Pumpkin Roll

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I’ve had this recipe pinned for a long time, because I knew Selim would like it, but I found it really intimidating. When I bake, things just never turn out as pretty as the should. {I blame my friend/old roommate Terry – she is an amazing baker/dessert wizard. I’m just assuming that when we lived together, any ounce of baking ability that Katie, our other roommate, and I might have ever possessed leeched out of us and went to her. Actually, maybe she absorbed all the potential baking ability of everyone she’s ever lived with – she’s that good. I mean, people pay her to make desserts for their special events out of our little old kitchen. She made our wedding cake! Let’s all gang up on her and peer pressure her to open a bakery; it will be for the betterment for all of humankind!} But anyway… I promised Selim I’d make him a fall treat and that I’d use real pumpkin, so here we are. Obviously, I haven’t tried this dessert with canned pumpkin puree, but I don’t think roasting your own pumpkin really added that much more work. I’m sure it’s worth it 🙂

Now, I’m not going to lie. This dessert is a little bit of a project. The active time really isn’t all that much, but there’s a lot of down time. It’s a perfect fall weekend project, while you’re around the house anyway! Pumpkin roasting in the oven = watch a quarter of football. Rolled cake cooling = rake some leaves. Entire roll chilling in the oven = go on a walk around the neighborhood.

Mine didn’t turn out quite as pretty as my model from Gimme Some Oven, or as pretty as Terry would’ve made it, but it was tasty!! What can I say, I’m a baking work in progress 🤷

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Pumpkin Roll

(Adapted from Gimme Some Oven)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 sugar/pumpkin pie pumpkin (utilizing 2/3 cup of pumpking puree)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla, divided
  • 8oz block cream cheese, softened/room temp
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar + extra for sprinkling
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice pumpkin in half and scoop out all of the seeds and strings. Roast face-up for an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, in one large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients from flour through salt.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla.
  5. Once the pumpkins are done, scoop the flesh out and into a food processor. Blend a few times until you have a nice puree.
  6. Take 2/3 cup of the pumpkin puree and whisk in with the other wet ingredients.
  7. Now, fold the wet and dry ingredients together until you have a well-combined batter.
  8. Splash a tiny bit of water into a 10 x 15 glass baking dish. Press wax/parchment paper into the dish, with extra hanging over the edge (you’ll use this to lift the cake out of the dish).
  9. Pour the batter into the dish and then bake for 15 minutes. [When it’s done, the dough will spring back when you touch it with your finger.]
  10. Lift the cake dough out of its pan and lay on a counter-top. Trim the paper so it is just past the edges of the cake. Roll the dough from short end to short end, as tightly as you can.
  11. Set the roll, seam down, on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool.
  12. Meanwhile, prepare the cream cheese filling. Using a hand-held mixer, ombine all of the remaining ingredients – cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla, butter, and powdered sugar.
  13. If the cake has cooled to room temperature, unroll it and spread the cream cheese mixture onto it. Leave a little bit of an edge on all sides.
  14. Re-roll! Peel the wax paper away as you’re rolling. Wrap the now-completed roll tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  15. Prior to serving, slice off the edges (and eat them!), so you have a pretty edges to show the world!
  16. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar if desired. Slice with a bread knife and serve those rounds.
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Spiced Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

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Some friends of our were getting together for a Sunday evening get together, nothing fancy, but of course we wanted to bring something tasty. Since it’s technically autumn (even though it’s 85 & humid here in SC), spiced cookies sounded delicious and with chocolate, you can’t go wrong, right? Spiced desserts are fun to make because we get to bake with some of our favorite spices like cardamom & cinnamon. Cardamom is used quite often in Turkish desserts, coffee, and chai, imparting a distinctive aromatic flavor that reminds us of being in Turkey a couple of years ago. Here’s a little piece of culinary trivia: cardamom is the 3rd most expensive spice behind vanilla and saffron.

The cookies themselves aren’t super sweet, but once you put that chocolaty goodness between two of them, lookout, they’ll go fast. Consider baking these and bringing them to Thanksgiving or Christmas, we know they’ll work well for either one. Also, have fun with cookie cutters, especially for holiday cookies. We don’t have any so instead we used the rim of a small wine glass.

Spiced Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Ingredients: 
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 6oz unsalted, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 jar chocolate almond/hazelnut spread (or any other delicious spread you prefer – ie Nutella)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together all of the dry ingredients, except for sugar (flour through allspice) and set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
  4. Next add the vanilla, followed by the 2 egg yolks.
  5. Then slowly, add the dry ingredients.
  6. Once well combined, form into a big ball of dough. Knead briefly, then divide into four equal portions.
  7. Roll each into a ball and then flatten into a pancake, roughly 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate as a ball, but may need a little longer to cool completely.)
  8. Using a rolling pin, roll out to 1/6th of an inch thick.
  9. Using cookie cutters or the mouth of a glass, cut into individual cookies. [We made fairly small cookies, given that once they were sandwiches, you’d really be eating two cookies! Our were 2 1/4 inches in diameter, but you do you!]
  10. Bake, on a silpat or parchment paper on a cookie sheet, for 7 minutes.
  11. Remove to a drying rack and allow to cool completely.
  12. While cookies are cooling, boil a few cups of water. Remove from heat once boiling and then set the jar of chocolate-almond spread (still in the jar!) into the pot. Don’t submerge the jar entirely! Let it sit for a few minutes until the spread warms a bit and is more easily spreadable.
  13. Once cookies are cooled and spread is warmed, spread a generous dollop of the chocolate almond spread in between two cookies. Set aside to cool again.
Makes 2-3 dozen sandwiches, depending on size

