Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Start of Fall Baking

Fall baking has officially begun in this Baker’s house.  Ironically enough, the first item of fall I made this year used the last but of pureed pumpkin out of my freezer from last year.  I was baking-blog searching, as I do quite often, when I stumbled upon a blog that made Pumpkin Yeast Bread.

I was immediately intrigued.  I have done pumpkin bread in the past, but that was quick bread, leavened with baking powder, but yeast?  This was different.  I immediately wanted to give it a try.  Since that was during the workweek, I had to painstakingly wait until Saturday, after running a ton of household errands.

By the time I got home, I was tired, and the last thing I wanted to do was knead bread.  I still wanted to eat pumpkin bread however.  Dilemma, dilemma, what to do?  That is when my red kitchen aid mixer caught my eye.  I remembered the brioche cinnamon roll dough that I made with that mixer and immediately, I was inspired all over again. 

I softened the yeast in the mixer bowl, before stirring all the ingredients together with the paddle attachment.  I added in the flour for the recipe and mixed, then I attached the dough hook.  As the hook kneaded the dough into shape, I continued to add in a little flour along the way.  “I” kneaded the dough for about ten minutes.  It was the easiest knead of my life :-)

The bread came out wonderfully.  I mean hello, goodnight, look at the crumb!  I cannot believe I accomplished bread that is actually sandwich bread worthy.  (I ate a tofurky sandwich on this bread the next day).  The pumpkin taste is light, not overwhelming.  If you are using the bread for savory dishes or general use, it is perfect.  If you want the bread for sweeter applications, I would up the sugar and spices, and maybe even add in a little more pumpkin.

I did use the bread for a sweeter application, however, and it was good.  I am speaking on how to make good, gooder, I mean better.  My office is having a breakfast next week to welcome a new staff member, as is customary, and I wanted to make a French toast soufflé my friend Aye had told me about several months ago when she made it for her brunch group.  I thought using not just homemade bread, but homemade pumpkin bread, would give it a special touch.  Knowing my history with yeast however, I had to try it out in advance.

I baked the bread and was waiting to receive the recipe for the soufflé from Aye.  When I received the recipe, I realized that it was written to be used with croissants, a bread that is more buttery, airy, and flaky than my bread.  I decided to give it a go with the pumpkin bread anyhow, and boy, it was good.

It reminds me of a cheesecake bread pudding, which I have never had, and admittedly have never found a bread pudding that I liked, but go with me here.  Though the cream cheese mixture was poured on first, it remained as a top coating to the bread pieces and the egg mixture went down to the bottom binding everything all together without being custardy.

It was good, really good, but a few changes I plan to incorporate when I make this for my office this weekend: (1) add another teaspoon of vanilla to the cream cheese mixture and (2) whisk the spices into the egg mixture.  If you really wanted the pumpkin flavor to sing, you could add pumpkin puree to the cream cheese mixture, but I will not be doing that this weekend.

This breakfast dish is topped with a warm maple syrup and butter mixture.  I sprinkled on pecans for an added crunch and some textural contrast.  You could also place a dollop of fresh whipped cream on the top or sprinkle powder sugar on top, neither of which are necessary but look pretty. 

Lastly, please use real maple syrup in this dish.  I know it cost a heck-of-a lot more than the flavored stuff, but you need that authentic maple flavor notes that the fake stuff cannot give you.  Further, there is no granulated sugar in the recipe, so the only sweetness comes from the maple syrup.   Do yourself a flavor favor and get the real stuff; trust me, this was the first time I bought real maple syrup, and it was worth every dime, quarter, and dollar I spent!

Just because I could not get enough of fall (and wanted to make this post as long as possible), I had to use a butternut squash bought from the farmers market in the same evening I was making all of the above.  The butternut squash risotto became my dinner, at 10 PM at night, when I finally finished everything else previously mentioned.

This risotto was delightful.  There is nothing special about this risotto, except that I was proud to cook a savory dish so well.  I bake; I do not cook as well.  Let’s not talk about me making plain rice… disaster!  So, when the dish came out creamy with the roasted (in the oven) squash on top, I had to share my accomplishment.  I love this photo!

All recipes provided below.  Welcome FALL BAKING SEASON, I am ready to take full advantage of your fresh harvest and familiar warm spices in traditional and new exciting ways!

Yeast Pumpkin Bread

Adapted from King Arthur’s Flour


1/4 cup warm water
1 packages active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water + 2 TBS dry milk powder
1 large eggs, beaten
2 cups puréed pumpkin, either fresh or canned
1 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups (approximately) flour (half bread flour and half all purpose)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice


1. In the bowl of your electric mixer with the paddle attachment, stir yeast into water to soften. Add milk, eggs, pumpkin, butter, 2 cups flour, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and allspice to yeast mixture. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

2. Gradually add remaining flour, a little at a time, until you have a dough stiff enough to knead. Switch over to your dough hook. Knead, adding flour as necessary (you will need to add flour even if doing this by mixer), until you have a smooth, elastic dough, at least 10 minutes.

3. Put dough into an oiled bowl. Turn once to coat entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Shape dough into loaves and place in well-greased 10 x 5-inch pans. Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

5. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for about 30 minutes. The loaf should be dark brown in color and sound hollow when tapped.

6. Immediately, remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack to prevent crust from becoming soggy.

French Toast Soufflé
Adapted from ????
**NOTE: This recipe is prepared, placed in the fridge overnight, and cooked the next day.**

4 thick slices (half a loaf) of Pumpkin Yeast Bread

Cream Cheese Mixture
4oz cream cheese (1/2 of a package)
1/4 cup of butter, softened
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup half and half, room temperature

Egg Mixture
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cup half and half
1/8 cup maple syrup
Sprinkle1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Equal parts butter & maple syrup
Chopped pecans

1. Cut or tear pumpkin bread into pieces. Be careful not to smash the bread. Evenly place in an 8X8 pan.

2. Combine cream cheese mixture ingredients with an electric beater (or whisk). If combining by hand, I suggest mashing the cream cheese and butter together with a spatula until soft and creamy. Pour mixture over the bread in the pan.

3. Combine egg mixture ingredients and pour over the mixture in the pan.

4. Sprinkle cinnamon and allspice over the entire dish. Cover the dish with plastic or foil and place in the fridge.

5. The next day, pre-heat the oven to 350F. Once oven is ready, place soufflé in and bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

6. In the microwave or over the stove in a small pan, combine syrup and butter for sauce. Cut soufflé, sprinkle with pecans (if desired), and top with sauce. Serve. Eat. Enjoy.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto


1 Butternut Squash (any size)
1 TBS Olive Oil
1 Shallot
Minced Garlic to taste
1 cup Arborio Rice
1/2 cup Dry White Wine
4-6 cups Vegetable Broth
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, shredded

1. Skin and cube butternut squash. Roast butternut squash in a 375F oven until tender, brown, and toasty.

2. In medium pot add olive oil and shallot, cooking until tender, about 5 minutes; add garlic, cook for another minute; and add rice to toast, cooking for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add wine and simmer for a few minutes.

4. Add stock a few ladles at a time. Keep the stock warm buy microwave or in anther pot heated oven gentle flame. Stir and leave dish uncovered to simmer, stirring frequently.

5. When stock is almost gone (about 5-8 minutes), add a couple more ladles of stock and stir. Continue this process for about 25 minutes and risotto looks creamy.

6. Turn off the heat and stir in cheese (without cheese it would be vegan!). You can stir in the butternut squash or simply spoon it on top of the dish.

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