pumpkin parmesan biscuits

Not to get all zen on you here but there’s something very meditative about making biscuits.  The whole process is done with your hands and kind of takes you out of whatever’s going on in your life at the moment and makes you focus on forming dough out of some butter and flour and really be in the present as my yoga instructor says.

You start out by using your fingers to rub together cold chunks of butter with some flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and (in this case) parmesan cheese and nutmeg until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

These biscuits are a little extra-special because they involve pumpkin puree.  The pumpkin puree gets whisked together with a little heavy cream.

Then you pour the pumpkin/cream mixture over the flour/butter mixture and you work the dough with your hands until it all holds together.

Next you roll the dough out on a piece of lightly floured wax paper and use biscuit cutters (a round upside-down drinking glass also works in a pinch) to cut the dough.

Place the dough rounds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet about two inches apart and bake until golden for about 15 to 20 minutes.

The results are light and crumbly and comforting: all the things biscuits should be.

Pumpkin-Parmesan Biscuits (from www.foodnetwork.com)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced, plus melted butter for brushing
  • 1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk in 1 tablespoon parmesan. Add the diced butter and work it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Mix the pumpkin and cream in a small bowl and pour over the flour mixture. Mix with your hands or a fork to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle using a floured rolling pin. Cut out biscuits using a 2-inch-round cutter and arrange about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parmesan. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the biscuits cool slightly before serving or cool completely and freeze (see below).

Note:  Let the biscuits cool completely, then freeze in a resealable plastic bag for up to 5 days. To reheat, arrange on a baking sheet, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F until warmed through, about 10 minutes.

the great pumpkin: puree and pepitas

This year I’m planning to make Thanksgiving dinner entirely from scratch– no cans, no prepackaged business, just 100% homemade– prepared from raw ingredients, with my own two hands. I know I can do it because last year I pretty much only opened one can (chili peppers to add a kick to corn pudding). I can totally get by without a can opener this year.

And since it’s pretty much a requirement that pumpkin make an appearance in at least one form or another during Thanksgiving (or in some cases it appears in multiple forms) I spent a little time this past weekend making my own pumpkin puree. It’s simple! All you need is a little bit of time and a good knife.

First you cut off the top of the pumpkin, and then slice it in half down the center. Next you scoop out the seeds (don’t throw them away though! We’re going to need them in a minute.) Then you cut the pumpkin halves in half and place on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes (mine were kind of large so it took closer to an hour). Then walk away and go catch up on your magazine reading or DVR shows while it bakes.

After the pumpkin has finished baking, let it cool until you can handle it and remove the pumpkin flesh from skin using a knife. Place pumpkin pieces in a food processor or use an immersion blender (regular blender with a little water also works as does a potato ricer or potato masher) and pulse until no large chunks remain.

I then bagged it up in one-cup portions in small freezer bags so that I can use it whenever I want throughout the year. Two small pumpkins yields about 8 cups worth.

Now, the seeds! Rinse those beautiful things off to get as much stringy pumpkin removed as possible. Then spread out on a baking sheet to dry for several hours or overnight. (Word to the wise: do not attempt drying with paper towels as I did last year. Pumpkin seeds are very sticky and slimy and will stick to the paper towel like superglue. Not cool.)

Once the pumpkin seeds are dry, toss with a little olive oil and salt and any seasonings you so desire. (I’m a purist and keep it simple with just the olive oil and sea salt.) Then bake for about an hour until they are a nice toasty-shade of light brown and enjoy. Happy Halloween everyone!

Pumpkin Puree (from www.thepioneerwoman.com)

  • 2 whole small pumpkins

Select a couple of small-ish pumpkins. Cut the pumpkin in half. With a spoon or a scoop, scrape out the seeds and pulp from the center. You don’t have to be too thorough with this.

Place all the seeds into a bowl (you can roast them later and make pepitas—see recipe below). Repeat until all the pumpkin pieces are largely free of seeds and pulp.

