Monthly Archives: October 2010

Happy Halloween!


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Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Scented Filling

In my last installment of blabbering about organic pumpkin vs. Libby’s, I will provide a visual that will illustrate everything I’ve been trying to explain.

The organic is on the left, Libby’s is on the right. While the Libby’s is thick, creamy, and orange, the organic pumpkin is watery, grainy, and brown/almost green. If you still choose the organic, that’s your prerogative. And it leaves more Libby’s for me!

Just because I’m done talking about pumpkin doesn’t mean I’m done cooking with it.

I admit I had never heard of a whoopie pie until this past year when I was researching popular foods in Montreal (for work… although I sometimes do that for fun). Since then, I feel like I’ve seen them mentioned all over the place (perhaps because now I’m closer to their origins?) and decided I had to try them for myself. And what better flavor to try first than my favorite?

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
(cookies from Serious Eats, filling adapted from Martha Stewart)

For the cookies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together and set aside. In a seperate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and oil together until combined. Add pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.
Use a cookie scoop to drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough about one inch apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cookie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the filling.

For the filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
6 ounces marshmallow fluff (about 3/4 of a jar)
1 tablespoon Grade B maple syrup

Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. add fluff and maple syrup and continue mixing until well combined. Refrigerate before using.

Assembling the Whoopie Pies:
Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature or refrigerated. Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down. Use a small cookie scoop or pastry bag to drop a large (~1 tablespoon) dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

Yield: about 26 finished Whoopie Pies

I made my own marshmallow fluff using this recipe, because I thought it would be interesting. It was fun to make, but definitely needs some tweaking to get it closer to the stuff in a jar. It was just not very sweet and almost tasted soapy? I didn’t notice the off taste in the final product though.

The amount of maple in the filling could also be increased. You could taste it if you really looked for it, but a little more wouldn’t hurt. Grade B is important because it has a richer maple flavor than the more expensive Grade A stuff. And please, don’t use the fake stuff.

I actually made a half recipe of the cookies twice. The first time everything was at room temperature or slightly warm, and by the time I placed the top on the last pie, most of the tops had slid off their base and made a mess of gooey white filling. I stuck them in the refrigerator and they firmed up fine, but looked pretty sloppy, and most of the filling ended up around the edges instead of between the cookies (the best ones are pictured above). I was making these for Brett to take to work, so I decided I needed to make some prettier ones. I refrigerated the filling and a baking sheet so I would have a cold surface to work on. After the second batch of cookies were finished (they’re really easy to put together!) I let them cool completely, then put them in the fridge for about 5 minutes, just to be safe. These turned out much prettier and worthy of taking to work.

I don’t mind eating the practice batch.

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Pumpkin Mystery Solved. Also, Muffins.

My mother-in-law graciously provided me with 4 cans of the highly coveted Libby’s pumpkin last weekend and I couldn’t have been more thankful. I somehow choked down all of the organic cans and I still haven’t found any down here (sold out every time!). So I have been able to fulfill all of my pumpkin desires this week.

This morning while going through my food blog reading ritual, I saw a comment that cracked the “Why is organic pumpkin so different from Libby’s pumpkin?” mystery. Ready for this? It is because they don’t actually use pumpkin, but a squash called the Dickinson Field Squash:

This lil guy is what makes the world go crazy for 3-12 months out of the year.

Libby’s calls it Dickinson Field Pumpkin, and after some Google research it looks like it’s called both. Some people feel duped that its not actually pumpkin and just a squash, but as far as I’m concerned, it is “pumpkin.” This is why when you try to make pumpkin pie out of a traditional carving pumpkin you buy at the store you completely fail. Also I’m sure organic producers do not use this variety either and that’s why theirs is so so bad.

Keep your bright orange-skinned pumpkins carved and outside for the world to enjoy looking at, and keep those not-so-pretty cousins in a can in my pantry.

Now that that’s settled, we can make muffins.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Crumble Muffins
(from Chocolate Therapy found through the Foodbuzz Top 9, and made immediately)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups Libby’s pumpkin
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

To prepare filling: combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl and mix until blended and smooth. Transfer mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Put in the freezer and chill until slightly firm.

To make muffins: In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, salt, and baking soda; whisk to blend. In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Stir in dry ingredients until just incorporated, do not overmix!

To make the crumble topping: Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend, Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.

