Saturday, October 31, 2009

Haunted Halloween

My friends and I had another Iron Chef night, and this time the secret ingredient was Halloween. We were assigned dessert, so I went on a search to find something spooky. I wasn't originally planning on doing a time-consuming, detailed dessert, but the baker in me took over and I wanted a challenge.

I found Martha Stewart's Haunted House cake, or should I say, it found me. I knew I didn't have it in me to do every last detail like Martha, but I worked my heart out on this cake. It took me hours to make, but it was a lot of fun. And it turned out pretty haunted looking, don't ya think?

A few notes about this cake - it's a devil's food cake, meaning it's very dark chocolatey-tasting. I was very pleased with the flavor, but it did end up a little drier than I had hoped (probably from my tweaking of sizes of pans to cook it in).

On to the chocolate buttercream frosting. It was honestly delicious. Light, chocolatey, buttery, and oh-so-good. This frosting will definitely be making it into my line up of go-to recipes.

The chocolate cookies for the tree and house were made with dutch-processed cocoa, which is why they look almost black. The cookies were a little salty for me, but they held up really well on the cake. Until the tree fell off of the cake and broke...

Have a Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but pumpkin is one of those things that is hit and miss for me. Sometimes I make something with pumpkin and it turns out gooey and just plain awful. Other times it turns out just as I hoped it would. It doesn't help that my husband doesn't really like things with pumpkin in it, so I don't have a whole lot of motivation to perfect this part of my baking. Oh well.

This is a long lost recipe that I made about 5 years ago for the first time. I've only made these cookies twice in my life, but both times they turned out delicious. And that's saying something considering my history with pumpkin!

I found this recipe in the back of a Martha Stewart magazine. I needed a treat for a dinner at my in-laws, so I whipped these cookies up. Everyone loved them, and I even had people asking for the recipe. I made these again last week, and I think they turned out pretty good.

These are a light, almost cake-like cookie. The frosting is very sweet but adds a nice complementary flavor to the pumpkin spice. A few notes - this recipe makes a lot of batter. As an alternative to the cookie, you could throw some of the batter into a muffin pan and make some cupcakes. Also, the recipe on Martha Stewart's website says to pipe the batter out onto the cookie sheet, but I chose to use a 1 1/2 inch cookie scoop. And last, but not least, my cookies stuck to the parchment paper I used. So I pulled out my silpat, and the cookies browned nicely on the bottom and were easy to transfer.

So, here's the recipe. And the best part? They're small so you can eat as many as you want!

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
Martha Stewart

Makes about 6 dozen


2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon evaporated milk,
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


1. Make cookies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla; mix until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; mix until combined.

3. Use a 1 1/2 inch cookie scoop to scoop batter onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until tops spring back, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely.

4. Make icing: Put confectioners' sugar in a large bowl; set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Immediately add butter to confectioners' sugar, scraping any browned bits from sides and bottom of pan. Add evaporated milk and vanilla; stir until smooth. Spread about 1 teaspoon icing onto each cookie. If icing stiffens, stir in more evaporated milk, a little at a time. Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.