 grams) cornmeal
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (12 grams) baking powder
- 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons (135 grams) sugar
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2/3 cup (168 grams) whole milk
- 2 large eggs (90 grams)
- 1/4 cup + 2 1/2 tablespoons (90 grams) canola oil
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (72 grams) frozen corn kernels
* If you do not have a scale to weigh out the eggs, take your 2 large eggs and lightly beat them in a bowl and then remove about 1 teaspoon and that will be about 90 grams.
- Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sift in the cornmeal and baking powder. Add the sugar and salt and mix on the lowest setting for about 15 seconds to combine. Add the milk and eggs and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, just until combined. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the oil, then increase the speed to medium-low and mix for about 30 seconds to combine.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate all the dry ingredients that may be stuck to the bottom. Fold in the corn. For best results, transfer the batter to a covered container and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with liners. Lightly spray the liners with nonstick spray. Spoon the batter into the cups about 3/4 full.
- Place the pan in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F, and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until muffins are lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When done, place the pan on a cooling rack and cool muffins completely.
Makes 12 standard size muffins
So, I’ve told you that son #1 is a professional chef, and the guy works all the time. Being in the restaurant business he never has a weekend off, and I suppose that just goes with the territory. Lucky for him he really loves his job. He did however have off the other day and decided to invite his buddies over to watch some football. They were just going to order some pizzas and drink beer, typical guy stuff. Now me, being the hovering mother that I am, felt it necessary to offer these guys a healthy snack. They’re grown men actually, and I probably should have just minded my own business, but I just couldn’t help myself.
I decided to make these zucchini fries for them. I think they’re the perfect snack for sitting around and watching football, all crispy and crunchy. It was just kind of funny when I walked into the family room holding a tray of these and said”hey guys, how about some zucchini!”, they all just looked up at me with this look on their faces like, yay, zucchini…
However, when I returned about an hour later, the tray was empty. Mom’s always right. I’m just sayin’…
- 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- ground black pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups panko or plain breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the zucchini into french fry size sticks about 3″ long.
- Arrange 3 shallow bowls or pie plates in a row. In the first bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In the second bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. In the third bowl, combine the panko, parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Working in batches, first dip the zucchini in the flour, shaking of the excess. Transfer to the egg mixture and toss until coated. Let the excess egg run off, then coat the zucchini in the panko mixture.
- Arrange zucchini, without crowding, in a single layer on the prepared pans. Bake for 15 minutes and then rotate the pans. Continue baking until panko coating is golden and crisp, 7-12 minutes more.
- Serve right from the oven.
The first thing I did when I got off the plane on my most recent trip to Philadelphia, was high-tail it to the soft pretzel vendor right there in the airport. My husband Neil and I hadn’t eaten on the cross-country flight, and the two of us had been contemplating biting into a soft, chewy Philly pretzel. We were not disappointed.
It’s funny how different cities are known for certain foods. New Orleans is known for muffulettas, Chicago made famous the deep-dish pizza, and New York is credited with inventing the egg cream. And Philadelphia, well Philadelphia is not just known for its cheesesteaks and hoagies, but also for the soft pretzel. (Nothing low-calorie comes out of Philly.) It’s tradition in Philadelphia to eat your pretzel with mustard, so that’s how I do it.
When I returned to Los Angeles, I was still having pretzel cravings. So, I decided to pull out one of my favorite recipes and make the family a batch of homemade pretzels. They were not disappointed.
From Cooking Light , October 2005
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees F)
- 3 cups plus 1/4 cup all purpose flour – divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- cooking spray
- 6 cups water
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- cornmeal for sprinkling
- 1 large egg
- kosher salt