Holiday Gift Ideas with Pumpkin Cheese Bread

Country Living magazine is one of my favorites.  I receive it as Christmas present every year and I always look forward to finding it in my mail box each month.  Magazines make great gifts because they are relatively inexpensive and the recipient can enjoy them throughout the whole year. Think about that when you’re can’t decide on a gift for that hard to buy for person on your list.  Country Living happens to have great recipes, decorating ideas, clever craft projects, and information on the hippest collectibles. (Note – Country Living is not compensating me to say this.  It’s just the truth.)

I have a couple other great gift suggestions that I’ll get to by the end of this post, so please follow along.  (None of the other companies are compensating me either.  It’s just the truth too!)

The November 2011 issue of Country Living sports some pretty delicious looking recipes that remind us readers of next months anticipated feast – Thanksgiving.  I was particularly enamored by a recipe for Pumpkin Cheese Bread, a rustic, wholesome looking bread with an intriguing line up of ingredients.

Because this recipe caught my fancy, I decided to make the bread, or should I say a slightly modified version of it.  I LOVE the way the bread turned out.  The flavor and light, soft texture are perfect. I know it won’t be long and I’ll be making more. It’s going fast – too fast!  With a few tricks up my sleeve I modified the recipe so is not identical to Country Living’s printed version.

Ingredients:

3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour + 1/4 c. for 1st kneading

1 tbsp. light brown sugar 

1 tbsp. yeast

1 1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. Aji Amarillo chilies, dried and minced fine

1/8 tsp. Vietnamese cinnamon

1/2 tsp. butternut squash seed oil

3/4 c. pureed pumpkin

1/2 c. sharp cheddar cheese

1 c. water

In a large bowl; add flour, brown sugar, yeast, salt, dried pepper, cinnamon, squash seed oil, pumpkin puree and cheddar cheese.  Lightly stir ingredients until blended.  Pour in water and mix by hand until all ingredients are combined. * I did not use a mixer for this recipe.

Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface (using the 1/4 cup of flour you set aside).  Knead dough until it forms a smooth ball.  Place ball in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Set in draft free location and rise until doubled.

On lightly floured surface; punch dough down and roll into two loaves.  Place in greased bread pans, cover, and let rise until nearly doubled. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when tapped.  Turn onto cooling racks and brush with butter.

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If you really want to make the most of your bread then make a fresh sandwich with it.  This sandwich is complete with turkey, lettuce, tomato, Hellman’s mayo, Naples Valley Brand Mild Mustard, and black pepper.

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Now, I promised to share some more great gift giving ideas with you.  These ideas are perfect for the foodies in your life.  The ones that like to eat, and the ones that like making good eats.

1.) MarxFoods.com offers the most unique line of specialty foods and ingredients I’ve ever seen in one place.  Whether your looking for dried chilies like I used in my recipe, truffles, edible flowers, whole spices, or frog legs, you will find it at Marx Foods.  Their orders ship the same day if you order by 10AM Eastern time, or you can choose your delivery date at checkout.  All of their prices include shipping. 

2.) King Arthur Flour is a US 100% employee owned/100% committed to quality company. They are located in Norwich, Vermont. They offer  top of the line baking supplies and tools. From secret ingredients like their robust boiled cider, to the Vietnamese cinnamon I used in my bread, to pre-made mixes of just about any kind,  or their cute cupcake wrappers, they’ve got you covered.  They also offer a gift card option which takes even more work out of your holiday shopping. View their catalogue on-line, or order yourself a hard copy and start your holiday shopping early.

3.) Stony Brook WholeHeartedFoods is small Finger Lakes company  located in Geneva, NY.  They produce the finest food grade roasted squash and pumpkin seed oils you will ever find.  This is a farm to table product.  The oils are processed in small batches and are a healthy, delicious alternative to olive oil. The uses for them are endless. The Butternut Squash Seed Oil I used in my recipe has a wonderful, buttery, nutty flavor that really enhances any recipe.  My suggestion – fill all of your foodie friends stockings with these oils, and don’t forget to buy a bottle or two for yourself.  Ordering is made simple through their on-line store, or look for a retailer near you from their website.

4.) Naples Valley Brand Products is a small company that hand-makes delicious products from their kitchen at the Bristol Mountain Winter Resort in Bristol, NY.  They offer jalapeno jams, sweet jams, marinated garlics, gourmet mustards, dipping oils, vinegars, sauces, seasonings, rubs and spices, and stuffed olives. Their products are available to order on-line, and their gift boxes are make a perfect gift choice.  Naples Valley Brand Products offers free shipping on orders over $50.00.  I am proud to say I’ve been buying their mustard since it first hit the shelves.