Place pumpkin pieces on a baking sheet (face up or face down, does not matter) and roast in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until pumpkin is fork-tender. They should be nice and light golden brown when done.

Peel off the skin from the pumpkin pieces until you have a big pile of the stuff. If you have a food processor, throw in a few chunks at a time. A blender will work, too, if you add a little water. Or you can simply mash it up with a potato masher, or move it through a potato ricer, or process it through a food mill. Or you can use an immersion blender if you have one of those.

Pulse the pumpkin until smooth. If it looks too dry, add in a few tablespoons of water during the pulsing to give it the needed moisture. (Note, if the puree is overly watery, you should strain it on cheesecloth or over a fine mesh strainer to get rid of some of the liquid.)

Dump the pureed goodness into a bowl, and continue pureeing until all the pumpkin is done.

You can either use this immediately in whatever pumpkin recipe you’d like, store it in the freezer for later use.

To store in the freezer, spoon about 1 cupful of pumpkin into each plastic storage bag. Seal the bag with just a tiny bit of an opening remaining, then use your hands to flatten out the pumpkin inside the bag and push out the air. Store them in the freezer until you need them.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas) (from www.thepioneerwoman.com)

  • 1 whole pumpkin, gutted
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Any seasonings you want, such as cayenne, curry powder, etc. (optional)

As you gut the pumpkins, keep all the seeds—and guts—in a bowl. Throw them into a colander and rinse them under cold water, pulling away the chunks of pulp as you go.

Spread the rinsed seeds out on a baking sheet and allow the seeds to dry several hours or overnight. And beware: they’re quite sticky/slimy, so don’t place them on paper towels! Just leave them on the baking sheet and they’ll be fine.

When they’re dry preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Drizzle the seeds with a couple teaspoons of olive oil. Use your fingers to toss the seeds around to coat. Then salt and season the seeds to taste.

Bake them for an hour or so, until the seeds are light golden brown.

Pepitas need to be stored in an airtight container if they last beyond the first day.

sage advice: make this pumpkin bread now

I know I’ve made pumpkin bread for you before but I promise you there is room in your recipe book for this version too.  The difference here is I left out chocolate chips and added sage.  The addition of sage made my kitchen smell like Thanksgiving which was an added bonus.

The bread is moist and sweet but the sage gives it a hint of a savory vibe, which in this case is a good thing.  The recipe was meant to be baked into small loaves so that you can have one for yourself and give the rest away to friends.  What lucky friends!

Pumpkin, Sage, and Browned Butter Quick Breads (from “Martha Stewart Living” magazine, also found at www.marthastewart.com)

  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, cut into thin strips, plus more, whole, for garnish
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup solid-pack pumpkin (from one 15-ounce can
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour eight 2 1/2-by-4-inch loaf pans. (The smallest pans I had were 3 1/4-by-5 3/4-inch loaf pans so I buttered and floured four of them and they worked just fine.) Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add sage strips, and cook until butter turns golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.

Whisk together pumpkin, sugar, eggs, and browned butter with sage. Add flour mixture, and whisk until incorporated. Divide mixture evenly among 8 pans. Smooth tops gently using an offset spatula.

Place pans on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until a tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack, and let cool for 15 minutes. Invert pans to remove breads, transfer to wire rack, top sides up, and let cool completely. Garnish with whole sage leaves before serving.

awesome gluten free pumpkin muffins

Yesterday it was sunny and in the 70’s.  I sat in a backyard and enjoyed the sun whilst food grilled behind me.  There was frisbee tossing and cold drinks and small children running around in shorts.  What a difference a day made… today it was gray and in the 40’s.  I had to turn my heat on for the first time in over two weeks!  Boo.  But I also made you some weather-worthy pumpkin muffins that almost make the return to typical spring temps worthwhile.

A few months back, before Thanksgiving, I roasted some pumpkins from my parents garden and pureed them up.  I then conveniently froze the pumpkin puree in one-cup portions so that I could thaw them out whenever I felt like baking up a taste of fall.  (You can certainly use canned pumpkin here, I’m just bragging because my foresight was pretty awesome last November, though it was kind of a pain to puree up the pumpkin to be honest.  Do yourself a favor and buy it canned… unless of course you grow pumpkins in your garden and have a few spare hours next fall.)

