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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

chocolate chunk pumpkin bread pudding.

Remember the chocolate chunk pumpkin bread I made? This is what I was planning to do with the second loaf. Pudding-fy it! I'm sure you must be thinking that chocolate chunk pumpkin bread + bread pudding = more deliciousness but I'm sorry to say that I actually prefer the pumpkin bread on its own. But then again, it could be because I deviated a bit from the recipe instructions.

I had scaled down the recipe from the start - I made only half the quantity of pumpkin bread - so I made a third of the custard, factoring the amount of pumpkin bread I would have already consumed by then. I must have overestimated the custard I needed, which means that I ate more pumpkin bread than I should (whoops), because I didn't have enough reserved cubes of pumpkin bread to top the custard-pumpkin bread mixture. The consequence is that I don't get that crusty crunchy layer on top when the pudding is baked. I tried to create that texture with coarse brown sugar sprinkled over the top of the pudding before it went into the oven to bake but it just isn't the same.

The second mistake I made was to go ahead with the recipe even though I didn't have half-and-half on hand. All I had was low fat milk so I subbed that in. The pudding wasn't as rich as it should, and as I would have liked, but hey if you're looking for an excuse to eat more...

Ultimately, what I felt made the recipe less stellar than it may sound like is the use of spices which, in moderate amounts, can be extremely delightful but used too much and in an area too many, can be quite overwhelming. There were so many flavours going on in the pumpkin bread itself and to combine it with a custard that is also loaded with spices is a bit too much for me. That is not to say that this isn't a good bread pudding though! It's just not something that you can stomach a whole bowl of it in one sitting in my opinion.

While I was digging in I had a strong urge to look for some caramel sauce to go with the pudding. Sadly I don't have a ready supply of caramel sauce. That's a problem that I need to fix.

Oh and you should definitely chuck a handful of chocolate chips over while the pudding is still warm. Just saying.

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread Pudding

chocolate chunk pumpkin bread, recipe here

For the custard:
2 large eggs + 4 large egg yolks
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups half-and-half, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 stick + 1 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325F. Cut the baked pumpkin bread into cubes - this will make about 7 cups of bread cubes. Toast the cubes for about 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through, until lightly browned. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes.

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and brown sugar until combined. Add in the half-and-half, pumpkin puree and 5 tbsp melted butter and whisk until combined. Add in the cinnamon, salt, cayenne, nutmeg and vanilla and whisk again. Fold in 6 cups of the toasted bread cubes, stir to combine, and allow to sit for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the bottom and side of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Toss the remaining 1 cup of toasted bread cubes with the remaining butter.

Pour the custard mixture into the prepared pan. Scatter the remaining bread cubes over the custard mixture and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the custard is set. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

chocolate chunk pumpkin bread.

Hello folks! I've been neglecting this blog quite a bit recently because of studies but that's not going to continue anymore (until I leave for a short getaway to Japan(!)). I miss baking so so much words cannot describe. It's my daily ritual to browse through Foodgawker and Tastespotting but I haven't been doing that recently because it almost hurt to see other people churning out delicious looking cakes and cookies while I couldn't. I almost completely neglected to read the posts of my favorite bloggers and I had a whole pile of them to go through, which I've just done, spending about 2 hours ogling at my computer screen.

Now it's my turn to contribute to the baking blogosphere. I made two mini loaves of chocolate chunk pumpkin bread - one to eat as it is, and another for something else. (If you find the name familiar, and if you can recall the full recipe, let's keep this a secret so that we don't spoil the surprise for others.)

The pumpkin bread was nicely flavoured with warm spices, but it felt a little flat. I left out the ground nutmeg in the recipe because I didn't have any on hand, but even if I had added it in, I think would still feel that the bread is lacking in a little something. And I have a hunch that that little something could be the rich caramelly flavour of brown sugar. Indeed, the recipe uses only white sugar, and I was tempted to swap it out for brown at first but I decided to trust in the recipe and adhere to the instructions. Well, I'm not saying that the pumpkin bread was bad, but it could be better. In fact, it's far from bad, it's actually pretty darn good! I couldn't stop snacking on it even after I've finished a fairly generous slice I cut for myself.

If the pumpkin bread is already so good by itself, I shudder with excitement to think how amazing it would be when I transform it into another dessert. Let us all await with bated breath.

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread
makes a 9 x 5 inch loaf
partially adapted from Baked Elements

1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
1/2 cup oil
1 3/4 cup sugar (I recommend using brown sugar)
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup water
6 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9 x 5 inch loaf tin.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger together.

Whisk the pumpkin puree and oil until combined. Whisk in the sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, until fully incorporated. Stir in the vanilla extract and water until combined. Fold in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chunks.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 65 to 85 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out almost clean. Cool before slicing.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

cupcake ice cream cones.

Today I shall just do a short commentary on these cupcake ice cream cones and let the pictures do the rest of the talking. I guess Wordless Wednesday came a little late.

These are really just about the novelty factor. The cupcakes themselves were great- they are based on a vanilla cupcake recipe I've been wanting to try for a while. (I always seem to have an endless list of vanilla cupcake recipes to try.) The seven minute frosting, white, fluffy and piled high on each cupcake cone was chosen for its ability to hold at room temperature and aesthetic appeal. Plus, it isn't too heavy so you can eat more of it at one shot compared to buttercreams, which is definitely a bonus because you have to pipe a mountain of it to achieve that soft serve look. The downside is that it gets a little sweet after a while.