Hopefully, my suggestions will help make your holiday shopping a little easier.  If you make this bread please post it on your blog and share the link back here under the comments section.  We would love to see it!

Strawberry & Cream Cupcakes

I’ve only used one pre-packaged cake mix in the last year.  It happened to be King Arthur’s Deliciously Simple Chocolate Cake Mix which they sent me in celebration of my blog turning a year old.  The cake was chocolate flavored, and was absolutely delicious.  It tasted as if it were made from scratch, but only took a few minutes to throw together.  People who I shared the cupcakes with raved about them.  I imagine they would have never suspected they were a mix if I hadn’t said anything, and the fact that they were a mix didn’t seem to detour anyone from chowing them down.

I have never made a strawberry flavored cake mix before.  I’ve always been a little worried that a strawberry cake would have an artificial strawberry taste to it.    As I was strolling through the grocery store recently I happened upon a display of Pillsbury cake mixes.   Feeling a bit creative, but not overly ambitious, I bought the strawberry flavored mix to experiment with.

I made the cake batter according to the directions on the box.  I tasted the batter just before pouring it into the cupcake tins, it was then, that I decided to add a teaspoon of my Madagascar Vanilla Extract to the batter.  I really liked the results that adding the vanilla yielded – I think it toned down the strawberry flavor just a bit.  I also decided to add a dollop of homemade strawberry jam into the center of each cupcake before  I baked them.   As the cupcakes baked, the jam settled into the bottom of each cupcake leaving a super moist, and flavorful bottom.

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To save calories, and keep the cupcakes lighter, I topped them off with light whipped cream just prior to serving.

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My opinion, the  Pillsbury’s cake mix yielded delicious, moist cupcakes too.   These would make  great, happy endings at a picnics or barbeques this summer.  What is your favorite cake flavor, and how do you feel about using cake mixes?

Celebration and Giveway!!!

It has finally arrived!  The big day… My blog is officially one year old!  If you didn’t see it already, check out my post on the 20 things I’ve learned about food blogging over the past year.  You  might find something on the list you can relate to.To make this a real celebration,  King Arthur Flour  is sponsoring an awesome giveaway!  In my opinion,  KAF is the absolute best baking company.  I drool when I look through their catalogue, or surf their website.  I’d love about ten of everything they sell.  And, as many of you probably already know, the quality of their products are superior.  The fact that they are an employee owned company makes their company even better. So, what is the giveaway?  Drum roll please…. One lucky winner will receive the following fantastic prize package.
1 package of assorted swirl cupcake papers
1 box of deliciously simple chocolate cake mix
A package of 9 sparkling bright-colored sprinkles
King Arthur also sent me an identical package.   I absolutely love it!!  I haven’t made a boxed cake mix in forever, and I forgot just how easy it is.  I threw all the ingredients into a bowl, and mixed them with my electric mixer.  In less than 5 minutes I was done.  The batter smelled so rich and chocolaty that I could hardly wait for the cupcakes to finish baking.   The cupcakes (all 24 ) baked perfectly, and are so moist and DELICIOUS!  (Confession) I’ve ate way too many of them.    This is the cake mix of my dreams!

The assorted swirl wrappers so colorful.  I used each and every color.  They are made of a heavier grade of paper, and are imported from Sweden.  I noticed the heavier paper helped prevent unwanted movement when I was filling them with the batter.  And, the sprinkles are so bright and cheery – I guarantee you will use them for many celebrations to come.  I tried to decide which one was my favorite color and couldn’t.  They all are so eye-catching. 

I know the winner of this package will absolutely love it.  It’s practical,  super delicious, and FUN!

This giveaway is valid  for US residents only. You must have a valid US street address for shipping purposes.  Sorry PO boxes and  international friends!

To Enter:

1.  Link to the KING ARTHUR FLOUR and find something  you LOVE.  Then leave me a comment describing it.

2. For a second, third and/or fourth chances to win FOLLOW King Arthur on FacebookTwitter, and The Baking Circle community.

3. For additional chances to win, SUBSCRIBE to The Joy of Caking by Email, RSS, or Twitter.

Leave a separate comment for each activity that you complete.  You must do this to create extra entries.

The  contest will close on Sunday, March 27th, at 6PM Eastern Time. The winner will be selected by random drawing and will be notified on March 28th.  At that time, the winner will need to provide their address.

