Sunday, October 28, 2012

baked salmon stuffed with mascarpone spinach




My daughter Kelly came to visit a couple weekends ago.  She signed up and ran a half marathon while here, training for the Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, D.C., which started early this morning.  This will be her first full marathon {26.2 miles}, and as I write this, she's running throughout the streets of D.C.!  I'm dying to know how she's doing! One of her best friends, Kristen, a sorority sister from college, is running the marathon with her.  Kelly's plan, before turning 27 in December, was to run a full marathon, and she is about to achieve her goal!  By the time this post hits my blog today, she will have finished the race, I will be relieved, proud, and ecstatic for her!  We will then begin bracing for the history making storm heading this way later tonight.

I love creating Kelly's favorite foods when she comes by, so decided I would buy some fresh salmon,  one of her favorites, and try a new recipe I had bookmarked several months ago.  I went by Wegman's which has a lovely fresh seafood department, and picked out three beautiful medium red fleshed, wild Pacific Coho Salmon fillets. While all five species of Wild Pacific Salmon have great flavor, Alaskan Coho's wonderful taste and delicate texture, is ranked among the three most popular to eat, along with Chinook and Sockeye.






The baked salmon, stuffed with creamy mascarpone spinach was perfection!  The breading was incredible with the fresh processed crusty French baguette breadcrumbs, and freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.  There are recipes from time to time that I change after creating the first time, but I would not change one thing about this recipe.  This is an outstanding dinner party entree and can be prepped and prepared ahead, so lends itself to a large group.  It's just as easily cut in half, as I did.  The leftovers heated up perfectly, and the flavor was just as exceptional two days later.

To complete the meal, I'll feature Kelly's favorite dessert I created - a simple, yet scrumptious Honey Crisp Apple Crisp in my next post.

Until next time…mangia!  xox

Carol

Marathon Update:  Just before posting my baked salmon recipe, Kelly called elated, "I did it, I did it!!!"  That's my girl!






Baked Salmon Stuffed with Mascarpone Spinach
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.
Serves 8 (recipe can easily be cut in half)

Ingredients:

1 10 ounce size bag of fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone, at room temperature
pinch of ground nutmeg
8 6-8 ounce salmon fillets with skin (each about 1 inch thick)
extra virgin olive oil
2-2/3 cups fresh french baguette breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
salt and ground pepper to taste
fresh herbs or lemon slices for garnish, if desired

Create the Baked Stuffed Salmon:

1) Cook spinach in large pot of boiling water just until wilted, about 30 seconds.  Drain; rinse with cold water. Squeeze spinach dry, then finely chop.  Place in a small bowl.  Mix in cream cheese, mascarpone, and ground nutmeg.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cut one 3/4-inch-deep, 2 1/2-inch-long slit down center of top side of each salmon fillet, forming a pocket for spinach mixture.  Fill each slit with spinach mixture, dividing equally among salmon fillets.  This step can be made up to 4 hours ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.

2) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Brush rimmed baking sheet lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle salmon fillets with salt and pepper to taste.  Mix breadcrumbs, melted butter, and parmigiano-reggiano in medium bowl.  Top each salmon fillet with breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere.  If desired, grind some fresh pepper over top of breadcrumbs.  Place salmon fillets, skin side down, on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake salmon until opaque in center and mascarpone spinach stuffing is hot - depending on fillet size, about 12 - 15 minutes.  If breadcrumbs start to brown too much after the first 10 - 12 minutes, place a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top of them.

3) Transfer to serving plates, garnish if you wish with a fresh herb or lemon, and mangia!!!




Sunday, October 21, 2012

pumpkin mascarpone frosted vanilla bean cupcakes




With my favorite apron tied around my waist, standing in front of my charming, small kitchen island, a lamp brightly lit upon my choice ingredients, I set out to create a special fall signature frosting recipe.    I knew exactly what I wanted, it was just coming up with the correct measurements so it would taste delicious!  As my Italian grandmother taught me, I began adding a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, until my "pumpkin mascarpone whipped frosting" came together!