These muffins are the perfect antidote to gray days like today.  A little spicey, sweet, and best served warm with butter.

Pumpkin Muffins (adapted slightly from Apple-Pumpkin Muffins recipe from “Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free” by Karen Morgan)

  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • 2 teaspoons guar gum
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • One 15-ounce can solid-pack unsweetened pumpkin (or 1 ½ cups pureed pumpkin)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin cups with paper liners.  (Makes about 18 to 24 muffins.)

In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, including the sugars and spices, and stir with a whisk to blend.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until soft.  Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.  Using an ice-cream scoop, fill the prepared muffin cups three-fourths full with batter and bake for 25 minutes, or until cracked on top and browned on the edges.  A wooden skewer inserted into one of the muffins will come out clean.

it’s the great pumpkin (bread), charlie brown

I’m crazy for pumpkin this time of year.  I’ve already had pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin chocolate chip bars, and pumpkin muffins so far this season so figured it was time to whip up some pumpkin bread, too.

This particular recipe is from good ol’ Betty Crocker’s Cookbook and calls for nuts and raisins but I thought that since chocolate generally makes everything better, why not try adding it here too?

It was an excellent thought to have.  This bread is moist and a little spicy thanks to ground cloves and the chocolate chips made it feel dessert-like but I felt less guilty eating it as dessert because I figure it can’t be too bad for you since pumpkins are technically vegetables, right?  And vegetables are good for you!  For sure.

Last week was freakishly warm for October in the northern Midwest but next week it is looking much cooler which is getting me thinking about my Thanksgiving menu already.  Look for side dish and dessert ideas for Thanksgiving from me in the coming weeks!

Pumpkin Bread (adapted slightly from “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook”)

  • 1 15-ounce can pureed pumpkin
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Mix-ins: Betty Crocker suggests ½ cup coarsely chopped nuts and ½ cup raisins, but I used 1 cup chocolate chips.  Take your pick.

Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9 x 5 x 3 inches with shortening.

Mix pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs in large bowl.  Stir in remaining ingredients except nuts and raisins or chocolate chips.  Stir in nuts and raisins or chocolate chips.  Divide batter evenly between pans.

Bake 8-inch loaves 50 to 60 minutes, 9-inch loaf 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pans on wire rack.

Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack.  Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing.  Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

a chill is in the air

Saturday afternoon I came home to find a pumpkin next to my front door.  Isn’t that sweet?  My upstairs neighbor left it for me and it got me in such a fall spirit I pulled out my fall wreath and put it on the front door and then decided it was high time to do some fall baking.

Fall is for sure my favorite season by far.  Mostly because of the food.  I love all things relating to the squash and root vegetable categories.  And while I am sad to see summer go I am more than happy to welcome back fall and all of the wonderful flavors it brings. 

About a month ago when it was approximately 92 degrees at 10 o’clock at night I came home to find a bat flying in circles in my living room.  Bats do not belong in my living room.  I immediately freaked out and shut myself in my bathroom calculating how long I could survive in there if need be.  Fortunately I had my cell phone with me and was able to call for back-up.  My friend volunteered her boyfriend to remove the bat from my apartment and that he did, ever so calmly.  To thank him I bought him a 6-pack of beer and decided to bake him pumpkin chocolate chip square bars.

Seems like a fair trade, right?  Well, fortunately he seems to think so too.

Pumpkin and chocolate chips compliment each other very well.  I have also used both ingredients in pancakes and muffins and they were equally as tasty.  These bars are dense and sweet with the distinct fall flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and all-spice. 

Makes that hot summer night and the bat seem like a distant memory…

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares (slightly adapted from recipe found at www.marthastewart.com)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice (if you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon each allspice and cloves [all ground])
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

Lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into 24 squares.