caramel pumpkin pie

Bringing desserts to work is awesome. It gives me a chance to bake without wondering what in the world we’re going to do with all this stuff, people come by and say thanks, and I become known as “the girl who brings treats” instead of “the girl whose desk faces the men’s bathroom.”

The disadvantage is that sometimes I only eat just enough of what I bake for quality control. And by quality control, I mean, is this edible? And not, can I taste the caramel in this?

I didn’t detect the caramel in the few bites I had, and neither did the coworkers I accosted in the hallway when they were trying to enjoy their tartlets (pie-lets?) in peace. But we all agreed that it was good, and that’s all that matters.

Janell, who chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Split-Level Pudding
Two years ago: Pumpkin Muffins

fold-over pear torte

You didn’t think I’d miss a week of Tuesdays with Dorie, did you? I’ve been in the group for two and a half years, haven’t missed a week yet, and don’t plan to start now. Being late is, of course, a different story. Being late is what I do.

Although if I’d realized how involved this recipe was, I might have procrastinated enough to be even later – pie crust, peeled and chopped fruit, and a custard that involves a mixer. Having overzealously planned my weekend cooking (as always), I jumped in, rushed, without looking at the recipe, with the kitchen counters covered in dinner dishes.

My measurements were imprecise, my rolling was sloppy. While the tart baked, I shaped over-risen bagel dough, realizing too late that the tart and the bagels needed the same oven at the same time but at very different temperatures. The bagels won and the tart (torte?) was under-browned.

But good nonetheless. Pears and rummy custard and dough are such a great combination. Even if it was a lot of steps. It’s worth it to keep my unbroken record of not skipping a week (although not necessarily being on time).

Cakelaw chose this for TWD and has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart
Two years ago: Lenox Almond Biscotti

double apple bundt

I’m all confused about fall this year. I see bloggers baking with pumpkin. Pioneer Woman is sharing her Thanksgiving recipes. People are planning their Halloween costumes. And I just keep thinking: Isn’t it a little early?

It really isn’t. It’s October, which for years has been my official welcoming of fall. That’s when I accept that summer is over and that it’s time to bundle up, enjoy the leaves, and cook with pumpkin and apples. But in southern New Mexico, fall just means that it isn’t quite so hot all the time. It’s still hot. Just not in the morning.

Tuesdays with Dorie is going to convince me it’s fall even if the weather doesn’t, with a month of apple and pumpkin recipes.  Bundt cake with apple flavor coming from both fresh grated apples and apple butter is enough to make me pretend it’s fall here.  I’ll just close my eyes, enjoy this perfect cake, and imagine I’m surrounded by tall trees with fire-colored leaves.

Lynne chose this and has posted the recipe. I doubled the salt, left out the nuts and raisins, and did some complicated thing (you don’t want to know, trust me) to the glaze to make it caramelly.

One year ago: Cottage Cheese Pufflets
Two years ago: Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

tarte fine

My boss and I both teach a course at the local community college, in addition to our day job. It keeps us busy. Yesterday he said that he’s considered taking semesters off from teaching, but then he wonders what he would do with the extra time.

I’m taking next semester off, and I can tell you all sorts of things I’m going to do with that time. I’m going to work out more. I’m going to brew beer. I’m going to pay attention to my husband in the evenings. I’m going to keep in closer touch with my friends. I’m going to make petits fours again. I’m going to go to bed earlier and buy birthday presents on time and keep my house cleaner. (Okay probably none of that last stuff will happen, because I’ll be too busy making petits fours and brewing beer.)

Until then, thank goodness for easy apple tarts that can be made after a Sunday evening faculty meeting; whose flaky crust and softened apples make for a just reward for going to a work meeting on the weekend, while softening the blow of another rushed week ahead.

Leslie chose this tart for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. In between grading exams and writing blog entries on Sunday, I managed to make my own puff pastry. I’d forgotten how easy it is.

One year ago:  Flaky Apple Turnovers
Two years ago: Crème Brulée

oatmeal breakfast bread

I finally admitted defeat this weekend. For the first time this year, I bought bread. I also bought pre-chopped vegetables, hummus, and pre-washed lettuce. Why do I force myself to do all these things from scratch? Preparing my snacks and lunches for the work week has been seriously cutting into my favorite Sunday activity (sitting outside with a margarita and a book, of course). The only things I’m still making from scratch are hard-boiled eggs and muffins for Dave.

