The Great Pumpkin Pie Cocktail

DSCN2353It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  That is, if you happen to love autumn, as I do.  The leaves are changing colors, it’s cool enough to wear scarves again, and the time is right to watch repetitively It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  Speaking of great pumpkins, have you yet stocked up on all of the cans of pumpkin that you’ll need for the next three months?  If not, I trust that you’re working on it.  While you’re gearing up to make the first of many pumpkin pies, why not really get into the spirit of the season with a little pumpkin pie cocktail?  Yes, please.

This easy-peezy martini has all of the flavor of pumpkin pie and takes a fraction of the time to assemble and serve.  It involves pumpkin, spices, and a milk product, just like the real thing, but with the pleasant additions of Kahlua and butterscotch schnapps.  If you don’t yet have Kahlua and/or butterscotch schnapps on hand, I highly recommend investing in both; they both can be used throughout the holiday season(s) to make any number of festive cocktails.  For now, however, let’s focus on making this liquid pumpkin pie dream a reality.

The Great Pumpkin Pie Cocktail

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients

1.25 oz. Kahlua or another coffee liqueur

1.25 oz. butterscotch schnapps

2 oz. cold milk (any kind)

.75 oz pumpkin puree

1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

dollop of whipped cream (optional, for garnish)

To Make the Cocktail:

Halfway fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.  Atop the ice, ad the Kahlua, butterscotch schnapps, milk, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice.  Gently mix with a spoon to start to incorporate the pumpkin and spices.  Vigorously shake the shaker for 30 seconds.  Pour the contents of the shaker into a martini glass.  If you like, garnish the cocktail with whipped cream.  Enjoy!

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Bourbon-Cherry Hand Pies

DSCN2255How’s your 4th of July party planning coming along?  Are you like me, racking your brain for a clever and patriotic dessert sure to delight the masses?  You can never go wrong with a flag cake made of strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream, because, really, who doesn’t like (nay, love) berries ‘n cream?  However, if you’re looking for something that tackles Americana from a slightly different angle, I think that I may have a solution.

Well… seeing as Americans love pie, bourbon is a distinctly American liquor, and cherries are presently in season, hows about we make a bourbon and cherry pie?  Did you just start playing “Cherry Pie” by Warrant in your head?  I did.  To kick things up a notch, why not make them single-serve hand pies, too?  Yes, please.

I’m a fan of any cherry for the purposes of making pie, but for this go-around, I went with bing cherries.  Their deep crimson color is particularly eye-catching, and they’re not quite as sweet at Rainiers or as tart as pie cherries.  This subdued sweetness wonderfully pairs with the vanilla notes in bourbon.  This pie will turn out like the edible version of a Manhattan.  Very American, indeed.

Bourbon-Cherry Handpies

Makes 6 hand pies

Filling Ingredients:

1.5 lbs bing cherries (or the cherries of your choosing), pitted and halved

3 oz. bourbon

1/3 cup turbinado (raw) sugar

2 Tbs. flour

Crust Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

10 Tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) cold, unsalted butter

1/2 cup buttermilk

Toppings:

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup turbinado (raw) sugar

To Make the Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and butter.  Using either a pastry blender or your fingers, blend the butter into the flour until it’s reduced to pea-sized pieces and the mixture resembles course oatmeal.  Create a small well in the center of the mixture, and add about half of the 1/2 cup of buttermilk.  Using a large spatula, combine the buttermilk and flour mixture.  Continue adding the buttermilk, about 1 Tbs. at a time, until the mixture comes together in a shaggy ball.  You may have to use your hands to get it all to stick together.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To Make the Filling:

In a medium bowl, combine the pitted and halved cherries and the bourbon.  Allow the cherries to soak in the bourbon for at least an hour or, preferably, overnight.  Toss the cherries every once in a while to make sure that they are evenly coated in bourbon.  Just before using, add the 1/3 cup sugar and flour, stirring to combine.  Set aside until ready to use.

To Assemble the Pies:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Roll out the chilled crust dough until about 1/4″ thin.  Using a hand pie mold (I found one for $6 at Target) or a 5″ cookie cutter, cut six circles out of the dough.  Using your finger, wet the perimeter of the circles with water; this will help the pies stay shut when you fold them over.  Fill each pie with 1/4 – 1/3 cup of the pie filling.  Fold over the pie crust, creating a semi-circle.  Use your fingers to pinch and crease the pie closed.

