Sunday, October 24, 2010

PQ's Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

Now that it is truly beginning to feel like fall, it's time for pumpkin recipes. This year, I started pumpkin season with muffins; it was difficult to try to select a recipe, because there are so many out there. I finally decided on the Pastry Queen's pumpkin muffins (actually a bread recipe in her first cookbook, with alternative directions for muffins). The Pastry Queen (aka Rebecca Rather) has a bakery in Fredericksburg, Texas, called Rather Sweet. It is absolutely amazing, so I knew I couldn't go wrong with this recipe. The muffins were very moist and flavorful, and freeze and thaw well too. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1 cup canola oil
3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup water
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup pecan pieces (above)

Preheat oven to 350. Arrange the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast them in the oven for 7-9 min., until golden and aromatic.

Line muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk the oil and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs, pumpkin, and water and whisk until combined.
In another bowl whisk together flour, spices, and baking soda. Carefully mix the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Fill the muffin pans almost to the top with batter.

Stir together sugar, butter, cinnamon, and pecan pieces. Sprinkle liberally over tops of muffins before baking.Bake muffins 30-35 minutes.
Yield 36 muffins

Monday, October 04, 2010

Apple Cider & Maple Cream Tart

Anyone who knows me knows that I almost automatically think "chocolate" when dessert is mentioned. Cheesecake? No thanks, unless it has a chocolate crust, filling, and topping. Creme brulee? Chocolate please. Birthday dessert? Hmm . . . chocolate cake or chocolate cookies . . . tough call. There are, of course, a few exceptions - like the best ice cream ever, and this.

Apple cider and maple cream make a perfect fall combination, and the flavors of this tart are somewhat subtle - not overwhelmingly apple and not decidedly maple either. Before you start baking, a few notes:
1. Maple sugar is hard (impossible?) to find in small towns. Next time you're in a city or ordering online (Amazon and King Arthur both carry it), buy some. It is worth it. Just splurge a little - you'll be glad you did.
2. The tart is actually pretty simple to make, but it does require a little planning (mostly due to letting components chill/cool). Don't start working on it an hour (or two) before you want to serve it. Like buying maple sugar, it will be worth the effort!

Apple Cider & Maple Cream Tart
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced

1/2 gallon fresh apple cider or cold-pressed apple juice
1/2 cup maple sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3-4 drops maple extract (reduce to 2-3 drops if using imitation maple flavor)


Blend flour, powdered sugar, and coarse salt in processor 5 seconds. Add butter and blend until dough comes together in moist clumps. Gather dough into ball. Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Cover and chill crust at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake chilled crust uncovered 10 minutes. Using back of fork, press bottom of crust to flatten (do not pierce). Continue to bake until crust is deep golden brown, pressing again if bottom of crust puffs, 16 to 18 minutes longer. Cool crust completely.

Bring apple cider or apple juice to rolling boil in large pot over high heat. Boil until bubbling thickly and reduced to generous 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool.
DO AHEAD - Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Grind maple sugar to powder in spice mill, blender, or mini processor. Transfer powdered maple sugar to 4-cup glass measuring cup; add cream, eggs, 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, nutmeg, extract, and 3/4 cup cooled cider reduction and whisk to blend well.

Place tart pan with crust on baking sheet; set on rack in oven. Pour in filling. Bake tart until filling is puffed and cracked around edges and gently set in center, about 33 minutes. Transfer tart to rack and cool to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours.

Push up pan bottom, releasing tart. Cut tart into wedges and serve with maple whipped cream, if desired.

Optional topping
Maple whipped cream - add 3-4 drops of maple extract (and sugar, to taste) to whipping cream - whisk to desired consistency                                                                 - Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit