Saturday, October 16, 2010

Monkey Bread

I love having a special breakfast on Saturdays.  I’ve been on a major French toast kick lately, but I didn’t have a chance to make the challah for that this week (now that I know how to make my own challah [post coming soon], I am unwilling to pay $5 for a loaf of it at the store!).  So I was looking through my recipe binder the other night, trying to find a breakfast item that sounded appealing.  This Cook’s Country/Cook’s Illustrated recipe jumped out at me!  Then I saw that it had two 1-hour rises involved.  Hm.  Not ideal for a Saturday morning, but not a complete deal-breaker.  I remembered that Deb at Smitten Kitchen had done one not too long ago, and wondered if hers was quicker, so I went a-looking for it – only to find that she’d used the same recipe!  Well.  I decided to go for it – I printed the recipe back in February 2005, so it had been languishing in my binder for far too long.

I’m so glad I made it – yes, we didn’t get to eat it till 10:30am, but it was WORTH IT.  Mine didn’t rise as much as it was supposed to, but the finished product was scrumptious so I don’t really care. 

I had some leftover cream cheese frosting in the fridge, so instead of making a whole new glaze I just melted that down and stirred some more milk into it – it worked great.  I think next time I make this for just the three of us, I’ll halve the recipe and bake it in my small bundt pan.  It reheats beautifully, but I don't really need this kind of temptation lying around!

Monkey Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze
From Cook’s Illustrated/Cook’s Country, and Smitten Kitchen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pumpkin Oatmeal

It’s pumpkin season again – yay!  I make this year-round, but I make it more in the fall.  It’s so easy and flavorful and healthy.  I usually make a big batch of it early in the week and then reheat it in portions, but it can easily be scaled down.  The best part is that it’s completely customizable – use brown sugar instead of white!  Use maple syrup!  Make it sweeter or less sweet!  Use whole milk instead of skim!  Add more spices!  Add more water!  Whatever floats your boat.  In fact, when I scale it down I frequently don’t measure anything except the liquid and the oatmeal – a big spoonful of pumpkin, a dash of cinnamon, it all works pretty well.

Pumpkin Oatmeal
makes 5-6 servings

4.5 cups water, milk, or combination thereof (I use 3 cups skim milk and 1.5 cups water)
1 15-oz can or about 2 cups of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar

heaping 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
1/8-1/4 tsp allspice
pinch salt

3 cups rolled oats

In a large (4-qt.) saucepan, mix all ingredients except the oatmeal over medium-high heat.  Whisk well to get rid of lumps of cinnamon.  When it’s boiling, add the oatmeal.  Reduce heat to medium or medium low, so the mixture simmers.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes (this will depend on the oats you use and your preference; Old Fashioned Quaker Oats will be done around 5 minutes, but Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats will need at least 10.).  Remove from heat; cover, let sit for 5 minutes.  Serve.

This will firm up significantly as it cools.  I have to add more milk when I reheat it on subsequent days.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting


These are one of my favorite things to make in the fall.  They are so easy and SO good – even people who don’t usually like pumpkin like these!  They can be made into mini cupcakes (like I did here), or standard cupcakes, or baked into an 11”x15” pan and cut into bars, or any number of things.  You only need one bowl. It’s a great recipe.


Pumpkin Cupcakes
Makes 6-7 dozen mini cupcakes or about 3 dozen standard cupcakes or about 20 bars (depending on how big you cut them)

2 cups Bisquick mix

2 cups sugar
1 15-oz can (approx 2 cups) pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs

2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line pans with cupcake liners (no prep needed for 11”x15” pan).  Mix Bisquick and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the other ingredients and mix until batter just comes together.  Pour batter into prepared pans (I use a #60 disher for the mini cupcakes) and bake: 15-20 minutes for mini cupcakes, 25-30 minutes for standard cupcakes, and 45-55 minutes for the 11”x15” pan. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
makes enough to frost all the above cupcakes, with some left over.  Maybe 3 cups?

1 8-oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
approx 1-1/2 lbs powdered sugar
up to 1/4 cup milk, cream, or water
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the cream cheese and butter.  Add the powdered sugar in 2-3 batches (so you don’t end up wearing it), mixing well after each addition.  Add the vanilla, then add the milk in teaspoons until the frosting is the consistency you want.  Pipe or spread it onto the cooled cupcakes.

Confession: when I make bars out of this, I use store-bought cream cheese frosting.  It’s yummy and simple, and I can go from zero to homemade dessert, ready to party, in under 90 minutes.  And I can either eat dinner or get ready to go out while the bars are in the oven.  Magic!

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