New Fall Treats!

After a few days of 70° temperatures with 110% humidity, the weather here in Houston has finally decided to act like November.  You know, kind of on the cool side.  Enough that I can break out my favorite sweater (which I rock in true Colorado style with shorts and flip-flops).  I’m actually headed back to the homeland next week for Thanksgiving, and I’m drooling over the upcoming gastronomical extravaganza.

I don’t know about you readers, but one of the things I love about the food at Thanksgiving is the traditional roles family members fill in making it.  My mom always makes the turkey and stuffing (and quite honestly, most of the other food as well), my aunt makes the mince pie, and me, I make the pecan pie and do a lot of dishes.  Although, since getting married, my wife has taken over the pecan pie making (hers is better).  But since I still love to make desserts, I’m now responsible for the Wednesday night treat.  Last year it was a Cranberry Shortbread Tart, and this year I’ve been tasked with making this Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart.  Oh darn.

Right off the bat, I’m going to preface that this recipe is a bit involved.  But it can be broken out into several stages.  Also, since it needs to chill for at least 4 hours prior to service, it’s a mandatory make-ahead item.  But it’s not all that difficult to make.  I found the biggest pain to be the dead time with the oven.  Do I shut it off?  Leave it on?  You don’t want the oven temp dropping too much, but I don’t want to waste electricity either.  Such problems.

Step 1: The Candied Pumpkin Seeds

These are pretty easy.  Also, pumpkin seeds go by the name “pepitas” if it’s easier to find them that way.  I found these in the bulk dry goods section, where one finds various nuts and grains in dispensing bins.IMG_0846Mix the ingredients together and spread onto some parchment paper.
IMG_0847It’s a little sticky, but not too much trouble.  Then you bake, and they look like this:

IMG_0851Once the sugar hardens, break them into small groups.  I picked up the whole piece of parchment into sort of pouch, and squeezed repeatedly to break them apart.  The hardest part is not eating all of them before you add them to the tart.  These can be stored in an air-tight container up to 24 hours ahead of time.

Step 2: The Crust

The crust is made in the food processor, which is a lot easier than cutting the butter in by hand.  It’s the standard “pulse until resembles coarse meal” deal, and I forgot to take pictures.  But after you put it together, you chill it for 30 minutes before rolling it out.  It’s been awhile since I’ve rolled out pastry dough, and I didn’t do a great job at it.  Even though this recipe doesn’t call for it, I’d recommend you roll it out on wax paper/parchment paper/plastic wrap.  If you are the dough fu master and can roll it out on the “lightly floured surface” they call for, and can lift it into the pan, my hat is off to you.  Mine tore asunder.  But no one was looking (save for the dog), so I just patched it together.  I think it made the crust a bit tough, but that’s why one practices, right?IMG_0852And after baking:IMG_0859

Make sure you dock the crust so it doesn’t puff up too much.

Step 3: The Caramel

Let’s take a look at the ingredients:IMG_0848Butter, brown sugar, bourbon and cream.  What’s not to love?  You melt the butter and sugar, add the cream, and then add the bourbon.  It took longer to make than the recipe called for, but that might also be the stove.  Next time, I would cook it a bit longer, both to get a bit darker color like the recipe showed, and to get a bit better final consistency.  Even after time in the fridge, it was a little soft.  Remember that caramel can be a little tricky.  You don’t want the sugar to burn, but if you overmix, you can end up with a hard, crystalline mess.1D37599C-631E-4215-A044-13254D10C778

I got about a cup of a caramel, and spread about 1/3 of that into the cooled crust:IMG_0862I found the easiest thing to do was to use a combination of spatula and tilting the pan.

Step 4: The Filling

Any filling that starts with cream cheese is ok in my book.35B00D87-61AF-475C-92FA-188FB77D200BYou mix it all together with the paddle attachment and pour into the crust:IMG_0863Then bake until firm and no longer “wet” looking.  It will still jiggle a bit when you shake the pan.IMG_0864

Step 5: Assembly

Phew, hang in there folks, almost there.  Once the filling cools for about an hour, you can assemble the final product.  If needed, heat the caramel in 20 second bursts in the microwave to make it pourable.  Top the filling, and add the pumpkin seeds (if you have any left).IMG_0866And as much as you want it RIGHT NOW, you need to put it back in the fridge for 4-24 hours.  It’ll be worth it.
IMG_0867Just look at that!  It’s definitely a bit different from your average pumpkin pie (not that there’s anything wrong with pumpkin pie).  It’s creamy, rich, and the pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch.  Next time, I would cook the caramel a bit longer, and roll out the crust on something that would allow easier transfer to the pan, but as far a flavor is concerned, it’s a keeper.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Peanut Butter Cupcake Time!

Hello folks,

Last weekend, my lovely wife made several types of cookies to take in to her new coworkers, and it made me realize that I haven’t made any kind of dessert in awhile.  Well, we can’t have that now can we?  Luckily, I usually have a few recipes bookmarked that fall squarely in the “sinful” category.  So without further ado, here are some Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes, courtesy of Annie’s Eats.

I apologize that I don’t have photos of all the steps.  In fact, I have nothing at all for the filling.  It’s been so long since I’ve done this that I’m out of practice.  But here’s the dry ingredients:IMG_0779And the various stages of the cake batter:

IMG_0780Mixing away…

IMG_0783Now we start getting to assembly:

IMG_0784To note, I think that this batter would be stretched to make the 24 claimed.  I made 23.  Of course, maybe I just snitched too much dough.  Don’t worry about filling up the cup all the way.  I just made sure to add enough batter to sort of ooze over the peanut butter ball before baking.

And then we move on to the peanut butter cream cheese frosting.  Yeah.  That’s happening.IMG_0785

To frost, I would use a pastry bag, or a ziplock bag with the corner cut off.  I accidentally cut off too much, so it came out kind of in a blob.  Oh darn.


And here is the finished product.  They were a big hit at work.

They we’re delicious.  Rich and smooth and not too sweet.  Will definitely make again.