Transfer the hand pies to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Brush each pie with buttermilk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Use a small knife to cut 1″ slits in the top of each pie.  Bake the pies for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow to cool on a baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Apricot Galette

DSCN2240If any fruit can best be described as precocious, it’s got to be the apricot, or at least that’s what its etymological roots claim.  As of late, I’m mildly obsessed with Bon Appetit‘s “Eat Your Words” series, which extrapolates the origins of the names of various foods.  The word “apricot” has the same roots as the word “precocious”, largely due to its ripening earlier in the season than other stone fruits.  In my opinion, apricots’ early maturation couldn’t come soon enough.

All spring, I’ve been taunted by my favorite food blogs, most of whom have been featuring recipes that incorporate the freshest fruits and berries of the season.  This is great, but there’s a catch: most of these bloggers are based in southern California, where fruits ripen substantially earlier that they do up here in Washington.  See my dilemma?  However, my patience has finally paid off with the appearances of the season’s first apricots and cherries at the local farmers markets.  Their most welcome debut could not come soon enough.

Now that the long-awaited apricots are here, what to do with them?  I’m all for snacking on them as-is, though that would likely result in their disappearing in a startling short amount of time.  So as to maximize everyone’s enjoyment of them (and prevent my own raw apricot binge), let’s bake those precocious little treasures up.  Because the lazy days of summer are upon us, what better vessel for a couple of pounds of fresh apricots than a good ol’ lazy pie AKA a galette?  This will be the apricots’ time to shine, so other than a couple of spices and a nice, flaky buttermilk crust, we’ll not be doing much for them, and that’s OK.  Being the early-in-the-season overachievers that they are, I’m sure the apricots can handle it.

Apricot Galette

Serves 8

Crust Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (optional: substitute 1/2 cup all-purpose for 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)

1/4 tsp. salt

10 Tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1/2 cup + 2 Tbs. buttermilk, separated

1 Tbs. raw or granulated sugar

Filling Ingredients:

2 lbs. apricots, pitted and halved

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 Tbs. pure maple syrup

1/3 cup rolled oats

To Make the Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flour(s), salt, and butter.  Using either a pastry blender or your fingers, blend the butter into the flour until it’s reduced to pea-sized pieces and the mixture resembles course oatmeal.  Create a small well in the center of the mixture, and add about half of the 1/2 cup of buttermilk.  Using a large spatula, combine the buttermilk and flour mixture.  Continue adding the buttermilk, about 1 Tbs. at a time, until the mixture comes together in a shaggy ball.  You may have to use your hands to get it all to stick together.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To Make the Filling:

In a small mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, oats, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and cinnamon.  Using a fork, mix all of the ingredients until well-combined.  In a large mixing bowl, add the halved apricots.  Pour the brown sugar mixture into the apricots, and gently stir to coat the apricots in the sugar mixture.  Allow to sit for about ten minutes before filling proceeding.

To Bake the Galette:

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Roll out the chilled dough into a rough circle about 12″-14″ in diameter.  Transfer the rolled-out dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  I suggest using a baking sheet with raised edges that will trap any apricot juices that escape your galette.  Pour the apricot mixture into the center of the dough.  Fold the edges of the dough over the apricots, pinching the creases of the dough and leaving the center of the galette open.  Brush 2 Tbs. over the crust, then sprinkle with either raw or granulated sugar.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown and the apricots are tender.  Allow the galette to cool on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Mini Banana-Maple Bundt

DSCN2224Whether secretly or overtly, everyone kind of likes to be wooed by another.  It’s nice to be wanted, and it’s flattering that another person is willing to put the effort into trying to convince you to like him or her.  The social dance performed during a typical courtship is entertaining to observers, riveting to friends whose advice is sought, and a source of great anxiety to participants.

However, wooing doesn’t always have to be romantic: it can be strictly platonic and still be cause for anxiousness.  For example, if you’re buying a new car, what does the salesman do if not to try to politely (or, sometimes, not) persuade you that this car is absolutely perfect for you and that you’d look so good driving the more expensive convertible option?  When a role changes actors (I’m looking at you, Doctor Who), the burden falls on the newbie to charm audiences into feeling comfortable with the transition and assured that it’s for the better.  The woo-er knows that he has a lot to gain or lose depending on his performance and its reception by the woo-ee.  The woo-ee knows this, too, and gets to feel extra special that it all rides on her decision.  This is starting to sounds a bit like the plots of a number of reality TV competitions, but you get the idea.

