Pumpkin Custard with Cookie Crumble Crust and Bourbon Chantilly Cream

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If you were planning on making a pumpkin pie for that little holiday we have coming up next week, I have an alternative for you. All the creamy, custard-y, fall-spiced deliciousness of pumpkin pie, but without breaking out your food processor, getting flour all over your countertops, rolling out any crust, etc. And not a single can of evaporated milk. Sound good? I thought so too, especially when my batch yielded 10 individual custards instead of 8 and I was able to sample two one and still have 8, aka a full pie’s worth of servings, leftover.

Thanks to the blog post that introduced me to this cake, I ordered the “Rustic Fruit Desserts” cookbook this past June. As with most of my impulsive cookbook purchases, I had already forgotten about it by the time it arrived on my doorstep two days later. And as also with most of my impulsive cookbook purchases, I flipped through it and then put it in a pile of things I absolutely intended to carefully read and/or do something with ASAP, where of course it lay buried until a week ago. But it was meant to be, because I rediscovered it this week, in mid-November. I’m not sure pumpkin custards would have spoken to me as strongly back in June.

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We’ve done piecakecookies, granolamuffinscinnamon rollsbreadbread pudding, soup…..but I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many pumpkin recipes, especially when everyone’s favorite holiday is a week away. At least let’s hope not, since that list makes me realize that this is B&B’s 10th (!!!) pumpkin recipe. Aside from the pie tin and the pastry crust, this custard looks a lot like pumpkin pie – and as it turns out, tastes a lot like pumpkin pie. But even better, if that’s possible. And the best part is it takes literally 15 minutes to throw together (not counting the hour in the oven and the minimum 5 hours chilling in the fridge once it’s out of the oven – so it does require a bit of planning… and of course the potential trip to Crate and Barrel for whatever number of ramekins it takes to get you from the number you can dig up in your cupboards to 8).

The recipe as written calls for vanilla shortbread cookies for the crust – and the cookbook includes a recipe for them. I’m leaving it out here because I used a combination of store-bought gingersnaps and graham crackers instead (the recipe suggested gingersnaps as an alternative, I love a good graham cracker crust, and – confession – I first learned of the gingersnap/graham cracker combo from a recipe for a really yummy pumpkin cheesecake tart from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook that I’ve made every year since her cookbook came out, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever). You could use any type of cookie you like, however.

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Re: Chantilly Cream. Doesn’t that sound fancy? Turns out it’s just sweetened whipped cream. (As if we weren’t already sweetening our whipped cream?) The recipe told me to whip the cream by hand, which I tried to do but it didn’t take me long to switch to an electric mixer. Add a little sugar and vanilla halfway through, and perhaps a little brandy (as the recipe suggests), or bourbon (as I did). I’m not a huge bourbon drinker but I try to keep a bottle of Knob Creek on hand at all times, mainly for cooking but also because every once in awhile you have a friend that wants a glass of bourbon, and don’t real adults keep a fully stocked bar? Of course when I went to look for my Knob Creek as I was making the whipped cream I realized I was out (too many peach dumplings this summer!), but I did find a mini bottle of Maker’s Mark in my freezer. No idea where it came from, but it turned out to be delicious. I only used 1/2 teaspoon, and it was perfect – I would definitely recommend adding it if you have any on hand, although maybe not if you’re going to be feeding this to small children (I don’t think 1/2 teaspoon of alcohol in one cup of cream, which yields 2 cups once whipped, would be enough to hurt anyone when a single portion would work out to be 1/8th-1/10th of 1/2 teaspoon, aka a very trace amount, but just FYI. If I had offered the bowl of whipped cream to my one year old nephew I think he might have eaten the whole bowl, so just something to keep in mind).

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One Year Ago: Pumpkin, Sage, and Brown Butter Loafs
Two Years Ago: Carrot Mac and Cheese
Pumpkin, Previously: Cookies, Granola, Soup, Bread Pudding, Muffins, Cake, Pie, Bread, Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Custard with Cookie Crumb Crust, from Rustic Fruit Desserts

Serves 8-10

1 1/4 cups crushed cookie of your choice (original recipe suggests vanilla shortbread, I used a combination of graham crackers and gingersnaps but either would be fine on their own)
2 cups half-and-half
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses (recipe suggests Barbados, I used Grandma’s because I had it in the fridge)
2 cups pureed cooked pumpkin, or 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (note: not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Chantilly cream (recipe below), extra cookies, and cinnamon, for garnish

Chantilly Cream:

1 cup cold heavy cream
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Recipe suggests adding Brandy, I used 1/2 teaspoon Bourbon (you could up it to 1 teaspoon but it might be pretty boozy)

To make the Custard: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Divide crushed cookies among 8 5-ounce ramekins. In a small saucepan, bring the half-and-half to a light simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk the eggs and yolks together in a bowl, then whisk in both sugars and the molasses. Slowly pour the hot half-and-half into the egg mixture while whisking continuously. Stir the pumpkin, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Slowly add the egg mixture, whisking just enough to combine ingredients; this will keep air bubbles to a minimum, which contributes to a creamier texture when baked.