I’m lucky that so far the quick bread chapter in the Tuesdays with Dorie cookbook has been seriously overlooked, so I can double task lunch prep and TWD. (The celebration cake chapter is DONE, which, for me, is cause for celebration.) It also helps that muffins are so easy and bake quickly.

These are a perfect example of why I can’t bring myself to buy muffins. These aren’t perfectly healthy, but they’re certainly better for you than anything storebought – not to mention how sweet and tender and soft they are as well. I’m definitely willing to sacrifice a bit of Sunday margarita time to make muffins like this.

Natalie chose this recipe, and she has it posted on her site. I used raisins for the dried fruit, but these were so perfectly spiced for fall that I wish I’d used dried apples instead.

One year ago: Applesauce Spice Bars
Two years ago: Granola Grabbers

cherry-cherry bread pudding

Seasonal fruit – I like it. I eat the strawberries in the spring and the blueberries in the summer and the apples in the fall and the apples, still, in the winter. I do not eat the apples in the spring. And apparently I shouldn’t eat the cherries in the spring either, because these were the most terrible, tasteless, watery cherries I’ve ever had.

I was vaguely hoping that baking them would concentrate their flavor enough so that they, you know, had some, but no, that just gave me cooked terrible cherries. Poor bread pudding, ruined by bad cherries. I guess I should have gone for the apples after all.

Now the bread pudding part, that I certainly enjoyed. It’s bread, it’s custard – it’s French toast! I’ll make it with the apples in the fall to enjoy this recipe in all its glory.

Elizabeth chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted. I used 1 cup (terrible!) cherries, pitted and halved, in place of the caramelized apples, cherry jam instead of apple butter, and all whole milk rather than a mixture of milk and heavy cream. And I forgot to add a dash of salt to the custard, which I regretted.

One year ago: Mango Bread
Two years ago: Traditional Madeleines

apple muffins

I don’t know why I feel the need to state this every year, but, again, for the record: I am pro New Year’s Resolution. Yes, we all know that you can resolve to make changes any day of the year. So what? New Year’s Day is the official last day of holiday craziness. It’s the perfect day to start thinking about new routines.

Besides, this year, I also moved from the East Coast to the Southwest; from a suburb of one of the country’s largest cities to a very small, very isolated town; from an apartment to a house; from the subtropics to the desert. Dave is starting a new job; I’ll be starting one new job this week, plus interviewing for two others. I didn’t just make a New Year’s resolution; I made a resolution for this new life.

My goal is, in a nutshell, to be perfect. That sounds obtainable, right? More realistically, it’s to be a person I can be proud of. And, yes, part of that, the easier part actually, involves fitness.

Fortunately, eating healthy isn’t a bit challenging when there are recipes like this one. Nothing about these indicates that they’re better for you than most muffins. But with whole wheat pastry flour substituting for half of the flour and applesauce taking the place of some of the fat, they’re downright wholesome. They’re also fluffy and light and delicious.

Muffins = one small step toward a more perfect me! Now I just need to keep it up for ever or so, plus be more productive, creative, organized, active, outgoing, focused, positive, motivated…

Two years ago: Macaroni and Cheese, Banana Cream Pie

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Apple Muffins (from Ellie Krieger)

12-16 muffins

My batter seemed a little too liquidy. Next time I’ll reduce the buttermilk to ½ cup.

The original recipe says it makes 12 muffins, but I had extra batter.

cooking spray
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
¼ cup chopped pecans
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup lowfat buttermilk
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 12-capacity muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the pecans and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the remaining ¾ cup sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in the applesauce and vanilla.

Whisk in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined. Gently stir in the apple chunks.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pecan mixture. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of one of the muffins comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.

all-in-one holiday bundt cake

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When I did my bake-and-send extravaganza last summer, I unintentionally left a few key people out. Namely, our moms, both mine and Dave’s. Oops.

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I did, however, send a box of cookies to my mother-in-law’s sister. Who, of course, called my mother-in-law, mentioned the cookies, and then…I was in trouble. Well, not in trouble, because my mother-in-law is too nice for that, but not not in trouble either.