Slow Cooker Cider Brats

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Fall leaves, looking towards the Blue Ridge Mountains ❤ ❤ ❤

Not going to lie. I’m mildly obsessed with fall. It’s my favorite season. I may or may not have mentioned this in pretty much all of our posts since the beginning of October. Since this is our first fall in South Carolina, I’m learning that fall comes slowly down here. It’s halfway through the month; the majority of the leaves are still green and we’ve hit the upper 80s several days this week! Ho hum. But fall peeks through now and then. We’ve carved some pumpkins. We’ve made and eaten chili. I’ve worn jeans a few times (albeit with short sleeve tops and sandals…) There are decorative gourds topping every surface in our house. Our neighbors are rockin’ some Halloween window decorations and fake spiderwebs. And best of all, we’ve turned off the A/C and had the windows open for several days!!

So when thinking about making some brats for dinner tonight, I logically wondered how I could make them “fall brats.” Because the traditional and perennially delicious, grilled, topped with mustard, peppers, and onions, tailgate brats apparently don’t scream fall loudly enough for me? (Could have something to do with the fact that we don’t have a grill…)

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Peeking in the fridge/brainstorming, I noticed a bottle of my favorite cider.

[Side note: if you have access to Bold Rock cider, you should check it out. They distribute pretty much only in the Mid-Atlantic. As of today, you can find Bold Rock ciders in Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, DC, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. They have a variety of ciders for your tasting pleasure. My personal favorites are the Virginia Apple, which is a bit more tart, thanks to its origins as a Granny Smith apple, and their drier, champange-style ciders. And if you want to make an amazing and low-key road trip out of it, you should check out their Cider Barn in Nelson County, Virginia. It’s a gorgeous (especially in the fall!) and fun place to visit. Even better, you can combine your visit there with a trip to one of the many wineries and breweries in the area! (In all seriousness, if you want some suggestions of places to check out in the area, we love pointing people in the direction of our favorites!) End side note.]

Deciding to combine my favorite, quintessentially fall cider with these brats was an interesting experiment. I wanted the sweetness of the cider, but didn’t want to ruin the brats with a cloying sweetness. Hence the other ingredients. I think it worked out pretty well. For me, it definitely was a new, sweeter flavor profile. It’s interesting that there is still a strong “meaty” taste and smell, that is countered with the sweetness of apple cider. I think the other new and interesting part of the dish for me was the texture of the brats themselves. I’ve never had brats any way other than fresh off a grill or sauteed in a pan. They’re essentially braised in the crockpot, which gives them a softer texture, without that tautness you would normally feel biting through the sausage.

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Slow Cooker Cider Brats

Ingredients: 
  • 5 large bratwursts
  • 1/2 of a large onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 12 baby carrots
  • 12oz bottle of hard apple cider
  • 12oz bottle of ginger beer
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 turns of black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Place your vegetables in the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with the bratwursts.
  2. In a bowl, combine the ingredients from cider through black pepper. Whisk a few times to combine.
  3. Pour liquid over top of brats & veggies in the slow cooker.
  4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
  5. Serve however you’d like! Throw the brats and veggies on a bun like a traditional brat or serve them with a little bit of the liquid over top rice or lentils like we did. (I wasn’t really intending the liquid to be a “sauce,” which it’s not, but I enjoyed topping my bowl off with a bit of it.)

Finally Fall Chili

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It’s finally fall!

We’ve been waiting through the hottest summer of our lives for the cooler temperatures to finally get here. We had to wait until October for all that, but at least my favorite month hasn’t disappointed yet.

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While it seems like everyone else marks the changing of the seasons with a pumpkin spice latte, that’s just not quite my style. (Selim isn’t a pumpkin spice latte guy either, but he is on his second tin of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice coffee of the month, just sayin’…) I do, however, require pumpkin carving and some chili to confirm the season change.

We had a great night of hanging out with our friends, pumpkin carving, and this perfect-for-fall chili. Please be impressed by our amazing pumpkin carving skills in addition to this slightly spicy, hearty chili.

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Finally Fall Chili

Ingredients: 
  • 3 strips of bacon
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 orange bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 small ears of corn
  • 1 can (14oz) red kidney beans
  • 1 can (14oz) white kidney beans
  • 1 can (14oz) black beans
  • 1 can (14oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 large can (28oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp “regular” paprika
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Fresh-ground black pepper

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Instructions: 
  1. Slice the strips of bacon into very small lardons. Add to large pot, topped with 3 turns of black pepper, and cook over medium heat until the fat is released, ~ 5 minutes.
  2. Now add the diced onion. Cover the pot with its lid and sweat the onions for another ~5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, fish sauce, and beef. Stir occasionally, breaking up the ground beef. Continue cooking over medium heat until beef as browned.
  4. Now add all of the rest of the ingredients (vegetables, beans, herbs, & spices). Stir to combine well.
  5. Bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer for just 5 minutes and then turn heat down to low. Cover the pot and leave alone for an hour, or as long as you can! (We let ours go for 6+ hours.)

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Serves 8-12.