To assemble muffins: Line muffin tins with paper liners. Fill each muffin well with 1-2 tablespoons of batter. Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. place a slice of the filling into each muffin. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing it on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of crumble topping over each of the muffins. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Yield: 24 muffins

The only thing I did differently from the recipe is I used Sucanat in place of half of the sugar in the muffin, and all of the sugar in the crumble. It’s my first experience with Sucanat, and let me just say, I almost threw the bag away when I smelled it. For some reason this stuff stinks. But it tastes really good, and I thought the molasses flavor would compliment the muffin really well and add some depth, which it did. Oh also, I didn’t wait for the cream cheese to firm in the freezer. Two hours was way too long. It was more like 20 minutes. A little more messy, but workable.

These muffins are reeeeeaallly good. Extremely moist and pumpkiny. Go make them. Now!

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Pumpkin Pancakes

I claim pumpkin to be my favorite food. Usually at this point in the year, I would be completely pumpkin-minded, trying to think of a way to fit the orange goop into every meal. Pumpkin oatmeal with pumpkin granola sprinkled on top for breakfast, chicken salad sandwich on pumpkin bread with pumpkin yogurt on the side for lunch, pumpkin & black bean enchiladas with pumpkin soup for dinner, washed down with a pumpkin beer, and pumpkin pie for dessert. It may turn me orange, but that would be a great day.

However, the Libby’s pumpkin shortage in the past year has really put a damper on my pumpkin loving ability. A whole year without the ability to enjoy or create recipes with pumpkin eventually made me forget about my favorite squash, and my go-to fruit addition became bananas in sweet applications, and butternut squash in all others. As soon as I saw other bloggers start to add pumpkin back to their oats, I looked everywhere for a couple cans of my own. And found nothing. Finally, on September 21 (it was a really important day), I found a stock of the precious cans at Trader Joe’s. There was just one problem…

Organic pumpkin. Blech. How is that a problem, you ask? I would guess that you’ve never tried organic pumpkin before if you are asking that question. For one thing, it’s brown. For another, it’s watery. Finally, its consistency is much more grainy/mealy than the smooth and creamy orange stuff from a Libby’s can. I have no idea why this vast difference exists; my only guess is that Libby’s has a superior method of processing and canning their pumpkin that is either proprietary information, or too expensive for smaller (organic) producers to use. Regardless, there is an obvious difference and in this instance, the cheaper, non-organic product is a much better buy.

Organic aside, bad pumpkin is better than no pumpkin, so I bought three cans that I hoped would hold me over until I could find some Libby’s. I made a batch of pumpkin oatmeal and quickly realized that if I wanted to enjoy these first tastes of pumpkin this season, I would need to use these cans in things that would disguise the texture.

Enter: Pumpkin Pancakes

I first made pancakes without a boxed mix during my senior year of college. The thought of plain pancakes makes my stomach turn a bit (I need strong flavor in the morning) so I added a mashed banana and some chocolate chips to the batter. They were a hit. And so much better than a box. And with pronounceable ingredients.

Last weekend we had a house guest and I wanted to make a nice breakfast. I had about half a can of organic pumpkin leftover from my oatmeal, and thought my pancakes would be a great vessel for getting rid of the less-than-ideal-textured pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 – 3/4 cup pumpkin
1 cup all purpose flour (or 1/2 cup AP flour + 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (this is an estimate. I just poured it in until it looked/smelled spiced)

Beat egg with a whisk. Slowly add milk and melted butter. Mix in pumpkin. Stir in dry ingredients until incorporated – do not overmix! Cook on a non-stick griddle 1-2 minutes/side. Enjoy hot with plenty of real maple syrup.
Yield 10-15 pancakes, depending on what size you make them. They usually provide a delicious breakfast for 3-4 people.

(Pumpkin can be used as an egg-replacer in this recipe, which along with non-dairy milk and Earth Balance would veganize the recipe. I’ve made these with and without eggs, and haven’t really noticed a difference. I like to add them though – more protein!)

The batter – don’t worry if it’s lumpy. It’s better to have lumps than to have tough, overmixed pancakes.

These are pretty big – I got 11 out of the batch. Usually I get 15. They’re ready to flip when the bubbles on the surface pop.

It’s a feeling thing. You’ll get the hang of it. Don’t worry if you experience the first pancake phenomenon.

Hot & yummy pancakes! Don’t skimp on the maple syrup. Or Brett’s favorite – Biscoff spread.

It’s so simple, and with ingredients you already have. You’ll never want to waste your money on boxed pancake mix again!

This was actually the second batch I made – this one just to freeze for future use. Just take them out of the freezer on a busy morning and pop them in the toaster. You’ll also never buy frozen waffles/pancakes again!


Filed under Breakfast, Recipes, Vegetarian