Archives for category: Fall

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I could not get through the fall without posting about something or other involving pumpkin now could I?

I remember when, for about a month one fall during college, it was de rigueur in the shared house I lived in to make various versions of milkshakes with pumpkin pie. That’s right. Just toss a slice of pumpkin pie into the blender with your milk, ice cream, and whatever else you wanted whirling around in there. I was not a participant in this particular culinary extracurricular (I may have missed out), but I do like a) eating lots of pumpkin in things this time of year and b) a sense of adventure when it comes to new food combinations.

The following is a simple and not overly sweet recipe for loaf bread (or muffins if you’d prefer) that my mom shared with me earlier this month when I was visiting her in North Carolina. It does not involve pie or ice cream or a blender, but is super easy to make, can employ many substitutions to suit what you have on hand, and makes for a great breakfast spread with a thin layer of peanut butter (but that’s just me).

Instead of olive oil, which my mom’s recipe called for, I made it with coconut oil this time and it turned out great. For the 1/2 cup sugar (the original recipe called for 1 cup, I’ve reduced by half and it’s just right in my opinion), you could use honey, maple syrup, white sugar, brown sugar. This version I made with brown sugar. And as for the spices, up to you. This time I used pumpkin pie spice because it contains ginger and lemon peel in addition to nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. If you’re gluten free I imagine you could use a gf flour here. And next time I’d like to try chopped walnuts or dark chocolate chips. I can’t decide. (Maybe I should just throw it all in a blender.)

I brought the cake into work this morning and it got gobbled up pretty quickly. I managed to snap this pic of it before it was all gone.

[An aside: I’d love to try this recipe from Minimalist Baker for vegan pumpkin bread, with a pumpkin cashew frosting.]

Pumpkin Spice Bread

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c sugar (could be brown sugar, maple syrup, etc.)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp each allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon)
1/2 tsp salt
1 c pumpkin puree
1/2 olive oil (or coconut oil)
1/4 c water
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 c chopped walnuts, optional (or chocolate chips, pecans, cranberries, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a loaf pan or muffin tins. Set aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a separate, large bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and gently combine. (Add the nuts, chocolate chips, etc. at this point if you’re using.) Be careful not to over mix. Transfer to the loaf pan or muffin tins and bake for 45–50 minutes if using a loaf pan; less if muffins (my guess would be 20–25 minutes, just keep your eye on them). They’re done when a thin skewer or toothpick comes out clean. Rest in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Fall and baking go together like birthdays and cupcakes; Brooklyn and BAM; your right and left shoe. Or, turns out, pears and polenta.

As soon as the weather turns crisp I want to be in my kitchen on a Saturday with the oven on, music playing (well, really, NPR Saturday programming), and time on my hands to knead, stir, blend, bake. There’s something comforting and satisfying about making pies, cakes, and muffins using the last of the year’s good local produce.

A few weeks ago I was at a dinner party and my lovely friend served this easy-to-make polenta-pear-olive oil cake. She couldn’t have known, but those are three of my favorite ingredients and the combination was a revelation. I’ve had olive oil cake before, and maybe even cornmeal olive oil cake, but never with the addition of pear. The olive oil produces a crispy crust-like top that provides a satisfying crunch.

The recipe is from Lucy Waverman—”the Melissa Clark of Canada” is how my friends, the dinner party hosts who are from Montreal, described her. She writes a regular column for The Globe and Mail newspaper and I’m happy to have discovered her simple and seasonal recipes!

This is a snap to make and you’re sure to love it. It’s not too sweet to begin with but you could even reduce the sugar a little bit like I did. Would also make great muffins, just reduce the cooking time. Oh and if you don’t want to poach your own pears you can use canned pears and just reduce the canned pear syrup.

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Polenta, Pear & Olive Oil Cake
From Lucy Waverman, The Globe & Mail

For the poached pears

1 cup water
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
1 star anise, broken up, optional
1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
2 pears, peeled, quartered and cored

For the cake

1¼ cup polenta or cornmeal
¾ cup all-purpose flour [I used half whole-wheat flour and half white]
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup honey
1/3 cup sugar [I used 1/4 cup sugar]
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons olive oil

For the poached pears:

Combine water, sugar, honey, star anise and cinnamon stick in a small pot and bring to boil. Add pears. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender and a knife slides in easily. Remove from heat and let cool in poaching liquid. Remove from pot, reserving ½ cup poaching liquid. Chop pears and pat dry with a paper towel.

Preheat oven to 325 F.

