Pumpkin, Sage, and Browned-Butter Bread

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There’s a certain little holiday coming up next week, are you ready? Confession: I am nowhere close. Most years, I have my recipes all picked out by this point, my grocery lists written, all non-perishables purchased, and homemade pie crusts ready and waiting in the freezer. This year, I haven’t given any of it a second thought. That’s what this weekend is for, right? No matter where you are on the spectrum, though, consider adding these mini loaves to your “to make” list – while they may not belong on your Thanksgiving table, they definitely belong in your fall baking repertoire.

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I hesitated to try this recipe as I firmly believed that nothing can beat my aunt’s pumpkin muffins – but since anything with brown butter and sage sounds pretty delicious, I gave them a try. And I’m so glad I did, because they are equally yummy, but in a completely different way.  The brown butter and sage flavors add a savory richness, and the fried sage pieces contribute a fun little crunch. While browning the butter and frying the sage are additional steps, I still whipped up the batter pretty quickly. [Browned butter tips here. Sometimes I find browning butter easy, sometimes I find it more challenging – but regardless my finished product always ends up delicious).]

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The recipe is supposed to yield eight mini loaves, and I doubled it in the hopes of making twelve – and ended up with six. So I think when Martha says eight, she means eight “mini mini” loaves, which you would bake in something like this (which I have now purchased and will be sure to use next time).  I baked these in “large” paper mini loaf pans (is there such thing as a large mini loaf pan? Let’s pretend there is), which were adorable and looked gorgeous all wrapped up for party favors, but I think they would also be adorable as “mini mini” loaves, as muffins, or even as a regular loaf. However, the recipe as written would yield about eight muffins or one small loaf, so you may want to consider doubling.

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Pumpkin, previously: muffins, cookies, granola, bread pudding, soup, cake, pie

One year ago: My First Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin, Sage, and Browned-Butter Bread, from Martha Stewart Living 

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1/4 cup fresh sage, cut into thin strips, plus whole leaves for garnish (optional)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter eight 4-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess (I use PAM for baking here). Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add sage strips; cook until butter turns golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl; let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, and sage-butter mixture. Add flour mixture; whisk until incorporated. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans; smooth tops with an offset spatula. Place pans on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto rack to cool completely. (Cakes can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature overnight or refrigerated up to 5 days.) Garnish with whole sage leaves before serving, if desired.

Ombré Tomato Bruschetta

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Happy September, everyone! Can you believe Labor Day has come and gone? It felt so early to me this year. I hope everyone had lovely and relaxing long weekends. And now we’re back in the grind, ugh. But on the bright side, in the words of the funniest person I follow on Instagram, “I was sad that summer was over. But I was happy that it was over for my enemies, too.” That made me laugh when I read that “chapter” in his book, and I laughed even harder when I saw it in my Instagram feed this morning (in between the seemingly endless “first day of preschool” pictures – not that we don’t all love the first day of preschool pictures!!).

Luckily, summer isn’t actually over quite yet, and we still have a few weeks of tomato season left.  This “recipe” (if you can even call it that) was on the cover of my Martha Stewart Living last July, and has literally been on my “to make” list since then. I’m not sure how or why it took me fourteen months to make it, as bruschetta is one of my summer staples, but for whatever reason (probably because I never had all of the right color tomatoes) it did.  I finally made it for a Labor Day BBQ last night and it was sooooooo delicious that I had to post it, even though it’s less of a “recipe” and more of exactly what it sounds like – tomatoes on grilled bread.  But with fresh ciabatta, ripe heirlooms, and good olive oil and salt, this is literally better than birthday cake.  