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a 6-cup measuring cup or a bowl with a pour lip, then strain the custard into the measuring cup. Distribute the custard evenly among the ramekins, filling them almost to the top. Place a large roasting pan on the center rack of the oven, put the ramekins in the roasting pan, and carefully add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the custards for 50-60 minutes, or until puffed slightly on the edges and almost set when jiggled. Carefully remove the ramekins from the pan and place on a wire rack. Cool completely on the rack before covering lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least 5 hours and up to 2 days. Serve garnished with a small dollop of Chantilly cream.

Storage: The custard itself is best if eaten within 2 days, but any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

To make the Chantilly Cream: Chill a metal bowl and whisk (or beaters). Pour the cream into the bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla (and bourbon or brandy, if using) and continue whipping the cream until it hangs but does not fall from the whisk. Alternatively, if you are using an electric mixer, start whipping the cream on low speed, then gradually increase the speed until the mixer is on medium speed. (Recipe recommends whipping the cream by hand so that you have “more control over the process.” I tried that to begin with, but my arm got tired well before any soft peaks were forming so I happily relinquished control and switched to an electric mixer).

Storage: Chantilly cream is best if served immediately. You may refrigerate it in  covered container for up to four hours, but you may need to rewhip some of the cream at the bottom of the bowl before serving.

Top chilled custards with Chantilly cream, sprinkle cream with cinnamon, and serve with a gingersnap on the side. Yum!

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Ina’s (and Beatty’s) Chocolate Cake

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I feel like the world is made up of cake people and non-cake people, and then within the “cake people” category there are chocolate cake people and… other kinds of cake people? I’m not a huge cake person, nor really a chocolate person, so I certainly can’t claim to be a chocolate cake person.  I do, however, aspire to be a good hostess, so when we were having a big family birthday party for my brother-in-law last month and half an hour before people were scheduled to arrive I realized there was no dessert, I sought to rectify the situation. My brother-in-law is very much a cake person, and specifically, very much a chocolate cake person. So I did a quick google search for chocolate cake and this was the first recipe to pop up.  Since Ina would never steer me wrong, and since miraculously I had all ingredients on hand, I quickly whipped up the batter, greased and floured two round pans (the fact that I not only had all the ingredients but two matching round cake pans tells me that the chocolate cake gods were really on my side this particular evening), and slid the cake into the oven right as the guests were arriving.  And as it turned out, it was a huge hit with cake people and non-cake people alike, which I took to mean that it belongs on B&B (where as I’ve said before, we do things mainly for the accolades).

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For some reason, I read the name of the cake that night when I was a bit frazzled and just assumed it was named after Warren Beatty. So for a time I was calling it Warren Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, which makes no sense. As it turns out, in the episode where she introduces the recipe, Ina is making the cake for her friend Michael and is using his grandmother’s recipe – Beatty is Michael’s grandmother’s name. (Pronounced Betty. But you can understand my confusion). I just thought I should share that before we go any further, so that you don’t make the same mistake.

When I made this the first time, I used a vanilla buttercream frosting rather than the chocolate frosting Grandma Beatty uses (if there’s one thing I know about my brother-in-law, it’s that he loves chocolate cake with white frosting). When I made it again for another family birthday last week, I used Grandma Beatty’s version, to compare.  Both were delicious, although I will say (as a non-chocolate person), you definitely want some vanilla ice cream with the chocolate/chocolate version (and to be fair, even with the chocolate/vanilla I still wanted ice cream – possibly due to the fact that I’m more of an ice cream person than a cake person). Also, the chocolate frosting calls for a raw egg yolk – you could omit it without sacrificing too much, but if you follow the recipe as is just be mindful when serving to pregnant women or little kids.

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Since this is an Ina-approved recipe, it’s basically perfect as written, no need for me to give you any tips. I will say, DO use parchment as instructed – I didn’t the first time and had a hard time getting my cakes out of the pans; I used it the second time and they popped right out and then the parchment peeled right off (shown below, as I was pretty proud of myself). Ina doesn’t have you do a crumb layer, which I did just because I had the time and it always makes me feel like a real baker. If you have time (and freezer space), spread a very thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake and then pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so. Then when you finish icing it you won’t have any bothersome crumbs messing up your beautiful frosting job. And along those lines, my final note is to consider investing in an offest spatula – I took a cupcake decorating class at Williams-Sonoma a few years ago and the instructor practically forced us all to buy one, but I’ve used mine probably 100 times since. They really make icing any kind of cake or cupcake (sometimes even cookie) so much easier, and make your final product look so much better.  Because like I said, we’re in it for the accolades. And because cake person or not, everyone needs a beautifully-frosted Grandma Beatty’s Chocolate Cake in their repertoire.

