Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pumpkin Cornbread

The idea of mixing pumpkin and corn is nothing new.  At my house, cornbread is the bread of choice for the stuffing on Thanksgiving, and true to my predilections, it has to be homemade.  As I was thinking of the stuffing for our turkey this year, I decided to change it up a bit from previous years by adding delicious pumpkin puree to the cornbread.  Not only does pumpkin add flavor to anything it touches, but it makes baked goods uncommonly tasty.  I'm pleased with the results.

After conversing with a good friend of mine from the south, we both agreed that one ought to add sugar to any type of cornbread.  I don't mean that it has to be sweet bordering on cake, but there should be just enough to give it another dimension.  Again, it's the combination of sweet and salty.  

What emerges from the oven is a thick cornbread that you'll be proud of bringing over to the holiday table for your guests.  The bread can be cut into squares of equal size or it can be left whole and brought to the table so that each guest can take however much they want.  Of the utmost importance is having a good, softened butter at the ready and, if you can, some Cranberry Relish.  It's such a treat to slather a wedge of this cornbread with them.

If you're like me and want to make this bread for your stuffing, bake the bread and leave it out to dry overnight.  It's sturdy enough to cut into small squares for a tasty stuffing, but remember, if you're entertaining a large crowd, I strongly advise you make several recipes of my cornbread.

Let's bake!

  • 1-1/2 cups {215 g.} all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups {235 g.} yellow cornmeal
  • 3 teaspoons {15 ml.} baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons {7.5 ml.} fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons {120 ml.} granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons {113 g.} unsalted butter, melted & cooled
  • 1 cup {225 g.} pumpkin puree
  • 1-1/2 cups {360 ml.} milk, room temperature
Equipment: 9x9" square baking pan, parchment paper.
Yield: 9 servings

Butter the baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

Center an oven rack 
Preheat to 350° F (177°C)

  • In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder, fine sea salt and sugar.  Whisk to combine.
  • In a large measuring cup, whisk to combine the eggs, melted butter, pumpkin puree and milk.  Pour this over the dry ingredients.
  • With the whisk, stir to combine the ingredients.  Pour into the prepared baking pan and pop it into the preheated oven.
  • Bake the cornbread for approximately 35-40 minutes, or until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out free of crumbs.
  • Let cool in the baking pan for 5 minutes, then invert it onto a cooling rack.  Gently remove the baking pan and reinvert the bread to cool right side up.

 A great big wedge served with some butter is the perfect accompaniment to a juicy roast turkey.  Delicious.

I hope you make my Pumpkin Cornbread
a part of your Thanksgiving table.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Squirrel, Acorn, Bat and Turkey Cookies

Giant squirrel, turkey, bat & acorn cookies that are delectably iced in hues of green, brown, orange and yellow icing, undoubtedly bespeak autumn.  Who doesn't love the furry cuteness of a sugar squirrel as it jumps across the lawn with a mighty acorn in its mouth or the hooting of an inquisitive owl perched high up on a tree in the distance this time of year?  The plumage of heritage turkeys is a sight to behold, but when it takes the form of a cookie, anything goes.  What matters here most is that you, the baker, have fun when making memorable cookies.

My Martha by Mail copper cookie cutters which have now become iconic, get used throughout the year for baking.  The ones that I chose (Sugar Squirrel & Mighty AcornChubby Pumpkin & Tom Turkey and Owl & Bat) are among my favorite.  I wanted the cookies to be specific for gifting to individual friends, so I didn't use every single cutter from these sets.  Admittedly, there are no green squirrels, orange owls or yellow-feathered turkeys in nature that I know of, but that's alright.  Let's stretch our imaginations just a little bit and make cookies that are colorful, tasty and absolutely outlandish.

Keep in mind that every cookie you see here was made with my Sugar & Spice Cookie Recipe and, of course, that Perfect Royal Icing.  Last, but not least, are the embellishments of pearl candies and colored sanding sugars.

The rest is up to your imagination!

A green Sugar Squirrel will surely delight anyone with a sweet tooth.  Trace the squirrel's tail with orange icing, leaving some cookie exposed.  Flood it with icing of the same color; let dry.  Pipe a green belly with royal icing and flock it with green sanding sugar; let dry.  Wipe off any stray sugar crystals with a  fine brush.  Pipe the rest of the squirrel's body & fill it with a mint-green royal icing, setting a black pearl candy for an eye.  Let dry. 