The warmth of cinnamon and nutmeg, mixed with the creamy mascarpone and pumpkin, created the loveliest, unmistakable fall aroma.  My finger somehow kept making its way into the bowl to taste the delicious mixture, until the proper measurements were achieved.  Fresh whipping cream was then whipped into a large pillow of white, and gently folded into the heavenly pumpkin mascarpone.  A smile came to my face - it was perfect!






I adore adding cinnamon, with its sweet and spicy qualities, into both sweet and savory foods.  I thought it would be an ideal ingredient to feature in this post, since it had an important roll in making  my frosting so divine.

Native to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka,) cinnamon dates back to 2800 B.C.    Today, Saigon cinnamon has become more popular, due to its sweeter, stronger, more flavorful character over the subtler Ceylon cinnamon; although, when you don't want competing flavors, Ceylon is the more recommended choice.  Cinnamon has been found to have many health benefits for diabetics and blood sugar levels.  Its pungent aroma is known to boost brain function and memory levels, as well.  Okay, bring it on for the memory! :)






Obviously, the delicious pumpkin mascarpone frosting needs to top off an incredible base!  Enter my favorite vanilla bean cupcake recipe.  I can't say exactly why, but this cupcake chilled is even more flavorful, if that's possible; therefore, perfect for a frosting that also requests the same cooler conditions.  The floral notes of the vanilla bean cupcake is the ideal pairing with the spicy tones of the pumpkin mascarpone, neither trying to outdo the other.  The cupcake has a tender and delicate denseness, which gives way to a wonderful smooth and velvety palette for the creamy, whipped pumpkin mascarpone frosting.  Hope you enjoy this delightful cupcake combination as much as I did!

Until next time…mangia!  xox

Carol





Pumpkin Mascarpone Frosted Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Makes 24 - 30 cupcakes

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes:
3 cups cake flour (see note below)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature (see note below)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste

for the pumpkin mascarpone frosting:
6 ounces mascarpone (3/4 of an 8 ounce container)
3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
toasted pecans, chopped for garnish (if desired)

Create the Cupcakes and Frosting:

prepare the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 1  additional minute.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter between 24 prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 full (you will likely have a little batter remaining to make about 6 more cupcakes.)  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

prepare the frosting:
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the mascarpone, pumpkin puree, cinnamon and nutmeg until well combined.  Add the confectioners sugar to the creamy pumpkin mascarpone and mix together with a hand mixer until light and creamy.

In the chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment,  pour in the cold whipping cream and whip on low speed until it begins to thicken.  Increase speed to high, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mascarpone mixture until combined.

Scoop the pumpkin mascarpone whipped frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a frosting tip of your choice, and frost the cupcakes!

Once frosted, serve immediately or store in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 36 hours.  

Carol's notes:

1) I used cake flour; however, if you don't have cake flour you can use the following substitution:  for each 1 cup of cake flour use 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch.

2) A substitution for buttermilk:  for each 1 cup of buttermilk use 1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar.  Allow to sit at room temperature until it begins to thicken.

3) For the frosting, I used an Ateco closed star tip #846, and made two circles of stars, and a flattened star in the center, to allow an area for the toasted pecan pieces.

4) Here's a link to the snapware brand cupcake containers I use when refrigerating or transporting cupcakes.  For approximately $10 each, it's well worth the small investment.  You can purchase these from a number of sources: Amazon, Target and Walmart, are a few.

The Vanilla Bean Cupcakes recipe is adapted from Annie's Eats, and the Pumpkin Mascarpone Frosting is my own creation.




Sunday, October 14, 2012

uncle bob's fresh apple cake




Friday night, my beloved Washington Nationals, who finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, lost game 5 in post-season play in the National League Division Series, against the St. Louis Cardinals. :(  For anyone who knows me, or if you've read my blog "about me" here, you know I've been a die-hard fan (slightly obsessed!) since they arrived in Washington, DC in 2005.  I never miss a game, whether it's TV, radio, or at Nationals Park.  The game ended in true heartbreak fashion.  Since I could go on and on, I won't bore you with all the details of the game, or how extremely special this season was!  I just want to congratulate and thank the team for an unbelievably wonderful year!  I want to thank them also for all the happiness and excitement the season brought me, and all their scores of fans.  I didn't want it to end, and can't wait until next spring when it begins all over again!  Thank you, Nationals!



