Pumpkin, Sage, and Browned-Butter Bread

photo 2

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.

photo 3

photo 4

photo 5

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).]

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

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.

photo 1

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.

Guilty Secret Pumpkin Pie Cake

photo 1

Ok, so. I realize the recipes on this blog aren’t always the healthiest (although I do try to keep it balanced!), or the most gourmet (I only try sometimes), but they aren’t usually embarrassing. I try to cook using “real,” unprocessed foods, buy higher quality and/or organic ingredients, etc. This recipe is a glaring exception to all of that, though, but it’s so good – and so easy – that I’m not even going to apologize for it. As evidenced from the photo montage above, there’s nothing “real” or healthy about this cake (even my vanilla is the super cheap, store-brand version – please don’t judge). However, it turns out boxed yellow cake mix and cool whip, while chemical-laden, are secretly delicious. So if you’re looking for a simple, crowd-pleasing dessert to bring to Thanksgiving this year, you should definitely try this recipe – just be prepared to cringe a little inside when you tell people how you made it (because trust me, they will ask).

This cake came into my family many Thanksgivings ago by way of a now-ex-but-at-the-time-future-in-law (the details of which I won’t go into), but although these days the ex herself is persona non grata at family holidays, people still whisper about her cake. My aunt Laurie is hosting Thanksgiving for our large-and-ever-growing family this year, and a few weeks ago she sent out a sign-up sheet asking people to volunteer to bring certain items. Under the standard “Pumpkin Pie,” “Apple Pie,” and “Berry Pie” categories she included “Other Dessert” – and then confessed to me “I’m secretly hoping that whoever signs up for ‘other’ makes – you know – the cake.” So you see, it’s our guilty secret for more than one reason. Should you bring it to your family’s Thanksgiving this year, though, you can call it whatever you like.

photo 2

The bottom layer – which will become the top layer – is basically just a super easy pumpkin pie filling. Just mix a giant can of pumpkin pie filling with a five ounce can of evaporated milk, and then the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. NOTE 1: canned pumpkin pie filling is different than plain canned pumpkin – that may seem obvious, but it’s actually easy to get confused, especially when the store is out of one or the other like they all inevitably will be soon. NOTE 2: sometimes it’s hard to find a five ounce can of evaporated milk (I couldn’t this time), but they do exist. If you can’t find one,  just get a regular sized can and use a liquid measuring cup (it works out to just over half a cup).

photo 3

Make sure to line your cake pan really well with wax paper or parchment. I find it works best to spray a little PAM directly into the pan so that the parchment sticks. Once the pan is lined, spray the paper generously – you want the cake to pop right out.

photo 4

Sprinkle your dry cake mix over the pumpkin, straight from the bag…..

photo 5

And then a cup of melted butter – see, I told you it was called a guilty pleasure.

photo 1

Finally, sprinkle the pecans on top of the butter.  It looks a little scary, but the cake mix-butter-pecan layer will become a delicious crust once baked.

photo 2

See, crust! (Kind of).

photo 1

Once the cake is completely cool, flip it carefully onto the platter you’re going to serve it on (or in my case, a parchment-covered cutting board) and frost.

photo 2

To make frosting, make sure to let your cream cheese sit out for a bit to soften, then beat it with powdered sugar and vanilla and fold in the cool whip. If you’re going to serve this anywhere other than your own home, I would recommend waiting to frost the cake until you get to your cake-serving destination (you can pack it back up in the cool whip tub).

image

Enjoy! And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Guilty Secret Pumpkin Cake

For the pumpkin layer:
1 large (30 ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
5 ounces evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the crust layer:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

For the Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (reduced fat is ok)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces cool whip

To make cake:

Line a 9″ x 13″ cake pan with parchment paper and coat with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, milk, and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle with dry cake mix and drizzle with melted butter. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until golden brown.

After baking, cool completely in pan on wire rack. When cool, invert pan onto a large serving platter, carefully remove parchment, and set aside.

In a clean mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Fold in cool whip. Once the mixture is well-combined, frost cake. Cake can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.