This stately Tom Turkey is fit for Thanksgiving dessert.  Outline and flood the turkey cookie with dark brown royal icing; let dry.  With mint-green royal icing, delineate feathers, feet, and an eye.  Let dry.  Pipe dots around outlines with dark-brown royal icing and chartreuse dots within the confines of the tail feathers.  Let dry completely.

A three-toned Mighty Acorn was given the royal treatment.  Starting from the top: outline the cap of the acorn with dark-brown royal icing and flood it, giving the shape a scalloped border.  Immediately pipe the next row with a dark orange shade of royal icing.  Finish the acorn with mint-green royal icing.  While wet, carefully drop pearl candies along the points of the scallops.  Let dry completely.

The Wise Owl is certainly a colorful hoot!  Outline and flood the adorable head in brown royal icing and while still wet, pipe two large green eyes and small orange dots for its "brow".  Drag a toothpick through the brow to create bleeding hearts.  Center 2 orange pearl candies for eyes.  Let dry.  Outline & flood orange wings and add pearl candies along the edges.  Flock the wings with fine sanding sugar while wet.  Let dry and brush off stray sugar crystals.  For bottom feathers, outline and flood with a mint-green base and add brown dots.  Drag a toothpick while the icing is still wet to create bleeding hearts.  Let dry.  Pipe a beak with black royal icing.

A grand Tom Turkey cookie is classic Americana.  Outline and flood the entire base with a yellow royal icing (I added a hint of orange to tone down the bright yellow) and let dry.  Pipe a bead of brown royal icing along the neck, head, breast & feet of the turkey.  Pipe beads of orange royal icing to delineate feathers.  Flock with fine sanding sugar.  Pipe orange dots along the bead of brown royal icing and don't forget to add an eye.

This Orangey Owl is simple in its design.  Outline and flood its head with orange royal icing and flock with fine sanding sugar.  Let dry completely, then brush off any stray sugar crystals.  Pipe eyes in mint green and add black pearl candies for pupils.  Add a beak with black royal icing.  For the wings, outline and flood with brown royal icing then add mint-green dots around the perimeter.  Drag a toothpick through the dots to create bleeding hearts while the icing is wet.  Add a mint-green neckline and a dark-green tail.

Le Brown Squirrel is adorable!  Outline and flood a small orange belly, then do the same for its body with brown royal icing.  Add an orange pearl candy for an eye.  Pipe a large tail with green royal icing and flock it with fine sanding sugar.  

The Sparkly Acorn cookie just fell off a cookie oak tree!  Outline and flood the acorn's cap in green royal icing, giving it a scalloped edge, and flock it with fine sanding sugar.  Let dry and brush off any stray sugar crystals.  Outline and flood the rest of the acorn in brown royal icing and flock the small tip in mini non pareils.  Add orange pearl candies around the scallops and let dry completely.  Voila!

 ✹ ✹ ✹

Don't hesitate for one moment to create your very own autumn critter cookies this weekend for Thanksgiving.  Lay out a platter of them or stack them onto those cake stands that you ardently collect.  Have cellophane bags at the ready and beautiful ribbons to tie up the cookie parcels. Take it from me, everyone is going to want one of your cookies at the end of the feast.  Make plenty of them!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Williams-Sonoma and St. Jude Children's Hospital

I am truly honored to be an integral part in the fundraising campaign at Williams-Sonoma for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital this December. The management at Williams-Sonoma have kindly asked me to host two cookie decorating events for customers on December 7th and December 14th, at the Ardmore, Pennsylvania location to benefit St. Jude Hospital.  

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is a leading center for pediatric cancer treatment & research in the United States.  Every December, Williams-Sonoma joins in the campaign to raise funds for the hospital by donating monies from the sales of select cooking and baking tools.  The moment I heard about this I immediately agreed to donate my time, expertise and my baked goods.  