photo courtesy of masnsports.com











Just like baseball, Uncle Bob's Fresh Apple Cake is as classic as they come!  This incredible recipe, with some slight changes I've made, is adapted from Paula Deen's delightful, The Deen Family Cookbook, and also found online here. When I brought this cake in to my devoted taste-testers, I was told it was one of the best cakes they had ever tasted!  In fact, I will be baking it again this week for a brunch, since everyone politely indicated they didn't get their fill! :)  Although Paula Deen bakes it in a bundt pan, I chose to create it in traditional coffee cake style.  A basic Nordic Ware coffee cake pan was used, identical to this one found here, which can purchased inexpensively anywhere.  This also eliminates the baking time by 30 minutes.



Yummy apples from a recent visit to the Leesburg, Virgina farmer's market.



Pleasantly sweet, dense and extremely moist, with chunky bites of apple, and crunchy toasted walnuts, describes this divine apple cake!  It has already been added to my list as one of my holiday breakfast or brunch cakes  for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  It's exactly what I look for in baking during a busy time - elegance, delectable, and easy preparation!






Honeycrisp Apples were used in my Uncle Bob's Fresh Apple Cake, and the lovely ingredient in this creation, I thought I'd give a few fun facts about!  This has become my absolute favorite choice for both a cooking and eating apple, since becoming readily available in the Virginia area over the past few years.  Honeycrisp is a cross-pollination of two delicious apple varieties, Macoun and Honeygold, the first seedling planted in 1962 as part of the University of Minnesota apple breeding program.  It wasn't until 1991 that it was released to commercial nurseries for propagation.  The Honeycrisp is best grown in colder areas of the country, namely Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, upstate New York, and New England.  It's exceptionally  crisp and juicy, and stores well in the refrigerator for several weeks without losing its outstanding flavor.  I highly recommend it!

It's fall, it's apple season, the weather is much cooler, time to turn on your oven and bake!  Uncle Bob's Fresh Apple Cake gives your home a delicious, warm, aromatic scent…a great recipe to begin your fall baking!

Until next time…mangia!  xox

Carol 






Uncle Bob's Fresh Apple Cake with Honey Glaze
Serves 8 to 12

Ingredients:

for the honey glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons milk

for the apple cake:
3 cups diced granny smith apples (I used honey crisp)
1 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups vegetable oil (I always use canola)
3 eggs

Create the Apple Cake and Honey Glaze:

prepare the honey glaze:
Add all the ingredients to a small bowl and stir until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and set the bowl aside.  (This will thicken up as it sets.)

prepare the apple cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Lightly grease or spray a bundt or coffee cake pan.  Baking times will vary for pan used, noted below.

In a bowl, mix together the diced apples, toasted chopped walnuts, vanilla, and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Using an electric mixer beat the sugar, oil, and eggs in a large bowl.  Add in the dry ingredients and beat until completely combined.  Fold in the apple mixture.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  The batter is going to be thick.  If you are using a coffee cake pan, as I did, place the pan on center rack and cook for 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  (If you are using a bundt pan, the recipe states to bake for 1-1/2 hours, or until a tester inserted in to the middle of the cake comes out clean. See Carol's note below.)

Allow the cake to fully cool in the pan, about 1 hour, and then turn it out onto a plate.

Drizzle the apple cake with the honey glaze!  The cake can be wrapped tightly and stored in refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

Carol's notes:

Paula Deen does not call for peeling the apples.  I chose to peel mine.

I used a coffee cake pan, and baked the cake for 1 hour; therefore, I can't verify the  1-1/2 hours called for baking time if using a bundt pan.  Personally, I think that seems a bit long, so if using a bundt pan, start checking for doneness at 1-1/4 hours.

This cake tasted even more delicious the second day, if that is possible! :)  So feel free to prepare a day in advance and put the cooled, wrapped cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  You can wait until the day you are going to serve to prepare the glaze.  Make the glaze a couple hours in advance so it has a chance to set up and thicken slightly.  Drizzle the cake with the glaze before serving.  Enjoy!!!




