Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two duds in a row

I must be losing my touch: two duds in a row. The first was an attempt to create something called "Cinnamon Caramel Bundt Cake." I made up the name for a treat to be consumed by characters in my novel in progress. Future plans include posting recipes for foods from the book on an author website someday--assuming I get a publishing deal and create a website--and I've begun the mess-around-in-the-kitchen stage.

CCBC was supposed to be a pound-cakey kind of a thing, with some brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans layered in. Don't know what I did wrong, but for starters using a half-recipe seems to be a terrible idea with the KitchenAid mixer. I think it's just too small a quantity to process well, and the batter gets overworked. It's also possible that my baking powder has lost its umph. It's not near the expiration date yet, but the tin has been open for a while. The cake is okay -- hard to go wrong with butter, brown sugar, eggs, and flour -- but the flavor's a bit flat and the cake is, too. Hasn't stopped me from enjoying some with my coffee in the morning, but it's nothing to be proud of.

The pumpkin cake turned out a little better, but also didn't rise well , which lends credence to the wimpy baking powder theory. I followed my recent pumpkin muffin recipe, omitting the raisins and struedel topping and -- where I went wrong -- tossed in some no-longer-all-that-fresh pineapple that was in the fridge. Which threw the moisture ratio way off. So, that one's a little damp and dense. Tasty, and good for breakfast (pumpkin, organic eggs, whole wheat pastry flour, oat bran, yogurt, pecans, unsweetened coconut, pineapple... the only not very healthy thing about it is the light brown sugar). But a long way from a baking triumph.

The nice thing about baking is that so long as you don't mess up something truly crucial (like confusing salt for sugar), even the duds are edible.

I think I'll give up on the CCBC, though. It's occurred to me that I could hold a reader contest and get other bakers to send in their recipes, and pick the best one to post on my future author website. That's the mark of a master, right? To get someone else to do the work?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins

It looks like we're moving (again) in late May or early June. Only to the other side of town, but still, moving is always a hassle. It's a great house, though, and I wish I could move in tomorrow... instead we're hanging around waiting to hear from the owner when his current tenant will be out (still not certain) so we can set a definite move date and sign a lease.

It's a little too soon to start packing things up in boxes, but I've begun to look at my pantry and freezer with an eye to eating up as much as possible before then. Every frozen pea we don't consume before the move is gonna add to a cooler full of stuff to be hauled across town.

One item found in the pantry: a large can of pumpkin puree (the two-pie size). Making these muffins only used up some of it. In other words, I turned one can in the pantry into a batch of muffins and two 1-cup containers in the freezer, which feels like one step forward and two steps back on the "use it up" road. That's okay, 'cause these are yummy and I won't mind at all making them again two more times before we go. They're as delicious as cake, but a bit more healthy.

Pumkpin Muffins
Loosely based on the Apple-Zucchini Muffin recipe in Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. (makes one dozen)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 12-muffin tin with fluted paper cups. Mix up the Streusel Topping (at end of post) and set aside, ready to go.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together or mix up well with a fork:
1-1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 C oat bran
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Stir in:
1/2 C chopped pecans (or 1/2 C pecans, chopped, either way; it matters in some recipes, but not this one)
1/2 C golden raisins
1/4 finely shredded unsweetened coconut
Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the following and blend well:
2 eggs
1/2 C yogurt
1/4 C safflower oil
3/4 C light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C pumpkin puree

Scrape the wet stuff into the bowl with dry ingredients, and stir to combine (briefly with a fork, then with a rubber spatula to make sure the dry stuff at the bottom is all mixed in).

Spoon batter into muffin cups (they will be full) and top with Struesel topping (below).

Bake for 35 minutes or until done, rotating pan half-way through cooking time. Cool in pan on a rack for a few minutes, then remove muffins from pan and allow to cool to room temp on rack. (If you don't wait for the muffins to cool, they'll fall apart when you try to peel off the paper liners. Guess how I know.)

1/3 C all purpose flour
2 T cold, unsalted butter
2 T brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 C chopped pecans
2 T finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients in bowl of a mini-food processor and pulse to combine well.
I've been eating these for breakfast the past couple of days. My husband (a die-hard oatmeal fan in the breakfast department) thinks they make a fine dessert. If dessert's your plan from the get-go, I suggest you skip the topping and go with a cream-cheese frosting instead.