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Bundt Cake of Endless Autumnal Substitution

Okay, remember a couple of weeks ago when I made my Applesauce Bundt Cake? (follow that link to the original recipe)

Well, I discovered something interesting the other day when I made it–or something like it–again.

The recipe takes 2 cups of applesauce; I only had one.  But I also had a cup or so of pumpkin puree from the pumpkin oatmeal breakfast cookies.  So I thought…well, it should work, right? Why wouldn’t it?

It would. It did. It was actually really really good, even made with 100% whole wheat flour instead of half white and half wheat like the original recipe.  My kids even love it.  So here’s the amended version:

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Some Kinda Fruit Sauce Cake

Preheat oven to 350

In a large bowl mix till smooth and maybe a little foamy:

  • 2 cups pureed or mashed fruit, such as applesauce, bananas, pumpkin, zucchini, pear sauce, peaches, or whatever
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar; if the fruit you are using is very sweet to begin with, substitute up to half a cup of powdered milk for an equal amount of the sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or other flavoring of choice)

Add (just till mixed):

  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (or combination of white and wheat in whatever proportions you choose)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • (and/or other spices in lieu of the above, as you see fit and have in your spice rack)
  • A cup or so of raisins, nuts, or other dried fruit

Mix well and bake for about an hour in a bundt pan or two loaf pans, 40 minutes in 2 square pans, or maybe 30 minutes for muffins.

I have not tried every combination or permutation of this, but I strongly suspect that, aside from the obviousness of other root veggies, almost any mashed or pureed fruit of which you happen to have two cups would work just fine, and give all kinds of delicious different variations (none of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I have actually tried):

  • peaches, and add 1/4 tsp cardamom to the spices (Trader Joes has a nice spiced peach sauce…though you’d then definitely want to diminish the sugar in the recipe)
  • all pumpkin, with some ginger added with the spices
  • banana, and maybe substitute 1/2 a cup of unsweetened cocoa for 1/2 cup of the sugar (although I already have a recipe for something very like this…)
  • what about pear sauce instead of applesauce? I think I might go with white flour for that one…
  • Or whatever weird combinations of fruits you have…that brown banana plus some applesauce and isn’t there still a half cup or so of pumpkin butter from breakfast the other day?…I find it hard to imagine much that could make this cake actually bad, you know?
  • UPDATE: re that previous comment? I tried it substituting nut butter for half the oil; the result was a little too dry, or maybe I overbaked it, and had a sort of funky taste…not enough nut to assert itself, just enough to make you go, “hungh?”–I’ll work on it. In the meantime…yeah, maybe not.

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Just pay attention to your proportions, and it should work just fine.

A note about flour type–I find that the more “autumn-y” the fruit combo I’m using is, and the more pronounced the spices, the less likely it is that my children will notice that I’ve used all whole wheat flour.  If I were doing something with, say, peaches and raspberries, I’d probably err more on the side of the white flour, whereas with applesauce and pumpkin I’d go for the wheat.  Again, it depends on your tastes and your situation.

If you don’t have or don’t wish to use a bundt pan, you could also do this in two loaf pans–or make a number of smaller loaves. As you wish…This is seriously good, and is a great way to turn some of those leftover dregs of Stuff in your fridge into a yummy snack or easy way to ingratiate yourself with your co-workers…

Baking Therapy (Pumpkin Gingerbread recipe)

Last week was rough.  There were several deaths and illnesses in our circles of friends and colleagues, and a lot of anxiety and sadness and worry all around.  And I had to professionally sort of hold it together through everything, which was a challenge…

So I indulged in a lot of creative Baking Therapy.  I don’t know why this works for me, but whenever I need to get grounded and find my emotional balance and self-identity again, baking is one of the best things for me. Which is weird, because normally I’m not a baker–I love to cook, but baking is something I don’t immediately gravitate to…just for therapy, I guess.

I still had some little half-cups of frozen pumpkin puree in the freezer (when I baked my pumpkin in the fall and pureed the flesh, I put half-cup portions into a muffin tin and froze it.  Then I could pop the little pumpkin bits out and have pre-measured puree.  Next year I need to do a lot more of it!), so I went looking for the perfect pumpkin snack cake recipe.  This one (again, heavily tweaked by moi) seemed to fit the bill:

Pumpkin Gingerbread:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup powdered milk (could omit and use 3 cups sugar, but it’s too sweet for me that way!)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (could omit the oil and just do a whole cup of applesauce, but I went crazy this time, I guess:-)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (or two cups)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Mix sugar, powdered milk, oil if using, and applesauce until smooth.  Beat in eggs.  Add orange juice and pumpkin, mix well till very smooth.

Combine and mix all dry ingredients well; gently fold into wet ingredients and mix just till blended.