Thursday, October 11, 2012

mushroom marsala risotto





The low was 39 degrees on Monday morning.  Brrrrrrrrr for early October.  The heat kicked on in my home overnight.  The high reached 50 during the afternoon, with overcast skies and a drizzling rain all day.  These are late November temperatures!  It didn't faze me; however, it was Columbus Day, and a day off from work!  I was able to spend it creating recipes for a cup of mascarpone.  I love cooking and baking when it's cold and raining (or snowing)…there is such a warm and welcoming feeling in the house.  One problem I did encounter with the gloomy weather - good natural light to take photos, so please excuse them. :(

Bantering back and forth in my head between making a warm and comforting soup, or a spicey chili, I wound up deciding to create my absolute favorite risotto!  Believe it or not, up until a few years ago, I never cooked my own risotto.  When my friend returned from Italy, she told me about all the amazing ways she enjoyed risotto.  That was it, I decided I was going to give it a try, and have been creating it ever since. To date, Mushroom Marsala Risotto is my favorite!  This lovely recipe was adapted from Pink Parsley, and I've yet to find one I like better; although, I continue to play around with recipes to find some equals.  The description from the source couldn't be any better - a slight sweetness and earthiness, with a perfect creamy texture!





Last week I had a sweet message from a one of my blog followers who tried my chocolate mascarpone buttercream.  She wrote she had never used mascarpone cheese until reading my blog.  After reading her kind message, and in keeping with my blog theme, "sweet and savory creations inspired by lovely ingredients," it prompted me, commencing with this post, to give an interesting fact about one of the lovely ingredients that I'm using in the creation.  What a delightful place to start, with this mushroom marsala risotto, which is filled with lovely, fresh ingredients!

Rather than the called for Parmigiano-Reggiano, I use a wonderful Grana Padano Italian cheese when cooking this risotto dish, so thought this would be the lovely ingredient I would feature.  I read an article a couple years ago, which prompted me to begin incorporating it in this delectable risotto.   As Lou DiPalo, of DiPalo's Fine Foods in Little Italy in NYC, describes, "Grana Padano is subtler, and less nutty and salty than Parmigiano, with a more delicate flavor that he prefers on risotto or when you don't want to overpower a dish."  He was so right!    You can read the entire interesting article, Grana Padano vs. Parmigiano-Reggiano: Know Your Italian Cheeses here.  Give it a try sometime, you may like it as much as me!

Have you created my Mushroom Marsala Bruschetta?  If you loved that, you are going to adore Mushroom Marsala Risotto!  What better time to enjoy than a nice fall evening, with a warm crusty bread and a smooth, red wine.

Until next time…mangia!  xox

Carol




Mushroom Marsala Risotto
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1 cup Marsala wine, divided
3-4 cups low-sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 cups cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (I used a lovely grana padano cheese)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced (additional whole leaves for garnish, if desired)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Create the Mushroom Marsala Risotto:

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or saute pan over medium heat until foaming subsides.

Add shallots and saute until soft, 2-3 minutes.

Add garlic, tomato paste, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a separate medium saucepan until simmering.

Add the Arborio rice to the skillet and toast until opaque around the edges, 3-5 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup of the Marsala wine and cook, stirring often, until absorbed, approximately 5 minutes.

Stir in 1 cup of the broth, and stir occasionally until almost absorbed, 8-12 minutes.

Working 1 ladle of broth at at time, continue to add broth, stirring constantly.  Add the next ladle when the broth is almost completely absorbed.

After you have been cooking the risotto for 10 minutes, stir in the mushrooms.  Continue to cook risotto, stirring constantly, until it is al dente, a total of 20-25 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in remaining 1/4 cup of Marsala wine, Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Grana Padano) cheese, basil, and remaining 1 tablespoon butter.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste, if necessary.

Garnish with basil leaves.  Serve immediately.  Mangia!!!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

grandma's pumpkin-oatmeal chocolate chip cookies




I've always felt so lucky growing up, with both sets of grandparents living a few blocks from my home.  My Mom's side, with French heritage, my Dad's, Italian…a really nice combination :), and both Grandmother's blessed with so much talent!  My Grandmother on my Mom's side was the most unbelievable seamstress and knitter you could ever imagine.  She would sew and tailor so many of the girl's pretty dresses from Skidmore College, a college in the city of Saratoga Springs, New York, where I grew up.  I'd stop by walking home from school and inevitably one of the college girls was standing up on a platform, with my grandmother on her knees, pins sticking out of her lips, as she put the finishing touches on a beautiful dress she had just completed.  As I walked through her glass enclosed big front porch, there was a table filled with her beautiful handmade aprons for sale, all crisply starched and pressed!  I would give anything to have one of them today!  If she wasn't sewing, she was sitting in her chair in the living room, knitting a sweater, hat, and mittens, which she made for  each one of her 17 grandchildren for Christmas gifts.  I can still, to this day, remember my gorgeous snow white and seven dwarfs sweater!