Thank you so much for helping make this a great celebration!  Please keep following, and watch for changes I’ll be making to my site as I roll into year number two.

Friday my blog turns one! But wait, there’s more.

Let’s celebrate!

Friday, my blog turns one, and it’s time to celebrate!! Follow along, because at the end of this post I’m going to let you in a little secret that has to do with my celebration.

I have been thinking about what a one year post should be say for a while now. Should it be serious? Or funny? Just to warn you, I sometimes have a warped sense of humor – yes, unfortunately it’s true. Should the post be festive? Or low-key? Long, or short? Showcase all of the goodies I’ve made? Or, should I create something entirely new and exciting?

The more I thought about it, the more I felt as if I had cornered myself into writing something like a commencement speech at a high school graduation ceremony. You know the kind I’m talking about. Where you share words of inspiration, promote enthusiasm, urge everyone to follow their dreams, and remind your peers they are about to embark on a wonderful journey. That didn’t fit, as most of you have already embarked on the journey of blogging.

My mind was digesting all of my ideas when it suddenly hit me like a lead balloon. I would share 20 things I’ve learned about food blogging over the last year. So, without further adieu, here they are in no particular order.

1. Foodies are passionate. But, so are people who raise chickens (right Molly?)

2. It’s the post that you don’t expect to get much traffic that sends your numbers to the moon.

3. The post you write that you think is super awesome, probably isn’t.

4. Your spouse is your biggest fan. Thank you! X0X0

5. Friends come and go at your blog, just like they do in the real world.

6. There are cliques in the foodie world. That’s life.

7. It takes a long time to learn Twitter lingo. By the way what is  #FF?

8. Not all advertisers will deliver what they promise. They know who they are.

9. If you bake something and it doesn’t turn out, it’s not the end of the world, it’s just the end of your next post.

10. When an editor of a well-known food magazine follows you on Twitter, it’s a HUGE compliment. When they tell you they were drawn in by your photo‘s, it’s even BIGGER.

11. You will grow as a baker/cook, writer and photographer.

12. You probably will never be as successful as Julia and/or Juliet but if you happen to hit it big – enjoy the ride! I’m still waiting for the ride…

13. If you bake/cook , blog, and sample frequently, you will gain weight. This I know…

14. Family and friends will love you for all the desserts you share – right down to the last bite.

15. Your oven/stove, camera, and computer are tools of the trade. Pray none of them break, because if they do, it will throw you off your game.

16. Blogging takes a lot of your time. Maybe, too much of your time.

17. You will get writers block, go into a funk, or become bored. It’s only temporary.

18. You will make friends from all over the world that you wouldn’t have made otherwise.

19. Without question, the BEST baking supply company in the world is KING ARTHUR FLOUR.

20. Food bloggers have the best giveaways.

Maybe these 20 things aren’t a one size fits all, but I’m sure you will relate to something on the list. Blogging has been a great adventure for me. When I started I was anxious, and felt as if I had walked out onto the edge of a diving board for the first time. I wondered should I turn around and retreat, or take the plunge. I took the plunge, and I’m sure glad I did.

With all that said, now comes the very best part. On Friday, I am having one heck of an awesome giveaway to celebrate. I promise you that you won’t want to miss it. And yes, there are clues in this post.

This could be a clue

The perks of blogging, a lucky girl…

Since I started blogging I’ve been a lucky girl.  I have acquired samples of delicious Ghirardelli Chocolates, got a free loaf of Nature’s Pride Bread, was welcomed at the 2010 Finger Lakes Cork and Fork event, received Palm Leaf plates from Marxfoods.com,  and the flour giant, King Arthur, sent me their cake flour, whole-white flour, and their Secret Ingredient gift pack to try. Not bad for a beginner.  But wait!  That’s  not all.

I am also fortunate enough to have won three great prizes in giveaways during my (less than one year) of blogging.  Two of the prizes I won were from one of my favorite bloggers – Lindsey at Gingerbread Bagels.  Lindsey is a bit like me in the sense that she loves to bake.  Her posts are generally about sweets, and lots of them.  Her personality matches the confections she makes – sweet.  I refer to her as my lucky penny.  Before Lindsey, the only thing I won was a football from a  Snickers candy bar sweepstakes.  I entered to win a Jeep, and got a Snickers Nerf football instead.   Oh well, never look a gift horse in the mouth…

The first prize I won from Gingerbread Bagels was a beautiful jar of Marrionberry Fruit Spread from Oregon Growers & Shippers which I’m saving for a special occasion.  The jar of jam is so pretty it brightens my day every time I see it.