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There’s not much else I can tell you about this, except that I really hope you make it. My only notes would be: (1) I really do think quality of ingredients makes a difference here – fresh bread, ripe tomatoes, good olive oil and sea salt; and (2) don’t be scared of the raw garlic – I’m usually not a fan, but I’ve read so many recipes telling me to rub toast with garlic cloves that I just went for it and I feel like it added a necessary kick.  Aside from that, it’s all pretty self-explanitory.  This whole thing literally took me ten minutes, including toasting and slicing (and photographing!). It would be delicious with fresh mozzarella, although it doesn’t need it at all.  I thought the basil made it look pretty, but it would be fine without it – and that is saying something, as I think everything is better with basil. You don’t even need to do the ombré part if you don’t have the right colored tomatoes (except then it would just be plain bruschetta, which isn’t quite as fun). Basically what I’m saying is, we only have a few short weeks of summer left, let’s take advantage of them with ombré bruschetta, whatever way you want to do it. Just don’t wait fourteen months like me.

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Tomato Ombré on Grilled Bread, from Martha Stewart Living

1 loaf good rustic bread, such as Ciabatta
2 cloves garlic, split in half crosswise (I only needed one)
2-3 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, in a variety of colors
Good olive oil
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil, for garnish (optional)

Slice loaf of bread in half lengthwise, and either grill on the barbecue (like Martha) or place under the broiler until toasty (like me). Rub the toasted (cut) side of the bread all over with the garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Slice tomatoes as thin as possible. Drizzle any accumulated juices over the bread, and then arrange the tomatoes on top of the bread according to color.  Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper (Martha gives you amounts of oil and salt and pepper to use, I just kind of eyeballed it).  Garnish with basil, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve.

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Peach and Crème Fraîche Pie

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I had a lot of things on my to do list this summer, and as per usual most of them (namely, my golf game, my tan, and my trip to the Hamptons) didn’t happen. But a few did, and happily one of those was to finally make Martha Stewart’s peach and crème fraîche pie. I saw this pie in her magazine years ago but never really had an excuse to make it – who makes pies, after all, besides grandmothers? Crisps and cobblers and just plain peaches with ice cream are so much easier. But the peach dumplings I made last year were such a hit that I thought maybe this summer I should try the pie.  And since we only have a few days left in August, which we all know is the month for peaches, I made it this past weekend. 

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Aside from the crust, this pie is so easy to throw together (although come to think of it, aside from the crust, so is every pie). I actually planned to use a store bought crust, but if you can believe it Whole Foods appears to only sell puff pastry, no frozen pie dough. Ugh. So my “quick dessert” that I planned to throw together in twenty minutes ended up taking the better part of an afternoon, but it was so yummy it was worth it. Simply peel and quarter your peaches and toss them with sugar and a little salt, mix together a quick crumble topping and then (once your crust is ready) you can assemble the pie in about five minutes.  When I searched google for this recipe, I found that Smitten Kitchen had beat me to it (even when I don’t intentionally blog her recipes, I still end up blogging her recipes – sorry Deb!).  In her notes she mentioned that the pie could use a little additional sugar, so when Martha told me to toss my peaches with two tablespoons granulated sugar, I added two tablespoons brown sugar as well.  I also added a little cinnamon to both the peaches and the crumble – not enough to detract from the simplicity of the pie, but just a pinch to spice it up a bit (literally, hehe).  There’s just something about the peach-brown sugar-cinnamon combo that is hard to beat.

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My only note to this recipe (aside from the brown sugar and cinnamon, and my subtle hint to use frozen pie crust) would be to use a “pie shield” to keep the crust from getting too dark.  I’ve seen these in the baking section at Met Market a hundred times and thought they must be a total gimmick – but I made the mistake of walking to the coffee shop while my pie was in the oven and came back to a VERY toasty looking crust.  I tried to cover the edges with tin foil for the last few minutes of baking time, but it was too late.  It still tasted fine, but I was pretty sad – at least, until I noticed that Deb’s and even Martha’s crusts looked pretty dang brown (and Martha even tells you to cover your crust).  This might be less of an issue if you didn’t par bake, but just FYI.

