Seventh Crumb: Grown Up Pumpkin Spice
Weirdly enough, Boston is over 70 degrees today, proving that the old New England adage (“if you don’t like the weather, stick around for a few minutes”) is true. Regardless, the colors and flavors of fall are at their peak. Greg and I went hiking up in New Hampshire on Saturday and were treated to a visible cacophony. The trail we took was particularly lovely because you could just barely see the Boston skyline from the southern face of the summit and could just barely seem Mount Washington from the north. Spectacular. Here are two pictures to prove it.
In between writing and hiking, I’ve also been cooking up a storm. Friday I tested several of Milk Street’s new recipes for a dinner with friends (they were a hit so you should definitely sign up for the magazine if you haven’t already!) and yesterday I made one of my fall/winter go-to recipes, the Barefoot Contessa’s Company Pot Roast.
As I wrote in my last post, I really love pumpkins, so I’m dedicating another post to them – they’re so versatile! Sweet or savory, dinner or coffee, pumpkin works with everything. Plus, we’re less than two weeks away from Halloween, which is basically the only holiday that’s synonymous with a single vegetable so I feel like another ode to the orange gourd is appropriate.
A few fun facts: Pumpkins are native to North America but their etymology derives from the Greek word for “large melon.” It is thought that the First Thanksgiving actually did include pumpkin pie, though not exactly like that which we eat today. They also stewed it, added it to soups, AND made it into beer. (Pumpkin beer drinkers, the next time some beer snob tells you you’re “basic” rest assured that your beverage of choice is as old as Puritan America. A basic recipe for pumpkin pie as we now know it appeared in the New York Times on November 24, 1895 and called for a flaky pie crust and a filling made from 1½ cups of stewed and strained pumpkin, ½ cup of sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon of vanilla, ½ “spoonfuls” of cinnamon and ginger, two well-beaten eggs, and a cup “running over” of cream. The Times also suggested that a “little sherry is an improvement” and that the pie should be baked in a “very hot” oven. Some details… (This reminds me of one of my great-grandmothers’ recipes that calls for butter “the size of an egg.”)
One (the only?) pumpkin trend that I haven’t been able to get on board with is the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Any time I’ve had one out, it’s just been too sweet and too chemically tasting. Not my cup of…coffee. But somehow they just keep coming back year after year, so I decided to see if I could make one that I actually liked. Spoiler alert – I did. The best part is that it actually tastes like coffee and pumpkin, not a cup of liquid dessert.
That said, I still do love desserts (just not sweet drinks) and so I also tackled a pumpkin cupcake that really highlighted the squash itself. Unlike a lot of pumpkin desserts that are paired with chocolate, these are made with a white chocolate frosting, which allows the pumpkin cake to stand up to the frosting and take on a starring role. (Chocolate, though one of my true culinary loves, just overpowers pumpkin in my opinion.) The frosting is topped off with a sprinkling of course sea salt or fleur de sel (basically the same thing, except French and more expensive) to balance out the sweetness of the white chocolate. I think chopped, toasted pistachios would also work well.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I am.
Pumpkin Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Cupcake recipe was adapted and de-gluten-ized from the Barefoot Contessa’s Pumpkin Cupcake recipe. Makes 10 cupcakes.
- 4.5 ounces of gluten free flour blend
- ¼ teaspoon of xanthum gum (NOTE: Omit if your flour blend has xanthum or guar gum already!)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 large eggs
- 8 ounces canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling!!)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed (light or dark is fine, I personally prefer the deeper flavor of the dark brown)
- 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 10 muffin tins with foil baking cups.
- In a medium bowl, mix the flour, xanthum gum (if using) baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
- In a larger bowl, mix the eggs, pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
- Divide the batter among the prepared tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely before frosting.
- 3 ounces white chocolate (preferably a chopped bar, not chips)
- 3 Tablespoons of butter
- 3 ounces of cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 5.5 ounces of confectioner’s sugar.
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1 tablespoon toasted, chopped pistachios
- Melt the butter and the white chocolate together in the microwave or on the stove. If you’re using the microwave, stop every 30 seconds to stir*.
- Once the butter and white chocolate are fully integrated, mix in the cream cheese and vanilla, stirring vigorously or using a mixer.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar, until the frosting is thoroughly combined.
- Frost the cupcakes only when they are completely cool and sprinkle fleur de sel or pistachios on top just before serving.
*Note that if you do not mix the butter in with the white chocolate when you melt it, you will have to work very quickly. Otherwise the white chocolate will begin to set up again and your frosting will be lumpy.
Pumpkin Spice Latte with Coconut-Maple Whipped Cream
Makes 1 – these are also gluten free and vegan!
- ¼ cup of espresso or cold brew coffee
- ¾ cup of unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
- 2 teaspoons real maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon coconut milk cream (see directions)
- 1 teaspoon coconut milk
- Make espresso (about two shots) or measure out the cold brew.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together coffee, almond milk, pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
- Heat until steaming but not yet boiling.
For the Whipped Cream:
- Use a coconut milk like Thai brand that separates. You want to fat and liquid to be separated.
- Mix the coconut cream that has risen to the top of the can with a teaspoon of the coconut milk at the bottom of the can. Add in the second teaspoon of maple syrup. Whip with an electric beater (stand, hand or immersion is fine) until creamy and frothy.
- Add to latte and serve with a cinnamon stick!