Grandma's Pumpkin-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies are the type of cookie I would always find in my Grandmother's cookie jar.  Yes, she baked too!  It was never fancy, just the old fashioned baking that makes you feel warm and comforted.  It was usually a drop cookie, just like this recipe I'm introducing.  With everything else she had going on, she didn't have time to spend hours baking too, but made darn sure the cookie jar was always filled for all her grandchildren!






What could be more comforting than lovely, old fashioned ingredients that are the mainstay of all our kitchens in the fall - oatmeal, pumpkin, and of course, chocolate chips.  I also added in a half cup of sweet, chewy raisins, just because that's what my Grandmother would have done!  …and what fall cookie would be complete without adding in the pungent, warm spice of cinnamon, bringing all the flavors together, in one bowl, creating this classic, cake-like drop cookie,  made  especially for a cold glass of milk, cookie jars and bagged lunches!  A drizzling of chocolate adds the finishing touch!

Until next time…mangia!  xox

Carol





Grandma's Pumpkin-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 30 - 36 cookies

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin
1-3/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins or chopped nuts, or combination of both (optional)
additional chocolate chips or Baker's chocolate to melt for drizzle (optional)

Create the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and sugar.  Add the butter and mix.  Add the egg and pumpkin and mix.  Add the oats and chocolate chips (also the optional raisins and/or nuts ) and stir to combine.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until the dough is firm (30-45 minutes).

On a baking sheet lined with parchment, place a heaping tablespoon of cookie dough 2 inches apart.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes until the tops of the cookies are lightly browned.  Do not over bake.  Upon removing from the oven, place cookies on a rack to cool.  When cooled, drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired.

Recipe adapted from The Baker's Daughter.



Monday, October 01, 2012

pumpkin pie chocolate bars




It seems like just yesterday I was writing that it was August 1st, and posting about my beautiful sister's birthday. A cup of mascarpone was beginning its third week in this new delightful blogging world.  Now October 1st, two months later, and I'm absolutely overwhelmed and humbled with what has happened in two and a half short months.  The most wonderful thing is the beautiful friends I have met all over the world, and the friendships that have begun!  How amazing it is to share in a common love!  My desire to share with others an extension of my love in the kitchen has grown from 1,759 visitors to "a cup of mascarpone" in August to an amazing 11,926 in September!  Thank you, thank you to everyone!  I still have so much to learn - I'm truly only in the infancy blogging stage.  I continue to work on improving my photos and food styling and overall blogging skills.  I'm trying to understand HTML language and how to continue adding gadgets to improve the appearance.  If I continue trying to build it better, I'm hoping you will continue coming back! :)






Thank you to all those who are "followers" (the beautiful little thumbnail photos on the upper right side column), reader feed subscribers, and email subscribers.  I heart you all!!!  One word to email subscribers - once you sign up with your email, you will be sent a return email to confirm your subscription.  Just hit the confirmation link in the return email and you are done.  This is just to confirm that you are the person who subscribed.  Just in case you aren't receiving emails from "a cup of mascarpone", the confirmation link wasn't completed.  In that case, just sign up again with your email, and complete the second step.  I don't want you to miss out on a single recipe!

If you aren't already a follower or subscriber, I would love you to become one! :)  I'm in the planning stages of a give-away to thank all of you, so stay tuned!






