Friday, November 11, 2011

Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Rounding out our evening of pumpkin and beer...and adding a bit more substance to an otherwise carb-ridden table, was this black bean and pumpkin soup.  I first happened upon the recipe at Saucy and Bossy and had been waiting all fall for an oppertuner time to try it out.  When Ross annouced his next beer would be a pumpkin ale, I knew the soup's moment had come.

I added about twice as much pumpkin as either of the linked recipes used.  My pumpkin of choice was roasted and pureed from a fresh pumpkin...not canned.  But in a pinch either will work.  I also omitted the ham steak and used vegetable broth to make this a vegan/vegetarian friendly dish.

The recipe was also adapted for use in the slow cooker, as to be readily on hand throughout several hours of entertaining.

Adapted from the recipe posted at Saucy and Bossy, but originally from Smitten Kitchen

yields 9 cups

The Ingredients:
3 cans (15.5 oz)  black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cans stewed tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 medium red onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
6 cups vegetable, chicken or beef stock
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sherry, cider or dry white wine
3-4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
additional slat and pepper to taste

The Process:
Combine drained tomatoes and black beans in a food processor.  Blend beans and tomatoes into a course puree

In large skillet, sautee onions, shallot, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper in olive oil until onion is beginning to brown and the cumin is fragrant.  Transfer onion mixture to a 6-qt slow cooker.  Stir in bean puree, stock, pumpkin puree and sherry.

Simmer the soup on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-6 hours

Just before serving, stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with sour cream and toasted pepitas.

The Review:
I really wanted to like this soup.  I really truly did.  I make several varaiations of black bean soup throughout the colder months and hoped this incarantion would add a welcome diversion from my cumin studded, chili-like line up.

It wasn't as new and exciting as I had hoped.  The dominate flavor was most assuredly the cumin.  I adore cumin, but I can't seem to avoid a black bean soup that relies on this spice.  The pumpkin was present, but in more of supporting role than leading actor.  The textures were good, though a bit smooth for my taste.  The sherry did add a lovely bright finish to the dish, but only when ladled freshly after adding.  Allowed to simmer longer in the crock pot, it's clean bite quickly faded.

More pumpkin, less bean.  Less cumin.  And sorry vegetarians...I think the soup needs the beef stock for that added depth.  And the ham steak for more interest.  Better yet...stock made from a ham I know what to do with those holiday leftovers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

What else could we serve to compliment our pumpkin beer and waffles?  Why, monkey bread of course!  Ross came across this recipe while we were brainstorming about what types of food to serve with the pumpkin ale debut and requested I made it.  This is the second monkey bread he has requested.  Is that a hint?

As with the waffles, I used fresh pumpkin puree; but I'm sure canned pumpkin would work as well.

adapted from Tracey's recipe at Sugarcrafter

Makes one loaf

The Ingredients:
For the bread dough
3 1/4 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup warm milk (105° - 115° F)
1/4 cup warm water (105° - 115° F)
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (about 1 pkg)

for the coating:
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 stick butter, melted

for the glaze:
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1-2 tsp milk

The Process:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and spices.

In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, water, pumpkin, melted butter, sugar, and yeast.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add in the wet ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir until the dough comes together. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10-15 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and set inside a clean bowl lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Cover with a clean towel and set in a warm spot to rise.  Allow to double in size, about one hour.

In a small bowl mix together the cinnamon and sugar, and melt the butter for the coating. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray. Once the dough has risen, shape the ball into a large rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into roughly equal-sized pieces and roll each piece into a ball, roughly 1-inch to 1 1/2 inch in diameter.  They needn't be the uniform, but aim to have between 35 and 45 balls.

Dip each ball of dough into the melted butter and then gently roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Layer the coated dough balls in the bundt pan as you go.

Once you’ve coated and layered all of the dough balls, cover the bundt pan and let the dough rise for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the bread until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out on to a platter.

While the bread cools make the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar and maple syrup. Add milk one tsp and a time until you achieve the desired consistency.  Drizzle over the bread while it’s still warm.

The Review:
What's not to like about monkey bread?  Especially the sweet varities?  It is warm and spicy.  It makes your kitchen smell devinine.  It's name is fun to say.  You eat it with your fingers.  And it make a wonderful breakfast the next morning.  No wonder Ross keeps requesting these yeasty gems!

I had more little balls of dough than the original recipe yielded (she managed about 40).  I suspect this was due to smaller cuts on my part.  As a result I ran out of butter and cinnamon sugar to roll the dough balls in pretty quickly and needed to prep more. 

Overall a marvelous bread.  It makes me wonder how pumpkin cinnamon rolls would go over...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pumpkin Waffles

Beer and waffles.  This was a treat to look forward to whenever a co-worker in Honolulu had a new batch of his home brew ready to try.  In the spirit of those gatherings, and to compliment Ross' Pumpkin Spice Ale, may I present...

Pumpkin waffles.

Smitten Kitchen is another food blogger I love to follow, though I do not often use her recipes.  That may change in the near future.  These waffles a little more time consuming to make if you are used to the Bisquick variety, but trust me, these are well worth it.  Once the batter is made, making the waffles is a breeze.  I did purchase a waffle iron for the sole purpose of this recipe, by the by.  Be sure to take the time to condition your iron BEFORE your first waffle attempt is poured onto the hot griddle surface.

adapted from the amazing recipe at Smitten Kitchen

Yields a lot of waffles

The Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken
1 cup pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil or cooking spray for brushing waffle iron

The Process:
Preheat oven to 250°F and preheat waffle iron.