For the cake:

Butter and flour a loaf pan and line the base with parchment paper.

Combine polenta, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Reserve.

Cream together butter, honey and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add eggs and yolk one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add reserved flour mixture and mix together until just combined. Stir in olive oil and fold in chopped poached pears.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and remove from pan.

While cake is cooling, reduce reserved pear poaching liquid over medium heat for 5 minutes or until thick and syrupy.

Prick holes in warm cake and brush liberally with syrup.

This time last year I made these: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls and Rustic Harvest Tart.

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It’s not every day you find yourself in Turkey with a group of women enthusiastically willing to teach you how to make börek from scratch. These women—my boyfriend’s sisters—have been making börek for years and roll pastry dough quicker than my eyes can follow. It’s all made by look and feel, muscle memory. Recipe? Measuring implements? Superfluous.

So on the last day of my two-week stay in Turkey, Bülent’s sisters patiently showed us the art of a thirty-one-layer walnut pastry (or, cevizli börek) that their family has made for years. I was told this isn’t a pastry you can buy in shops but more of a family recipe. Sweet and savory börek can be found everywhere in Turkey but this particular kind—imagine baklava but with walnuts not pistachios and no gooey honey, so it’s drier—I never once saw in a bakery.

This is a delicious not-too-sweet pastry but takes a good three hours to make. Like all good pastry, it requires patience and practice to master. I wondered aloud about the possibility of making a vegan version and was met with disapproving and skeptical glances, but I’d like to try it the next time I have the occasion to make this fairly labor-intensive dish. (See photo below, dancing after the pastry finally goes in the oven!)

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Cevizli Börek (Walnut Pastry)

2 eggs
1 c whole milk
1 c vegetable oil
1 tbsp baking powder
4 1/2 – 5 c all-purpose flour plus 1/2 cup for rolling out the dough
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup wheat starch (can substitute corn starch or potato starch)
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
white sugar, for sprinkling (about 1/2 cup)
1 c walnuts, chopped very fine

Equipment
1 normal-sized pie rolling pin
1 thin, long rolling pin (sometimes called a pasta or French rolling pin)

1. Combine the eggs, milk, oil, baking powder, 4 cups of flour, and salt in a bowl. Whisk the ingredients together until they form a dough then, using your hands, knead like bread dough, flipping and turning for about three minutes. Continue adding small amounts of flour until it achieves the desired consistency of a dry, smooth dough that does not stick to your hands. “Until it’s soft like an earlobe,” I was told. Let sit, covered, 10 minutes.

2. Next you want to form small round dumplings from the mound of dough. First, combine the 2/3 cup wheat starch and 1/2 cup flour into a small bowl and set aside; you will use this starch mixture on your hands and on the dough when rolling it out. One by one, pinch off a small amount of dough (about the size of a golf ball) and knead, using the starch mixture, with your fingers to get any lumps or creases out. You should be left with a smooth round ball of dough. Continue making these small round balls until there is no dough left; you need 31 for the recipe, but may end up with more like 35-40.

3. Using the normal thicker rolling pin, roll out each one of the 31 balls into a thin, flat, round layer (like a small pizza), each approx. 7 inches in diameter. Continue to use the starch mixture while rolling out the dough to prevent sticking. When you finish rolling out one layer, sprinkle some of the starch mixture on top. You want to end up with six stacks of this rolled out dough; five stacks consisting of 5 layers and one stack consisting of 6 layers. (= 31)

4. Once you have your six layered stacks you will now roll each of these into a bigger, thinner layer, the size of a pizza pie, using the longer, thinner rolling pin. You do this by applying very gentle but consistent pressure. (See second photo below). First roll out the six-layer round; this will be the bottom layer of the börek. Transfer to the bottom of a buttered round or rectangular baking dish. Then sprinkle melted butter (about 2 tbsp) and a small amount of sugar (2-3 tbsp) on top; continue with the layers like this (always adding the melted butter and sugar in between each layer), so that the six-layer version forms the base, followed by the rest of the stacks of five. In the middle (after three layers) you will add the layer of crushed walnuts in addition to the butter and sugar. There is only this one layer of walnuts.

5. After the final layer, cut the dough into small squares (about 2 x 2 inches), then drizzle the remaining butter on top; place in a preheated 350-degree F oven. It takes about 40 minutes to cook until the top is a golden bronze and the pastry just begins to get crackly or crispy, but not brown. Remove from the oven, let cool a bit before removing from pan. Can be served warm or room temperature. Will keep for days; store like bread (in plastic, or covered with cloth), but do not refrigerate.

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