In the baking world, it’s no secret that bundt cakes are constantly wanting be wooed.  Wooed out of their pans, that is.  It’s a source of great frustration and aggravation amongst so, so many bakers when you put so much hard work into the preparation of a bundt cake, only to have it rip apart when you try to get it out of the pan.  It’s a cruel joke on the part of your cake.  Sure, it’ll still taste the same, but it’s not nearly as pretty.  So, it needs to be wooed.  Don’t pressure it; just be patient and give it time to cool down.  It’s been in that hot oven for what felt like ages, and it needs to unwind.  When suitable time has passed (for the cake, not for you), ever so gently, flip the pan over.  Don’t beat it (that would be mean); just let it wiggle its way out in its own good time.  And… done.  Your wooing efforts have paid off in the form of one whole, unbroken bundt cake.  Well done.

Mini Banana-Maple Bundt

Adapted from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook

Makes 2-3 miniature bundt cakes

Ingredients:

1 cup cake flour

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

pinch of cloves

1/8 tsp. baking soda

2 egg whites, beaten until fluffy

1 ripe banana, mashed

1/4 cup buttermilk

3 Tbs. vegetable or canola oil

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

2 tsp. orange zest (optional)

To Make the Bundt Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the two egg whites until fluffy.  Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the mashed banana, vanilla extract, oil, maple syrup, buttermilk, and orange zest if using.  Mix until well combined.

In a third mixing bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking soda, and baking powder.  Stir to combine.  Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour all of the wet ingredients except for the beaten egg whites into the well.  Use a spatula to combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Gently fold in the egg whites and, if using, chopped nuts.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured bundt pan, and fill the pan to about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.  Transfer to a cooling rack.  Allow the bundt to cool for at least 20 minutes before inverting.  Be patient, and allow the cake to work its way out on its own.  Garnish with a light dusting of powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Cafe Frangelico

DSCN2145My grandparents are all about being European.  My grandfather, whom my cousins and I call “Opa” (German for “grandfather”) is from Germany, and his wife is from Austria.  Now that they’re retired, they make annual trips to Europe to tour new places and visit familiar ones.  Afternoon cake and coffee is a daily occurrence, not only when they’re abroad, but here in the States, too.  While this routine does mean that any and all afternoon visits are fairly lengthy due to the whole process (table setting, coffee, cake, some more coffee, etc.), the idea itself is a lovely notion.  (Also, Tante, if you happen to read this, I’d like to put in a request for your Black Forest Cake for my birthday.  I’m positive that 23 is not too old for birthday cake.)

The fast pace of everyday American life doesn’t often allow time for such luxuries as afternoon coffee, but, thankfully, that’s what weekends are for.  There are few things I love more than an afternoon gab session with a ladyfriends, and introducing a bit of European-ism to the equation could only serve to improve it.  Just to mix things up, why not invite a friend over for an afternoon get-together, and, rather than the usual beer or glass of wine on the couch, why not try spiked coffee and a slice of cake on the deck?  It’d be a good excuse to be fancy for a while, and what girl doesn’t like to be fancy?

Cafe Frangelico is way, way too simple to make (coffee + liqueur + liqueur + whipped cream) and takes virtually no effort to enjoy.  The additions of Frangelico (an Italian hazelnut liqueur) adds a bit of nutty sweetness, and a topping of real whipped cream (it takes all of 5 minutes to make) curbs some of the bitterness from the coffee.  No need for creamer here!  So chic and so European!  Feel free to bust out your fancy dishes and favorite floral dress for this occasion, too.

Cafe Frangelico

Adapted from Cocktail Mixer

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

1 oz. Frangelico (or other hazelnut liqueur)

1 oz. Kahlua (or other coffee liqueur)

0.5 oz. whipped cream vodka (optional)

strong, hot coffee

whipped cream (for topping)

To Make Cafe Frangelico:

In a mug, combine the Frangelico, Kahlua, and whipped cream vodka (if using).  Top with hot coffee, leaving 1/2″ for the whipped cream.  Top with whipped cream.  Enjoy!

To Make Whipped Cream:

In a large mixing bowl, combine one cup of heavy whipping cream, 2 Tbs. of granulated sugar, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.  Using an electric mixer, whip the cream on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, until you notice bubbles starting to form and the cream beginning to whip up.  Gradually, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and continue to whip the cream just until stiff peaks form and it holds its shape.  Don’t whip it too much, or you’ll end up with butter.  Enjoy!