Pumpkins galore

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

To celebrate, I surrounded myself up to my ears with pumpkins last week. When I visited Utah for the first time nearly three years ago, I tried pumpkin chocolate bread and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for the first time. I'd never heard of the combination before and I haven't seen it around these parts, so I decided to take it upon myself this year to bake some.

I worked off of Bon Appétit's recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip bread (which they call "loaf cake"):

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread
Yields 12 servings

1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (I used vegetable oil because I ran out of butter)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips (I used giant milk chocolate chips, naturally)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9x5x2 1/2-inch metal loaf pan. Sift first 5 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in sugar, then beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin and vanilla. Beat dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture alternately with milk. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake loaf cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely.

In addition to swapping out the butter for vegetable oil, I ran out of sugar so I used agave nectar, which is a natural sweetener. It comes in liquid form, so it probably changed the recipe a bit, though I used half as much agave nectar as was called for in sugar form (in this case, about 2/3rds a cup of nectar). The loaf came out very moist, not too sweet and very high on pumpkin flavor. Altogether delicious!

Next I baked the cookies ... while trying to live blog The X Factor, so you can imagine how they came out. For these cookies, I used a Food Network recipe, but I didn't read the comments through before using it and fully expected very cookie-like cookies. Instead, this recipe produces sconish cookies. Luckily, I wasn't too surprised because I figured substituting sugar with agave nectar would change the chemistry anyhow.

Pumpkin chocolate chip "cookies"
Yields 60 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet
Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.

Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

Last but not least, I carved pumpkins for the very first time! One I did seriously with a pattern and all and the other, well, you can try to guess who that is. (I kind of made his nose about twice as large as it really is and completely messed up his mouth. Maybe the only thing that I got right was his hair.)

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