Sift together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl with buttermilk, pumpkin, and butter until smooth. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.

In a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, or by hand with a strong wrist action, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks.  Fold the whites gently into the waffle batter, until just combined.

Brush or spray the waffle iron lightly with oil and spoon batter (amount varies depending on waffle iron) into waffle iron, spreading quickly. Cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer waffles to rack in oven to keep warm and crisp. Make more waffles in same manner.

The Review:
An amazing aroma overtook the entire house while I made these.  All breakfast and baked goods and pumpkin pie spiced....

If you like a good homemade Belgian waffle, dig in.  Just a little bit of butter goes a long way to supplement these spice laden grids.  Wiped cream, syrup, powdered sugar could all be used to dress these up, but I found them divine on their own.  Light and fluffy in the center.  Crisp on the edges. Full of wonderful fall flavor. And what a pairing with Ross' ale! 

Beer and Waffles live on!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Caramel Apple Pie

Have you been to the Baker Chick?  You should, particularly if  you have a sweet tooth.  Audra's recipes are classic, classy and served up with a twist of her own and a marvelous smile.  Her photos are stunning and her anecdotes will lighten your day.  This recipe was inspired by her passion for salted caramels and a gorgeous crop of apples I had sitting on my counter.  Unlike traditional apple pies, there is no need to add butter or sugar to the pile filling.  The caramel sauce will provide all of the buttery sweetness you need.

Caramel sauce from Audra's Banana Caramel Brownie recipe at the Baker Chick
The pie recipe is my own

The Ingredients:
For the caramel:
6 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp kosher salt

For the pie:
1 recipe for a single crust pastry
6-8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (about 4 cups)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp cinnamon

For the topping: 
1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
1 stick butter, soft 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

The process:
For the caramel sauce:

Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Add the sugar and stir frequently until sugar is a golden brown.  As soon as the sugar reaches the desired color and starts to smoke, remove it from the heat.  Carefully whisk in the cream, it will bubbly up and produce a lot of steam.  Slowly add the vanilla and salt.  Allow the caramel to cool while you prepare the crust, filling and crumb topping.

Preheat the oven to 350

While the caramel sauce cools, combine the apples, lemon juice, corn starch and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Toss to coat and set aside.

Prepare the crumb topping by combining the softened butter, brown sugar and flour with clean fingers or the tines of a fork until a coarse crumb forms.  Mix in the oatmeal and set aside.

Roll out the pastry and line in a 9 inch pie pan.  Mound the apple filling into the crust.  Drizzle the cooled caramel sauce on top.  Evenly spread the crumb top over the filling.  Bake the pie uncovered for 50-60 minutes until the filling is bubbly and the crumb top is lightly browned.  Allow to cool to almost room temperature before serving.

The Review:
I've tried this sauce on many other occasions and the flavor and richness is astounding.  However, in this recipe it doesn't quite seem to hold its own.  As a sauce it turns out to be a but too thin and unstable for this type of baked good.  The pie was amazing, don't get me wrong, but where I was hoping for a rich burnt sugar flavor and rich caramel thickness, I was rewarded with a sweet and buttery ooze of apple filling.  

The pie needs to cool off substantially for the caramel sauce to set up again.  If you are impatient the pie with reward you with a soupy sea of filling pouring all over your serving plates.  (The lovely slice pictured above was taken the next day...after the pie had been in the fridge overnight).  

I absolutely loved the crumb topping, though.  The whole pie was marvelous, but this topping will lead me to try this pie again...perhaps using Audra's candy caramel recipe next time in lieu of the sauce.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Chowder

We've had a blessedly lengthy fall before winter's chill descended upon us.  But now as the cold creeps in under our doors, so do cravings for thick and creamy soups.  This broccoli cheese chowder, as the recipe is written, reads more like a cream of broccoli soup.  The chowder was much improved by using fresh broccoli and by not blending the result into a homogenous mess.  It's a chowder should be able to see the veggies among the creamy cheddar laced base.

Adapted from Taste of the South recipe fall '07

serves 4 to 6

The Ingredients:

2 Tbsp butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
4-1/2 cups chicken stock
2-3 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 stalks of broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground white pepper

The Process:
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat combine butter, onion, and garlic. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion is soft.  Add the chicken broth and potatoes; simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.  Add broccoli florets and return to a simmer; cook for 6 to 7 minutes, or until broccoli is tender.
In a blender or food processor, puree approximately half of the soup in batches until mostly smooth. Return the puree to the remaining soup, return to a simmer over medium-heat.
Stir in heavy cream, cheese, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat until soup is barely bubbling and the cheese has completely melted.
Garnish with additional shredded Cheddar cheese, if desired. 
The Review:
Fresh broccoli and visible bits of potato are a vast improvement to the original.  The cream and cheese was just enough to thicken and enrich the chowder without making it too heavy.  Of course it wouldn't be chowder without the cream.  I am curious to try it again with another variety of cheese.  Or two...