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One Year Ago: Crunchy Cabbage Salad with Peanut Ginger Dressing 
Two Years Ago: My All-Time Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cakes, previously: Pops, Pumpkin, Rum, Berry Bundt (I think this is the first basic cake recipe for B&B – only took two and a half years!)

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, from Barefoot Contessa

For the cake: 

Butter, for greasing pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for greasing pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

For the frosting: 

6 ounces good semi-sweet chocolate, such as Callebaut
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

To make cake: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

To make frosting: 

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip!

To assemble cake: 

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

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Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake

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This recipe was first posted back in 2012, which means for three years I knew about it and didn’t make it. This blog was started in 2013, which means there’s been over two years (and specifically, two Fourth of Julys) where I haven’t made it. I don’t really have a good excuse, aside from the overwhelming number of patriotic-themed recipes on my “to make” list, and/or who really feels like turning the oven on when it’s 90 degrees outside? But inspired by the berries at the market this past weekend, I finally dug out my bundt cake pan (usually reserved for rum cake season) and whipped one up – a week ahead of schedule, even – and I’m so glad I did, because now I can encourage you all to make it this weekend. For in addition to being absolutely delicious, it’s the perfect cake for Fourth of July weekend – it’s simple, you can make it ahead of time, you can transport it anywhere pretty easily, it’s packed with seasonal summer berries, and of course it’s red, white, and blue, a prerequisite for any Fourth of July dessert.

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I love this cake as written (Deb’s version is one cup raspberries, one cup blueberries, one cup blackberries), and the way I made it (per Deb’s suggestion, I added a fourth cup of berries – you could increase any or all of her three, but I used a cup of chopped strawberries so as to make her “triple berry bundt” a “quadruple berry bundt”), but I also love the idea that you could use this cake batter and add literally any fruit that you like. The original recipe (before Deb tweaked it) was for a rhubarb cake, and a lot of comments on Deb’s post recommended making it with peaches (yum!!). I’m also tempted to try an all strawberry version. If only it was 1950 and people were allowed to bake a cake a week.

Deb’s main tip (aside from adding a fourth cup of berries) was to make sure you grease your pan really, really well.  I used PAM for baking and didn’t have a problem at all, but my bundt cake pan is nonstick – from the comments to her post it seems as though people without nonstick pans had problems regardless of how well they greased them. My only other tip is – and I’m pretty proud of myself about this – I recently read (in my new Huckleberry cookbook, recipes coming soon!) that in baking you should always double the amount of salt and vanilla the recipe calls for.  I don’t have a problem doing this with vanilla – I feel like most recipes only call for one teaspoon, which seems like such a small amount – but the salt is a little scarier. According to Zoe, though, adding the extra salt brings out the sweetness of the sugar. She also recommends using only kosher salt, which I intend to do going forward but forgot in this particular instance.

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I served this for dessert on Sunday and it was quite the crowd pleaser. So while I regret waiting three years to make it, I’m glad I finally did. Better late than never, right? Happy baking, and happy Fourth of July!

Fourth of July, previously: Sugar Cookies, Flag Cake

Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake, from Smitten Kitchen

For the Cake

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt*
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract*
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 cups mixed berries**

*the recipe as written calls for 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; I doubled both amounts as discussed above.

**recipe calls for only 3 cups berries – I loved it with 4 but if you only have 3 cups on hand you’ll be fine.

For the Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
Juice of one lemon
One tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Make the Cake

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and flour a 10 cup bundt cake pan, or spray with PAM for baking. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 1/2 cups flour with baking powder and salt (reserving the 2 tablespoons flour); set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated, then 1/2 of the buttermilk, another 1/3 flour, remaining buttermilk, and remaining flour. Scrape down the bowl as needed and beat as little as possible.

Toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour and fold the berries as gently as possible into the cake batter. It’s virtually impossible to do this without squishing the berries, but do your best. My raspberries all squished but they made the batter a pretty pink color. Gently spread the batter into the well-greased pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 minutes so that it bakes evenly. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack before inverting it onto a serving platter. Let cool completely before frosting.

Make the Glaze

Stir the butter and lemon juice into the powdered sugar and whisk until smooth (use more lemon juice for a thinner icing, less for thicker – I used a little too much, so while it still tasted delicious it didn’t look quite as pretty as Deb’s). Drizzle the icing over the cake and let it drip down the sides.

Cake is delicious the day of, but even better the next day, and will last 3-4 days if tightly wrapped.

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