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Yum yummy yum.  The peaches and cream bake together into such a delicious custard, with the crumble adding a little crunch.  I served this on Sunday night after a long wedding weekend, and it was met with unanimously rave reviews. Everyone gobbled it up so fast I didn’t even have time to take a picture once it was all sliced up (it looked so pretty on the inside), which I think gives me an excuse to make it again – only this time, with a frozen crust. Just call me Grandma! 

Peaches, previously: dumplings with bourbon hard sauce, shortcakes

One year ago: pesto, two ways (and one is kale!)

Peach and Crème Fraîche Pie, from Martha Stewart Living

For the crust (you could use any crust you like, including store bought, but I’m going to give you Martha’s pâte sucrée recipe):
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

For the streusel: 
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cold, cut into pieces

For the filling: 
4-5 medium ripe yellow peaches, pitted and quartered (I peeled mine)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons crème fraîche (I used a little more)

Directions:

Crust: pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Add egg yolk, and pulse. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube until dough just holds together. Turn out dough onto a work surface; shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or up to two days.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9 1/2- or 10-inch pie plate (about 1 1/2 inches deep). Trim edge to one inch, fold under, and crimp as desired. Pierce bottom of dough all over with a fork. Transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover edge of crust with foil. Line crust with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake, covered, 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment (keep foil on edge). Bake until pale golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly; remove foil; reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

While the crust is baking, prepare streusel and filling.

Streusel: sift together sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon (if using) in a medium bowl. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 

Filling: put peach quarters in a medium bowl and sprinkle with sugars and salt; gently toss to coat.

Put pie together: once the crust has cooled a bit, spread two tablespoons crème fraîche onto the bottom of the crust and sprinkle with one-third of the streusel. Arrange peaches on top; spread or dot with remaining three (or more) tablespoons crème fraîche. Sprinkle with remaining streusel.

Bake pie: at 375 degrees until bubbling and golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cover edge of crust with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

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Cucumber Melon Salad with Feta, Basil, and Mint

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Happy summer, everyone! Sorry for the long hiatus from blogging – I wish I had a good excuse, but sadly I don’t. Life just gets so busy in the summer, who has time to cook? But, I’m back now and I have really good intentions of being more consistent. I have good intentions about a lot of things that don’t always come to fruition (gym, yoga, being punctual, curbing my binge-shopping for my unborn baby nephew – just to name a few), but I have a lot of recipes on my to-do list so I’m feeling good about my re-committment to the blog.

It’s finally summer here in the Pacific Northwest, where we can count on blue skies and sunshine only after the Fourth of July. And with temperatures in the 80s and 90s all week/weekend, what sounds better than a cold, crunchy, watermelon salad? I love getting my Martha Stewart Living each month, but I have this problem where I put magazines in a “to read” pile and then kind of forget about them (see above re: “good intentions”). But it’s my dad’s birthday today (Happy Birthday, Dad!!!) and watermelon is one of his all time favorite things, so when we celebrated earlier this week I dug through my pile and tried my best to copy the gorgeous picture on the cover.

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This salad really couldn’t be easier. Just cut up your melons and cucumber, throw in some herbs (you could use just mint or just basil – Martha only lists basil, and most watermelon salads only use mint – it was delicious with both but if you only have one or the other on hand it would be fine), toss with olive oil and lime juice, and you’re good to go.  The feta is totally discretionary – I liked it with, but it would be equally good without. You can prepare the salad ahead of time and then just toss with the dressing before serving. I like my watermelon as cold as possible, so keep the salad in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

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Cucumber Melon Salad, adapted from Martha Stewart Living 

(note: Martha’s recipe is for one serving, mine serves a crowd)

One cantaloupe, cubed or balled
One small or one half large watermelon, cubed or balled
1-2 large or 3-4 small cucumbers, diced or sliced
Olive oil to taste
Lime juice to taste
Small handful mint leaves, torn or julienned
Small handful basil leaves, torn or julienned
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup crumbled feta, optional
Salt and pepper to taste, optional*

Toss together your melons and cucumber. I used the melon baller for my watermelon and diced the cantaloupe like Martha told me to, but you could cut both or ball both, whatever is easier. If you’re using regular cucumbers, I would cut them lengthwise into quarters and then dice them, but if you can find persian cucumbers (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.) you can just slice them. I read once that in salads like this everything should be the same size (pieces of watermelon = pieces of cantaloupe = pieces of cucumber), so I used that as a rough guideline.