The second prize I won from Gingerbread Bagels was a variety gift pack of Tate’s Bake Shop cookies, and a Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook written by Kathleen King.  As luck would have it this package just arrived today.  I can’t wait to scour the cookbook while dunking the cookies in a piping hot, fresh cup of coffee.

Speaking of Gingerbread Bagels, she currently has a contest going on.  Her prize this time?  Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark Cookies.  Be sure to check out her site and enter the contest.  I promise I won’t enter this one!

The other prize I won this year?  The Earthbound Cookbook  written by Myra Goodman.  The giveaway was offered by Greg at Sippitysup.  Greg has the knack of really making you feel like you’ve won big time.  He actually video taped his drawing.  When my name was drawn I might have  jumped up and down like a Price is Right game show contestant.  Here is Sippitysup’s video clip announcing the winner – thank God no one was video tapping me as my name was drawn.  I love the cookbook which is packed full of (250 to be exact) recipes and tips on eating green and protecting our planet.   As a person who recently started raising chickens for some fresh eggs I found myself particularly drawn to pages 376 & 377 which explains the terms used relating to eggs – very informative.

Last month when King Arthur Flour sent me some of their products to try I was on cloud nine, and  I was especially eager to try the secret ingredient collection and the cake flour I received.  The secret ingredient collection is a gift pack that includes some of the companies best-selling ingredients.   Double-Dutch cocoa, espresso powder, Fiori di Sicilia flavoring, Vietnamese cinnamon, and Madagascar vanilla – all packaged in an eye-catching 8 ” square USA  pan.

This pan is awesome.  It’s commercial grade and constructed of heavy gauge aluminium steel (65% recycled steel).  The sides and bottom are fluted giving it some character in the appearance department,  and  adding strength and facilitated air circulation for even baking.  The pan is coated with a clear, non-stick environmentally friendly silicone that helps ensure your baked goods will release from the pan more easily.  The best thing about his pan?  It’s made in the USA.

I’ve used some of the ingredients in several of my recent baking creations and I can’t say enough good things about the quality of King Arthur.  Their cocoa, vanilla and cinnamon are so fragrant  that I have a hard time closing them once I open them.  Not only do these all smell aromatic, they contribute a quality robust flavor to every treat.

Since King Arthur was kind enough to share some of their products with me I decided to create a recipe using their products to share with you.

This recipe is for a dark, delicious chocolate cake.  I ‘ve named it Double Dark Espresso Cake.  For best results bake one day ahead of needing the cake.  This allows the flavors to saturate the cake overnight.

The ingredients you’ll need:

2 c. sugar

2 eggs (room temperature)

1/2 c. butter (softened)

1 c. hot black coffee

1 c. sour milk

3/4 c. King Arthur Double-Dutch cocoa

1/2 tsp. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla

1/2 tsp. King Arthur espresso powder

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 c. King Arthur unbleached cake flour blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl with a mixer mix sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla until creamy.   Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture.  Then add the milk and coffee.  Mix completely.

I used the 8″ USA pan and a 6″ round cake pan.  Bake until toothpick comes clean.  The size of the pan you use will determine your baking time.   Frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.  I really like the dark chocolate flavor produced from using the cocoa, expresso powder and coffee.

This post should be construed as a big thank you for all the wonderful things I’ve received, and all the connections and friendships I’ve made while blogging.  When I started blogging I never imagined I’d be this fortunate.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Crostata, tart, pie – oh my…. Daring Baker Challenge

I usually don’t procrastinate.  When I have something to do I generally like to “get-ir-done”.  In fact, postponing things often makes me  a bit anxious.  However, this month I have to admit that I procrastinated when it came to completing my Daring Bakers’ challenge.  It’s not because I don’t enjoy being part of the The Daring Kitchen.  I really do enjoy my role with this wonderful group.  Last month I made homemade doughnuts.  I had never made them before.  And this month, the challenge, to make a crostata (an Italian baked dessert tart, or form of pie).  I’ve never made a tart before, but have made a lot of pies over the years. Making a tart was slightly new to me.

The first thing I did was buy an 8 inch tart pan.  There was no procrastinating where that was concerned. Why was I putting off making the crostata?  I couldn’t decide what kind  to make.  I scoured recipes on the internet, my cookbooks, and magazines to find a filling recipe  that captured my attention.  One criteria for this challenge was to use one of the two crust recipes that our host Simona from briciole had chosen. Unfortunately, her crust recipes weren’t compatible with the tart filling I decided on, so my crust recipe is slightly different from hers.  I’m sure I will use her recipe in the future when winter passes and fresh, juicy fruits are readily available. I would love to make a fresh raspberry, or blueberry tart – oh my….