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So I finally made up for it recently by sending a box of fall-themed treats – molasses cookies, pumpkin biscotti, and this cake. Phew. No longer in the daughter-in-law doghouse.

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This is not a simple cake – we’re talking pumpkin, cranberries, apples, nuts, spices. I thought it smelled a lot like apple cake, but when I was eating it, the flavor of the cranberries stood out the most. It was a good cake – tasty and moist. I enjoyed it, and I hope my mother-in-law did too.

Now perhaps I should consider sending her a thank you note for the birthday present she sent me in August?

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Britin chose this cake for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she will have the recipe posted.  I substituted chestnuts for the pecans.

One year ago: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

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pumpkin yeast bread

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Let’s see, so far this year, I’ve made pumpkin pie, muffins, tea cake, oatmeal, pancakes, cheesecake, cupcakes, risotto, soup, ravioli, scones, chili, and biscotti. Wow, when you put it that way, it’s a little embarrassing. Clearly I can’t leave any categories out, and so – pumpkin yeast bread.

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Truth be told, my mind jumped immediately to French toast when I saw this recipe. Tender pumpkin-tinged bread, sliced thick and dipped in fall-spiced custard, fried in butter until golden, topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. Oh yeah.

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That’s exactly what I got, and it was even better than I’d hoped. Perfect French toast, and I’m also thinking this bread will be fantastic just toasted and topped with butter. Ooh, or with pumpkin butter! Or made into bread pudding! Or heck, just eaten plain, still warm from the oven. I love pumpkin.

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One year ago: European-Style Hearth Bread

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Pumpkin Yeast Bread (from King Arthur Flour via Sugarcrafter)

Makes 2 small loaves

It seems like I had to add quite a bit of flour to this to give it the right consistency. It shouldn’t really be sticky, so don’t be afraid to add more flour if necessary.

4½ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
⅓ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1¾ cups pumpkin
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted and cooled

1. Stand mixer: Mix the flour, yeast, spices, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. In a large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs and whisk in the pumpkin and butter. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the liquid ingredients. Continue mixing on medium-low until the dough is elastic and supple, about 8 minutes. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency – soft but not sticky.

By hand: Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs and whisk in the pumpkin and butter. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients. Stir the mixture until the dough comes together. Transfer it to a floured board or countertop and knead, incorporating as little flour as possible, for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and supple. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency – soft but not sticky.

2. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp dishtowel. Set the dough aside to rise until it has doubled in volume, about 1½ hours.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough in half, then cut each half into three equally sized pieces. Roll each piece into a 10-inch rope.

4. Working with three ropes at a time, place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Braid them together, pinching the ends together and tucking them under the loaf. Repeat with the remaining logs. Set the braids aside, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap or a damp dish towel, to rise for 1 hour; they should look puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.

5. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375°F. Bake the loaves for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center reads 185-195°F. Remove the braids from oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack. Serve them warm or at room temperature.

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cranberry nut dessert

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Sometimes I’m too full of myself for my own good. When I saw this on Jen’s site, I noted that she called it ‘cranberry dessert.’ But, in my hubris, I figured, what the hell, it looks like a cake. I’ll call it a cake and serve it as a cake.

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In retrospect, though, the vague title ‘dessert’ is probably more appropriate. Or maybe cranberry clafoutis? Except with more butter. Cobbler doesn’t quite work because the breading isn’t biscuits.

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Even looking at the photos now, it looks like a cake. The recipe is mixed like a quick bread, so that’s cake-like.

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But somehow, when I was eating it, it seemed more like a fruit dessert, maybe because the ratio of fruit to batter is so high. It was fantastic on its own, but it did cry out for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Next time I won’t deny it.

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One year ago: Lime Meltaways

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Cranberry Nut Dessert (rewritten from Use Real Butter)

Most nuts would work here, but I used lightly toasted almonds and it seemed like a perfect match.

1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup chopped nuts
2 eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
½ teaspoon almond extract

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a pie pan with spray oil.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, cranberries, and nuts. In another bowl, whisk the eggs until broken up, then whisk in the butter and almond extract. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

3. Spread the batter in the prepared pan; bake for 40 minutes or a until toothpick inserted near the center of the pan comes out clean or with a few crumbs hanging onto it. Let the dessert cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

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