Also, after you get through half of the cone- the mark where you would have already finished your cupcake- you are left with an empty shell, i.e. just the cone itself. If I had thought about it earlier, I would have filled the bottom with some candies or maybe frosting.

I had great fun making these though! Especially when I get to the part where I get to do some major sprinkle spamming. I used three kinds of sprinkles here, can you spot them all? Just be careful not to let these topple over!

Cupcake Ice Cream Cones
recipe for cupcakes adapted from here, frosting recipe adapted from here
makes 10

For the vanilla oreo cupcakes:
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp cake flour
1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, cubed and softened
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oreos, crushed into small chunks

For the frosting:
1/2 cup sugar + 2 tsp sugar
2/9 cup water
2 tsp light corn syrup
2 egg whites

For assembly:
10 ice cream cones
Sprinkles etc, for garnishing

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare small cupcake liners.

Whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Beat in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Stir in the egg. Stir in half the milk, beating until the batter is smooth. Stir in the rest of the milk and vanilla extract. Fold in the oreo chunks.

Divide batter amongst the cupcake liners, filling them only halfway. Bake for about 12 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean. Cool before trimming the tops such the cupcakes would have a level surface. Eat the excess cake.

Make the frosting: Combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a saucepan. Stir to combine. Heat the syrup until it reaches between 230F without stirring. Meanwhile, start whipping the egg whites. When the egg whites have reached soft peaks, sprinkle in the remaining 2 tsp sugar and continue beating to combine.

Once the syrup reaches around 230F, stream in the syrup while still beating the egg whites. When all the syrup has been poured in, continue whisking the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks and have cooled down. At this point, tint the frosting if desired and use immediately.

Assembly: Slot a cupcake in each ice cream cone. You may have to squish the cupcake in a bit. Fill piping bag with a large round tip and pipe a spiral of frosting on each cupcake. Finish with sprinkles.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

banana brown sugar brownies.

Lately I've not been in the mood to bake cookies, tea cakes, stuff that are simple, quick and easy to make. I feel like making laborious multi-component desserts, the very french-y kind. I guess having to just enough time to bake only once a week makes me feel like using that chance to make something worthwhile. That's not to say that a muffin isn't a worthwhile treat; it's just a tad plain and not my most desirable option for a celebration of a baking day.

I scanned through the baking books I have located in every corner of the house and found that I was lacking some inspiration for multi-component desserts so I went to get a book by Adriano Zumbo as a post-exam treat for myself. I'm not posting one of his recipes today, sadly, there are just too many enticing recipes to choose from I need some time to think and plan! Meanwhile, I'll just try to clear as many recipes on my to-bake list. Having said that, when I looked through my to-bake list recently I found them rather blah. I made that list a long time ago and I guess it just doesn't match my mood these days. That's why for my next recipe I'm going to do some spontaneous improvisation on a recipe or something, just to make things more exciting.

So till the next post, have some banana brown sugar brownies! These are really chewy, dense and moist brownies, with more banana flavour than chocolate. I would prefer a slightly stronger chocolate flavour so I've made extra modifications to the recipe.

Banana Brown Sugar Brownies
makes a 8 x 5 inch slab
adapted from here

2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 ripe banana, mashed
scant 3 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 8 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Melt the butter and chocolate chips together in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Set aside to cool.

Whisk the banana, brown sugar, salt and egg together. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder. Stir in all but 1 tbsp of the chocolate mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Swirl in the remaining 1 tbsp chocolate mixture.

Bake for about 13 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

peanut butter banana chocolate-filled muffins.

This week has not been a really good week, which is putting it extremely lightly.

Times like this make me extremely grateful for my ability to bake- at least I can do something right. A quick search for reviews on the peanut butter banana bread recipe by Baked Elements revealed that the bread was best left overnight for the flavors to meld together before eating. I didn't do a taste test and just made the muffins, left them for a day, and ate them the next, following the advice of those who have already tried the recipe. So I can't tell you if there is a noticeable difference is flavour before and after waiting, but I don't think that eating the muffins hot out of the oven wouldn't do them a great injustice.

The flavour of the muffins a day after baking was a nice balance of peanut butter and banana, leaning slightly to the peanut buttery side. If I had eaten them on the day of baking itself, I bet the banana taste would be stronger. So I guess it's up to you! If you like a stronger taste of banana, eat them within a few hours and if you like a stronger taste of peanut butter, wait until the next day. Or, you could save some muffins for the day after and have some on the spot, the best of both worlds.

Because I left them for a day and their crusts became soft, I tried heating them up before eating to sort of crisp up the surface area again but after a while they weren't so crunchy anymore. I guess these aren't the crunchy top kinda muffins but it's totally okay because they're still so delish.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate-Filled Muffins
adapted from Baked Elements
makes 12

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 rounded cup mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
1/2 cup oil
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter

chocolate chips, for filling the muffins

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together.

Whisk the bananas, oil, eggs, milk and peanut butter together. Fold in the dry ingredients. Fill each muffin cup halfway, drop some chocolate chips in the center of the batter, then top with more batter.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out almost clean.