The recipe I followed made a chocolate crust. It called for a couple of ingredients Simona’s didn’t, and it didn’t call for eggs like her recipes did.  My recipe originated from William-Sonoma Baking and I made a few small changes to their recipe as well.  Making this recipe also gave me the perfect opportunity to use some of the new products that I recently acquired from the great people at King Arthur Flour. I used their unbleached white whole wheat flour, Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract, and double dutch dark cocoa in this recipe.  The scent of their double dutch cocoa and vanilla extract was out of this world. 

The recipe, Black-and-White Fudge Pie Crostata:

Crust

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur white whole wheat)

1/2 cup walnuts (I used pecans)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used King Arthur double dutch cocoa)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract)

Chop the nuts but avoid grinding them into a paste.  Combine flour, nuts, cocoa, sugar, and salt into mixing bowl.  Grate butter into dry ingredients and blend together with fingertips.  Stir in milk and vanilla until the dough is mixed.

Press the dough into a tart pan.  Chill for one hour. 

Poke holes with a fork into the bottom of the crust.  Line foil over the dough, and bake at 425 degrees for 8 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake for another 4 minutes.  If the crust starts to puff up – poke it with the fork.  Remove from the oven, reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees.  Allow the crust to cool.

Chocolate Batter

4 oz of bittersweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used the flour mentioned previously)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I excluded these in the chocolate batter)

Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, or top bowl of a double boiler set over (but not touching) a pan of simmering water.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs.  Add sugar, flour, and salt to the eggs and mix thoroughly.  Pour in melted chocolate and nuts (optional).  Set aside 1/4 cup of the batter; spread the remainder of chocolate batter into the cooled crust.

Cream Cheese Batter

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 handful of mini chocolate chips

In a bowl add cream cheese and beat until smooth.  Add sugar, egg and vanilla and mixed thoroughly.  Lastly, add in one handful of mini chocolate chips.  Drizzle cream cheese batter over the chocolate batter in the tart shell.  Then drizzle the remaining chocolate batter over the cream cheese batter.  You can swirl the ingredients in the shell together with a knife for a marbled effect –  I didn’t.  Bake for 35-40 minutes (at 325 degrees) until filling is set – toothpick should come out clean.  I garnished with a few mini-chocolate chips.

Serve at room temperature, or refrigerated.

This tart  is delicious!  Although the recipe has quite a bit of sugar in it the double dutch cocoa and bittersweet chocolate create the perfect balance.  I liked being able to use the white whole wheat flour too.  It sneaks a little bit of nutritional value into a treat – without being at all obvious.  I didn’t settle for the first recipe that I stumbled across and my procrastination proved worth it in the end. I’m glad careful consideration went into making my first tart.  I recommend this recipe as a holiday dessert – and if you can splurge, I recommend using King Arthur products.  The quality of their products are exceptional.   

** Baker’s note – there was excess chocolate and cream cheese batter left over.  To use the batter up I lined cupcake tins with paper liners.  I then  put a small piece of honey graham cracker in the bottom of each paper and alternated the batters.  The graham cracker floated to the top during baking giving these little treats a very neat look. 

A holiday with a King

The great people at King Arthur Flour Company recently sent me a few of their products to try.  There will be more details about the products they sent me after I roll my sleeves up and make something scrumptious with them.  But first, I have to tell you how excited I am about this company.  They truly impress me, and not because they sent me a few products, but because of what they stand for as a business.

King Arthur Flour is located in the beautiful state of Vermont, and is 100% employee owned.  If you aren’t familiar with them I hope you take a minute to learn more .   After I read the company’s mission, purpose, and history  I was hooked.  Not to mention, I’ve always been very satified with their products I’ve used.  

Now here is the fun part! If  you bake, or have a baker to buy for this holiday season, you’re not going to want to miss King Arthur’s 58 page baker’s holiday catalogue.  I was fortunate enough to get one in my shipment and I can’t put it down.  Just to tease you (a little) I put a slideshow together highlighting some of their great items.  But my suggestion, (if you’re ever going to listen to me – now’s the time)  order yourself a copy of this catalogue (there is so much to see in the actual catalogue). In the meantime, take a look at my slideshow, you won’t be disappointed – honest…   I’m sure there is something in there you will add to your baking wish list.   

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You can view, or order King Arthur’s catalogue at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/.   Their toll-free customer service number is 1-800-827-6836.