Saturday, October 23, 2010

Apples and Pumpkins

I love fall. Who in New England doesn't? Fall is so glorious up here, so colorful and bright that we sort of forget that winter is coming with its gray gloom and snow.

We finally went apple picking and this year I'm determined to not let half the apples go bad in the bottom drawer of my fridge. I started with apple cookies.

I got this recipe a few years ago from Craig's cousin and hadn't tried it yet.

Craig thinks that a cookie with no chocolate is a waste of time. I thought of that as I made them; how I just made a whole bunch of cookies he wouldn't eat. But he loved them. He even mentioned the "no chocolate" thing and how he was surprised himself that he liked them. His assessment: "They taste like apple pie in a cookie."

This is the first batch, made the way the recipe is written.

Here's my adorable assistant coring, peeling, and slicing the apples. She's a talented multitasker.

Shot of chopped up apples. I tell myself I'm going to take process pictures to post here so here's one.

Since the recipe called for shortening and I'm not the hugest fan of eating large quantities of shortening, I google searched to see if I could substitute butter for shortening. The site I found suggested adding an egg if making that substitution and that would make the cookies more cake-like.

This is the first batch which would have turned out a lot nicer if I hadn't gone upstairs and assumed I could hear the kitchen timer while in the laundry room (I can't).

And yes. That's a pizza stone I'm baking the cookies on. It's really new so I'm using it for everything. Also, when I make cookies, I have to have three (or four) stones in rotation because they don't cool down between batches like a metal one would. And you can't be putting dough on hot stones (or cookie sheets) now, can you?

The next batch looked better. They darkened up after sitting for about a minute.

They did have a fuller texture; the shortening ones spread more and were thin. The butter ones were more cake-like. Next time (I feel like smitten kitchen or something trying the same recipe over and over with variations to find the one I like best) I'm going to do butter and not the additional egg. I will forget to let you know how that goes because I might not make these again until next year. Just letting you know.

Last year I found this recipe for pumpkin bread. It was really good so I filed it away for this year. When I looked at it this year, I notice A CUP of oil! and THREE cups of sugar! WHAT?!

Immediately I cut the oil to 1/2 cup and added 1/2 cup of applesauce. I also cut the sugar to 2 1/2 cups and asked on facebook if people thought I could cut it to 2 (that being 1/3 the sugar of the original). I also added some vanilla.

Now. I think this should be addressed: I "heard" (on facebook, the primary source of my information, followed by the yahoo! homepage when I log in to my e-mail) that there's a "pumpkin shortage" (confirmed by one of the stores I went to not having any) so anytime I see pumpkin in a store I buy two or three cans. Therefore, I have plenty of canned pumpkin around here.

I also have an eager and enthusiastic assistant when I bake:

Here is the recipe as I finally ended up with (there's no picture of the finished product; as much as I start with good intentions of process pictures, I have a short attention span. Plus, there's yummy fresh-baked pumpkin bread sitting there. What would you do? Photograph it or eat it?):

"Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread"

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

4 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup applesauce

2/3 cup water

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups white sugar

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 7x3-inch loaf pans (which I don't do, I use 2 regular-sized pans and they're a little crowded).

2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, applesauce, water, vanilla, and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

There are still a few things I want to play with with this recipe, like replacing one of the eggs with flax and adding the flax with the water. That's just to add the flax for its (you know) great health benefits. And maybe some kind of topping.

Next: apple bread and pumpkin cookies. And maybe this stone for my collection.

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