Now on to my pumpkin pie with decadent chocolate crust bars!  I recently became involved with a wonderful group of bloggers in a Chocolate Party, hosted by Roxana, of Roxana's Home Baking.  Each month we'll be creating a recipe using chocolate and a lovely, seasonal ingredient.  What else but pumpkin for October?!  I was thrilled when pumpkin was chosen, since I adore it for both sweet and savory recipes.  Two years ago during the pumpkin shortage, I was devastated.  You couldn't find canned pumpkin puree anywhere.  When stores started stocking shelves with pumpkin again last year, I bought an entire case to be sure I didn't run out!  For our Chocolate Party, I also created pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and couldn't decide which to post first.  The pumpkin pie chocolate bars won out, so I'll feature the cookies soon.

All chocolate club friend's will be represented at the bottom of my post, all sharing their October Chocolate Party creations.  All recipes are linked right back to the writer's blogs!  Recipes containing pumpkin will continually be added throughout the month, and then a new ingredient with chocolate will be featured for November!





The pumpkin pie chocolate bars were inspired from a recipe I saw using a yellow cake mix for the crust from Jamie Cooks It Up.  I thought it was so unique that I decided to try it out with a dark chocolate cake mix - yes, a box cake mix, how easy is that! The mix isn't created the same way you would make a cake, so it becomes more dense and brownie like, as you can see from the photos.  …and no messing around with pie crust and a rolling pin, just press the chocolate, brownie like mixture into your pan.

The pumpkin filling is creamy and delicious, and includes all the warm spices that impart the season -  one of the best I've ever tasted.  In fact, for Thanksgiving I'm already planning on creating a pumpkin pie for my family using this exact pumpkin recipe, with a regular pie crust in the same sheet pan.  I've named it pumpkin slab pie, and my two grown children, pumpkin pie lovers, are already looking forward to it!  I love the way you cut it in to bars - and how much further it goes with a crowd than a regular pie, in less time!

I'm sure you are going to enjoy this scrumptious combination of flavors, and whatever you do, don't wait until Thanksgiving to try it!  Pumpkin should be enjoyed all year round, but especially once this beautiful season of fall is here.  Once Starbucks brings back pumpkin spice lattes each September - that's my signal to begin pumpkin creations! :)

Until next time…mangia!  xox

Carol






Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Bars
16 - 20 servings

Tools Required:
Jelly Roll Pan 16-1/2 x 11-1/2 x 1 or 15-1/2 x 10-1/2 x 1 (see my note below)

Ingredients:

for crust:
1 chocolate or dark chocolate cake mix (I like Duncan Hines)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 large egg

for pumpkin filling:
1 29 ounce can 100% pure pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
4 large eggs
2 12 ounce cans evaporated milk

garnish (optional, but I highly recommend):
whipped cream (canned or whip your own)
mini chocolate chips

Create the Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

make the crust:
  1. Pour the cake mix into medium size bowl.
  2. Pour the melted butter over the cake mix and stir it in for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the egg and mix until all ingredients are well combined and come together in a large clump.
  4. Spray your jelly roll pan with cooking spray.
  5. Press the crust evenly into the bottom of the pan.  Set aside.

make the pumpkin filling:
  1. Into a small mixing bowl combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.  Whisk together.
  2. Crack the eggs into your stand mixer and beat them for about 1 minute, or until frothy.
  3. Add the sugar mixure and the canned pumpkin to the frothy eggs, and mix until combined.
  4. Pour in the evaporated milk and mix until combined.
  5. Carefully!!! pour the filling over the crust.  (see my note below)
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely, then cut into squares.
  8. Serve with whipped cream and mini chocolate chips, if desired.

Carol's notes:
I used the 15-1/2 x 10-1/2 x 1 jelly roll size pan.  The mixture is about 1 cup too much for that size pan, so I took two oven proof custard cups, sprayed them with cooking spray and poured about 1/2 cup in each custard cup.  I cooked them right along with the large pan, for 45 minutes until a knife inserted in center came out clean, about 15 minutes less than the bar pan.  That gave me two little crustless pumpkin pies!  By the way, use this tip anytime for a lower calorie, crustless pumpkin pie. You can also use low-fat evaporated milk.

When pouring the filling into the pan, be very careful, since you fill it to the tippy top.  Here's what I did:  I set my pan on the center rack of the oven, pulled the rack out just far enough that I could then pour the mixture in, and then very, very carefully pushed the rack with the filled pan on it back in to the oven.  If you try to carry the filled pan over to the oven, you are inevitably going to spill it. :(