All Things Fall

November 11, 2009

vibrantcolor

As fall comes around, I start to get really excited about the apples and pumpkin just waiting to be baked.  I dream of pumpkin pies, apple crisps, and other classic desserts.  I also start school, which makes it very difficult to transform any of these dreams into reality.  I went apple picking a total of zero times this fall, and didn’t even have time to carve a pumpkin.

swirl2 swirl1

However, I have diligently squeezed in time to make a few fall-themed goodies.  I am a pumpkin lover (we have about 4 giant cans in our pantry right now), so I will add pumpkin to everything!  My first experiment was chocolate pumpkin cream cheese swirl muffins.  Whew, that’s a mouthful.  I actually made these low-fat, and was not one-hundred percent happy with the texture.  They were a tiny bit dry.  I think adding more pumpkin (or more fat, if you want to) would easily solve this.  The taste, on the other hand, was delicious, and they looked so pretty!

pumpkinbutter

I also made some pumpkin butter, which was delicious.  I love Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter, but homemade is convenient, easy, and less expensive.  Those are three solid reasons to make your own.  My absolute favorite way to eat this is spread on top of cream cheese on a bagel, which makes me think that a pumpkin butter cheesecake would be spectacular.  Does that exist?  I’m actually considering taking a block of cream cheese and just whipping it together with some pumpkin butter to make an easy spread for bagels.  Mmmm.

catinterference Clearly I’m not the only one who liked this pumpkin butter…

cake

My mom’s birthday is at the end of October, so in the spirit of fall I baked a pumpkin apple bundt cake.  There was not much sugar in this cake, making it taste very similar to a quick bread.  The ten tablespoons of butter made it literally melt in your mouth.  Its smooth, velvety texture was perfect.  However, if I’m using that much butter in something in the future, I’d rather make cookies!  And, baking this cake made me realize that owning a bundt pan would render a much more aesthetically pleasing finished product!  Note to self: add to Christmas list.  Regardless, the birthday was a lot of fun.  My aunt, cousin, and grandma all were up to visit (a rare thing!), and we had a good time talking, eating, and opening presents.  I gave my mom a half-finished sweater.  Pictures will be posted, promise, if I ever finish it!

cakecandles

cake close

My final pumpkin creation I have to share with you (well, final for this post, I make no promises for the future) is baked pumpkin cranberry apple oatmeal. Mmm, Thanksgiving in a bowl.  I feel like oatmeal, granola, and muesli recipes are infiltrating the blogosphere.  Actually, I just read an interesting article at Just Making Noise which talks about the dangers and lack of nourishment processed cereal provides.  I’m a bit skeptical about the article’s accuracy, but it makes a good point regardless; starting your day off with processed sugar and high sodium levels is not the cleverest move. (Of course, I say that while I ate leftovers of the above pumpkin apple cake for breakfast… I’m a hypocrite, I admit it!)  All in all, making your own cereal is a good idea.  I had never had baked oatmeal before and I liked it.  When it first came out of the oven it was light and puffy and required a lot of cream and milk to be at the moistness of my liking.  However, when we revisited it for dessert it was moist and dense.  I don’t know which I liked better!  Who would’ve though oatmeal could morph so magically?! =p

pumpkinoatmeal

I guess I have fit in my fair share of fall baking.  There are so many more things on my list though!  November and December will be insane, with weekends filled with Nutcracker rehearsals and performances.  (Gosh I’m so excited!  I love Nutcracker.  If someone is performing it near you, go!  It’s a terrific holiday tradition and an important fundraiser for struggling ballet companies.)  At least if I’m not baking sweets, I’ll be dancing like them!  One of my roles in the Nutcracker this year is Marzipan.  I’ve never tasted marzipan; I’ve never even seen it in real life.  Come to think of it, I really should make some in the name of character research.  Not just because I love to eat sweets.  Really.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins (low-fat)

Original Cracked Cheesecake Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or more all-purpose four.  Whatever is on hand!)

1/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup pumpkin (I would fool around with adding more)

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup dutch-process cocoa powder

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup powdered sugar

Pinch of salt

Maple syrup to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners. (Note: Paper liners are a pain with low-fat or fat-free muffins.  I’d go with butter of cooking spray)

2. Stir together the flours, sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg, pumpkin, milk, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring sparingly.  Divide batter in half among the two bowls.

3.  Add cocoa powder to one bowl and pumpkin pie spice to the other.  Stir until just combined.

4.  Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and salt with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add maple syrup to taste.  If the mixture gets too runny, add powdered sugar.

5.  Using a small ice cream scoop or cookie dough scooper, add a scoop of chocolate batter to each muffin.  Repeat with the pumpkin batter.  Then drop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture on top.  Swirl each muffin with a knife to marble.

6.  Bake for 20-25 minutes

Makes 12 muffins

Bonus dessert:  If you have extra cream cheese mixture and extra canned pumpkin, mix the two together and bake in a small dish at 350 until it sets somewhat.  You now have a crustless pumpkin pie or a small pumpkiny cheesecake or a custard-like pumpkin pudding.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s good!

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