The December 7th demo will cover Hanukkah cookie decorating for customers and the December 14th will encompass Christmas cookies.  With the help of a few generous friends, patrons at the Ardmore location who donate to St. Jude upon checkout, will receive a sugar cookie decorated by me!  No donation is too small and every single bit helps, so I encourage you to stop by and do your part in giving this holiday season.

Even if you're not near Ardmore, PA, shop online at Williams-Sonoma and find out how you can give to this worthy cause or donate directly to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  Spread the word!

Join me on December 7th & 14th to enjoy delicious holiday cookies, learn how to decorate the best treats, shop for great kitchen tools, electrics and gadgets, and to give to a very worthy cause.  

Happy Holidays
Good Things by David

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pumpkin Hand Pies

Pumpkin hand pies are an easy alternative to the more traditional pies for Thanksgiving.  Growing up, mom would begin her pie baking as soon as Halloween came to an end and she would spoil us with mini pumpkin hand pies that were baked by the dozen.  Tucked into a Pyrex bowl covered with a towel, my brothers and I would steal them when she wasn't looking. Actually, I think she knew what we were up to, but since these were handmade with all-natural ingredients, mom didn't care how many we gobbled up.

It's been years since I've enjoyed one made by mom, so I took it upon myself to create a version that was true to her original.  I must admit that they weren't quite what I remember, but nonetheless they were impeccably light, flaky, spicy and truly delicious.  Imagine a pumpkin filling that is slightly sweet and lightly spiced, covered in a flaky crust that is mouthwateringly good.

My mini Pumpkin Hand Pies made their debut at the Williams-Sonoma demo this past week, much to the gratification of everyone who tried a sample. About six dozen samples were divvied up that day.  Not one scrap was left! I have to say that the funniest moment was when a 1-1/2 year old baby jumped up and down with joy as she was eating a sample given to her by her mother (you'll see a photo of her!).  What better seal of approval do you need?

Let's bake some Pumpkin Hand Pies!

Pumpkin Hand Pie Ingredients
  • 2 recipes The Best Pie Crust
  • 15 oz. [425 g.] canned pumpkin puree (not pie mix) 
  • 1/3 cup [80g.] packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon [2.5 ml.] ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon [1.25 ml.] ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon [pinch] ground cloves (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon [1.25 ml.] pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)

Yield: enough filling for approximately 20 hand pies.

  1. Remove chilled dough from the refrigerator 15 minutes prior to rolling out. 
  2. With a rolling pin, on a lightly floured surface, gently roll out 1 disk of my pie crust 3 times in one direction.  Give the disk a 1/4 turn and roll out 3 times.  Repeat with quarter turns and with rolling out 3 times in one direction until the dough is 1/8" in thickness.  
  3. Using a 4-1/2” round cutter, cut out 4 rounds and set them aside on a parchment-lined or silpat-lined baking sheet.  Set scraps aside and repeat the rolling out and cutting out with remaining dough disks.  
  4. NOTE: each disk of dough will yield 4 rounds.  Gather scraps from 2 disks and reroll to cut out 4 additional rounds.  You should only reroll the scraps once.  This may cause the latter 4 hand pies to puff up like puff pastry, but no one will be complaining. 
  5. Fill each round with 1 tablespoon of pumpkin filling, centering the puree.   
  6. Lightly brush half of each circle with water and draw the other half of the dough to seal, creating half-moons.  Gently press the dough to seal.  You can either, crimp or flute the edges as desired.  
  7. Chill all mini pies for at least 30 minutes.  Filled pies can be frozen, well-wrapped, for up to one month.
  8. Preheat oven to 375° F (191°C).  Place oven racks on the lower third of oven.  
  9. Lightly brush each pie with the beaten egg.  Score each pie in one or two places to create vents.  Bake pies, 2” apart from each other on baking sheets, for approximately 20-30 minutes.  Pies should be golden when done.
  10. Let cool on racks.  Devour!  

Look at how well that pastry bakes.  You can see the layers of flakiness!

Kid tested & mother approved!

Pumpkin Hand Pies are among the easiest things to bake and without a doubt, they are perhaps the tastiest of desserts for Thanksgiving.  Create something new this season and put a smile on everyone's face with mini pies that are perfect to have with a cup of tea, some mulled cider or with a bit of coffee. Any which way you serve these little delicacies, as long as you make plenty no one will be fighting over who gets one.