Friday, October 31, 2008

HAPPY PUMPKIN DAY!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, everybody! I trust that everyone is having a spook-tacular day...har, har, har. Halloween is my favorite holiday, but I'm celebrating on the DL this year. It seems wrong to do anything too Halloween-y with Cyd still being in Minnesota. :-( Plus, after having the walking pneumonia throughout the month of September, I only managed to stay well for 2-3 weeks before catching another annoying cold. So there were no decorations this year, nor even a costume to speak of. But I have managed to bake a couple of goodies lately featuring that seasonal globe that is ribbed for our pleasure, the mighty pumpkin.

First, I made some yummy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies from King Arthur. Pumpkin and chocolate together has always sounded a little off-putting to me, but they were delicious! The pumpkin made the cookies incredibly moist, and the chocolate played nicely with the spices. And so easy to make, too! These are definitely winners. A note about the photo: I took this picture a couple of days after baking the cookies, and they were so moist from the pumpkin in the dough that the icing had softened and nearly dissolved on top. But initially, the glaze set up very nicely so that you could even stack the cookies on top of each other. They still taste great, though, and they keep for quite a long time, again, due to the pumpkin making them soft and moist.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Source:
King Arthur Flour)

Cookies:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 orange, optional (I left this out)
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper (or Silpats). Set aside.

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. With an electric mixer set on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugars. Scrape down the sides of the bowl,
3. Then add the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and orange zest, beating well to blend.
4. Slowly add the dry ingredients, beating well to blend. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
5. Using a tablespoon scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake on the middle oven rack for about 18 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Let cool on the baking sheets 5 minutes before transferring to racks to cool.
6. While the cookies are still warm, press two chocolate chips into the cookie to make eyes for the pumpkin.

For the glaze: Stir together the sugar, milk and vanilla until the glaze is smooth. Dip the tops of the cookies in the glaze and put back on the racks to set, or drizzle in a pumpkin or jack-o-lantern pattern.


The cookies were for my colleagues at work, but I also decided to try baking some experimental pumpkin bread for myself at home. You see, I was goaded into doing so by the weekly email that I get from my darling baker boys, John and Keith, in my beloved homeland of Oregon. They bake bread for customers every Sunday in their ginormous wood-fired outdoor brick oven, and recently, they have added a pumpkin walnut sourdough to their menu. I became sick with jealousy that I couldn't sample their wares all the way out here on the other coast, so my only option was to bake some for myself. But darned if I could find a recipe on these interwebs. All I could find was (spiced) pumpkin quick breads.

Thus, I decided to go my own way and see if I could devise a workable recipe of my own. My first attempt turned out reasonably well, but I'd still call it a work in progress. I overhydrated my dough, so I didn't get a great rise. And next time, I'll split this amount of dough into two boules or baguettes, rather than one big blob of bread. And the taste was good, but VERRRY tangy. I think it would be nicely balanced with some sweetness, like from the addition of craisins, or perhaps I'll play around with bringing some Grade B maple to the party next time*. Still, this initial experiment yielded some tasty bread that was especially yummy when toasted and buttered for breakfast! One other caveat: I expected orange bread, but it was just yellowish on the outside and almost a purple-grey on the inside! I think the oil from the walnuts turned it that color. So I either need to switch nuts (pecans or perhaps sunflowers seeds?), or maybe I could try kneading the walnuts in before the last rise. Hmm...like I said, it's a work in progress!

*Follow-up: My suspicions were confirmed when I made some terrific French toast with this bread. The tangy, nutty slices, coated with custard, browned, buttered, and drenched in maple syrup was a decadent and heavenly marriage of flavors!

Pumpkin Walnut Sourdough

1/2 cup (refreshed) sourdough starter
generous 1/2 cup water (start with 9 tablespoons and increase as needed)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3 1/2 cups bread flour (all-purpose can be substituted)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (or whole sunflower seeds)
1 cup dried cranberries, optional (but highly recommended!)

pepitas, optional

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or by hand, if you prefer), blend the refreshed sourdough starter with the water and the pumpkin puree until smooth. Add the flour and salt, and "knead" with the dough hook for about five minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more water a tablespoon at a time if need be. (You don't want a thick batter or even a terribly sticky dough, but a soft ball.) When the dough has come together, place into a large, greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled (at least four hours, I should think).

When doubled, turn out the dough onto a lightly-floured surface, knead in the walnuts and craisins, and let rest for about a half hour. When the dough has rested, shape it into two boules or baguettes, cover loosely with sprayed plastic wrap, and let rise until puffy and nearly doubled (as much as four more hours*). When risen, uncover carefully, spritz the loaves with water (and sprinkle some pepitas/toasted pumpkin seeds on top, if you like), and bake in a very hot (450-degree) oven for about 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

*You can certainly make this bread in stages. If you have to go to work or to sleep, just chuck it in the fridge (if you don't have a very cold house like mine!), and slow down the rise until you're ready to proceed.

3 comments:

Randi said...

I want a brick oven badly!! Especially after eating amazing pizza from Grimaldi's in brooklyn. It only took 2 minutes to cook.

lLisa said...

That bread looks amazing! Nothing like some warm bread fresh out of the oven on a chilly Fall eve. Great job as usual :)

MaryJane said...

So glad to hear you enjoyed the pumpkin cookies. They were definitely a big hit here when Susan made them. Not one chip left by the end of lunch!
Hope you recover from feelin' down and out soon.

Happy Baking!

MaryJane @ King Arthur Flour