Just before serving, drizzle the cucumber and melons with olive oil and fresh lime juice and toss with mint and basil. I used only a tiny bit of olive oil and two limes (heavier on the lime, lighter on the oil) but you can adjust this to your liking. Garnish with additional mint and basil and sprinkle with feta, if using (I used it this time, but Martha doesn’t and I might not next time – it was good with it but would be just as good without). Chill in the fridge if time allows. 

*I didn’t use salt and pepper as I didn’t think the salad needed any – but if you weren’t using feta I think a little salt would be good.  

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Friday Faves, Seahawks Edition

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Happy Super Bowl Weekend, everyone! I don’t know about you, but this Seahawks fan is pretty excited about the game. As much as I wish I could be in the stands in East Rutherford on Sunday, it turns out that’s a hard ticket to come by (sad face), so I’ll be cheering on my Hawks from Seattle. True story: the last time the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl (incidentally, also the first time they went to the Super Bowl), I went to a game-watch party at a friend’s house in Seattle.  I had purchased a Hasselbeck jersey that year, but although I tried to look the part, I wasn’t really a true fan.  Some girlfriends and I somehow got the idea that we’d have a better chance of getting a pizza delivered to our house rather than delivered to the party, so we left at halftime under the guise of – wait for it – going to Sunday night mass. No wonder the Hawks lost – that had to have been some pretty bad karma. Although we did watch the second half (bad calls and all) from the comforts of our own couch, with an entire Papa John’s delivery to ourselves.

all photos from martha stewart

all photos from martha stewart

Fast forward eight years later, and I take my game day menus a lot more seriously. I don’t have a jersey this time, but I’m going to attempt the entire spread from this month’s Martha Stewart Living, along with a couple other staples. I’m not really a chicken wings kind of person, but apparently they’re a must-have for any football event, so I thought Martha’s tequila-lime drumettes looked relatively simple and healthy. I also don’t eat hot dogs (barf!), but I loved the look of these “pigs in a blanket” with sausage and frozen pastry dough, sprinkled with flaky sea salt and poppy seeds. And just so that I can have something to eat too, her “love dip” and chocolate pretzel bark.

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The next question then becomes, what to do for dessert (apparently I’m not counting the pretzel bark as dessert). The cookie and cupcake possibilities are endless, but in the interests of time I’ll probably just do some basic blue and green cupcakes and then decorate them with the toppers I bought off Etsy last year right before our ill-fated game against Atlanta (multiple options here).   If you want to get really fancy with either your cupcake decorating, or just decorating in general, check out these tips from Seattle’s resident cupcake and party guru, Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcakes & Party (I guess I’ll be making a trip to Home Depot for some Astro Turf tomorrow!).   A tip if you’re planning on decorating your “Beast Mode” cupcakes with Skittles (as I hope you are): don’t put the skittles on the cupcakes until right before you put them out, as the candy coating will bleed all over your frosting.  Same goes for brown Peanut M&M’s on cupcakes with green frosting (you know the ones where you pipe frosting “laces” onto the M&M’s so they look like footballs? So cute, but they also bleed).  I learned that lesson the hard way last season, although my candy-bleeding tragedy paled in comparison to the tragedy of the game itself.

my favorite way to decorate

my favorite way to decorate

Some of my other game day favorites and inspirations include:

If anyone has any favorite Super Bowl party recipes, I would love to hear them in the comments. I’m also always open to fun games or prop bets for anyone who’s watching the game more for the commercials and/or halftime show.  Wishing everyone a wonderful Super Bowl Weekend – Go Hawks!!

mani