Friday, November 28, 2008

Pumpkin Hazlenut Pie

Dear readers, I believe I've already hit you over the head with my love of this season, and two of it's fabulous bounties: pumpkin and nuts. Enter the hazelnut. Oh, how tasty you can be. Especially wrapped in fabulous European chocolate. I tried this recipe last thanksgiving with pecan, but thought I would try hazelnut this year. I like both versions, but where the pecan fades to a sweet nuttiness, the hazlenut stands out but sings in harmony with the rich pumpkin custard. While adulterating classic pumpkin pie may not be for everyone (Mr. Pleasant is a staunch traditionalist in this particular instance) it's a tasty variation sure to gratify your tastebuds.

Pumpkin Hazlenut Pie
from FWDGF by Mirelle Gulliano

2/3 c flour
pinch of salt
1 Tbs sugar
6 Tbs chilled butter
1 1/2 Tbs ice cold water

1/3 cup ground hazlenuts (a coffee grinder works great for this - make sure the nuts are fresh!)
1/4 c granulated brown sugar
2 Tbs softened butter
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 c unsweetened canned pumpkin
1 Tbs flour
2/3 c granulated brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 c heavy cream

  1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in food processor. Pulse to combine. Cut chilled butter into small pieces and add t obowl. Add water and process for 15 seconds. Add more water by droplets if too dry. The dough should just hold together. Do not overmix.
  2. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill in refrigerator 4 hours or overnight. Can also be chilled in freezer for the express version - at least 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out or press the dough into a 9" pie plate. prick with fork and line with aluminum foil. Add pie weights or dried beans to weigh down. Bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Increase the oven temp to 450 F and prepare filling by combining nuts, 1/4 c brown sugar and butter. Work into a paste and spread into partially cooked pastry shell. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Turn oven down to 325 F. Mix together the eggs, egg yolk, pumpkin, flour 2/3 c brown sugar, spices, salt and heavy cream. Pour into pastry shell. Bake for 45 minutes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chestnut Soup

Each season has it's special qualities, but autumn calls to me in a way the other seasons don't. Cooler air, sense of the old passing away and new endeavors to take on - though I've been out of school for years the smell of sharpened #2 pencils in the fall still remind me of the excitement of starting a fresh school year (before the homework fatigue sank in;).

Chestnuts are one of my favorite heralds of late fall, promising the holiday season to come. I love them roasted, but I also discovered that they made a lovely soup - I had chestnut soup for the first time with my mom at a lovely French restaurant in Old Town Alexandria. They
combined Jerusalem artichokes and chestnut, but as the former are not around just yet, I thought I would try my luck with just the chestnuts.

Browsing through my cookbooks, I found a recipe th
at looked just perfect. French Women for All Seasons has some of my favorite, simple dishes that really celebrate the true flavor of the ingredients. This worked beautifully with the chestnuts, although admittedly, not as well with the farmers market endive that's true flavor was a little too bitter for my taste. Still, this is my favorite way to cook - bringing out the flavors of good, local and organic if possible ingredients.

Chestnut Soup
adapted from French Women for All Seasons
1 lb chestnuts

2-3 C vegetable or organic chicken stock

1/2 c milk

1 tbs butter

salt and pepper to taste

If you can manage to find pre-peeled chestnuts, this soup will be a breeze. If you're not afraid of rolling up your sleeves a bit, by the whole, fresh chestnuts and peel them yourself. To peel, chop the knobbly end off of the nut (you don't need to cut much of it off) and boil in water for 10-12 minutes. Wait for them to cool slightly, then peel of the outer shell and skin. This is easier to do the warmer the nut is.

Once you have peeled the chestnuts, place them and 2 cups of stock in a pot. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Keep simmering, uncovered for 40-50 minutes, until the nuts are soft and mushy. At this point, it should be blended, but if you still have some remaining skin in the mix, put through a sieve or a food mill once you've blended it. Our new immersion blender was perfect for this, but a food processor or blender will also do the job nicely.

Once blended, add the milk, butter, salt and pepper to taste and serve warm. It's quite rich, so a little goes a long way. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pumpkin Cake with Honey Frosting

Have I mentioned just how much I love this season? Reason # 452, my friend, the pumpkin. Ms. Adams Morgan likes to joke about my orange food habit. There is some truth to her reflection though. Pumpkin? Love it. Squash? Love it. Sweet Potatoes? Gimme more! Curries? Yup. Especially with slightly-orange-ish garbanzos. So how to best purpose this season of orange food cornucopia? Ms. T of eating is art and I stumbled on this little jewel from Martha Stewart. For once, no complicated steps, just mix, bake, frost and eat. Simple, delicious.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Frosting
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice (or 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon each allspice and cloves)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin puree

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1 bar (8 ounces) regular (or reduced-fat) cream cheese, very soft
  • 1/4 cup honey
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin-pie spice. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, butter, and pumpkin puree until combined. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, and mix gently until smooth.
  3. Turn batter into prepared pan, and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of pan, and cool completely, right side up, on a rack.
  4. Make Honey Frosting: In a medium bowl, whisk butter, cream cheese, and honey until smooth.
  5. Spread top of cooled cake with honey frosting. Cut cake into squares to serve.