Pour into 2 loaf pans or 1 bundt pan; bake at 325 for about an hour or until top springs back when touched and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

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This was a seriously good cake–it was flavorful but not too sweet, moist, and just all-around delicious.  A big-time keeper.

I also made another round of my zucchini bread, which the kids love, and of course another big batch of my artisan bread dough. (We’re having pizza tonight.)

Crockpot Baked Stuffed Pumpkin with Apples

pumpkin-main_FullThe other day I bought a small pie pumpkin from our local farm stand–I love the place, it’s just called The Farm and it sells local seasonal produce all summer and fall, and live plants in the spring.  Their prices are excellent, and their produce is lovely, and they are a big part of why I haven’t frequented the farmers markets as much as I planned–the Farm is open every day, and they don’t have all the other stuff like donuts and coffee to entice me away from my true goal…

Anyway, the pumpkin.  When I bought it I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it.  I have actually never done anything with a whole pumpkin before and felt sort of at a loss.  Uncharacteristically, I threw all caution to the winds and tried something I couldn’t find a recipe for anywhere: “baked” stuffed pumpkin, cooked in the crockpot. It was fabulous, if I do say so, and amazingly easy even by my standards. 

Crockpot Baked Stuffed Pumpkin with Apples

First thing everyone should do who tries this recipe is make sure the pumpkin you bought fits into your crockpot, with at least an inch or so all around and the ability to close the lid! I had a few tense moments when I realized it wouldn’t close.  I had to hack off a good bit of pumpkin top and could not bake it with the “lid” on the top the way I’d hoped, but I put foil over the opening and the effect was just fine.

  • Microwave a small pie pumpkin (that fits into your crockpot!) for 3-4 minutes on high; this will soften the skin just enough that you won’t bust your knives trying to cut into it.
  • Cut around the stem  and pull out the “lid”. Clean stringy goop and seeds out of the insides of the pumpkin; save the seeds for roasting and snacking. (Guess what I’m munching on right now, as I type this?)
  • Core and cut up one or two apples–you’ll have to eyeball this, depending on how big a cavity is inyour pumpkin. Better to overestimate than under; the extras can just be baked or munched or whatever.  A 3/4-inch dice seems about right.
  • In a bowl, mix apples, a small (or not so small) handful of raisins, 2-3 tbs brown sugar or maple syrup, 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon and/or other pie-ish spices, and a dash of salt. (You could throw in a splash of rum or orange juice or cream sherry if you wanted, too.)  A handful of nuts of your choice might be nice too, but of course they won’t get crunchy.
  • Place pumpkin in crockpot. Fill pumpkin with apple mixture. (Check now, one more time, to make sure you can close the crockpot lid; if you discover it later, you’ll have a big mess to deal with.)
  • If possible, replace “lid” on pumpkin; if not, cover pumpkin opening with foil.
  • Pour an inch or two of water or apple juice around base of pumpkin in crockpot. Close lid.
  • Cook on low heat 8-9 hours or till pumpkin is tender and cooked through.
  • To serve: carefully remove pumpkin from crockpot and put on a plate.  Remove lid or foil; scoop out pumpkin flesh with baked apples and raisins.

That’s IT. So easy, so absolutely delicious.

A note about cooking times: It’s really tricky,with a crockpot recipe, to give exact cooking times; they are all so unpredictable, which is why we cook stuff where half an hour in either direction doesn’t make much difference.  I actually overcooked mine a little bit–I put it on high for a couple of hours first to get it going since I didn’t start until later in the day than I planned, and I left it on till I got home from work, which was probably an hour past where the apples would have kept their shape a little better.  (Umm…2 hours on high, 5 hours on low, that was. In my crockpot, 8 on low would probably be perfect.) It was still incredibly good, but not all that pretty to look at.  The other thing to be wary of is the liquid level in the bottom of the crock…mine loses moisture way too fast, and I should have put a towel on top but I forgot, and the apple juice was all burned onto the bottom of the crock by the time I got home.  Again, not a big deal at all–didn’t change the pumpkin’s flavor, didn’t hurt anything, just made the crock a pain in the tail to clean.

A note about getting the pumpkin out of the crockpot: Okay, if your pumpkin is really beautifully tender, it won’t be as easy to get out in one piece as it was to get in. This was probably the only sort of challenging part of the process (or would have been if I hadn’t had to deal with the challenge of my pumpkin being too tall for my crockpot). I used a large flat spatula in one hand and an oven mitt in the other, to keep concentrated areas of pressure from landing on any particular part of the pumpkin as I removed it.  If you’re not serving it for company, just leave it in the crockpot and scoop as you go, and then retrieve the shell and leftovers after they are partly eaten. 

With this one I’m already thinking THANKSGIVING DINNER!–when the oven seems to have way too many things needing it, this would be a classy and festive autumn side dish that could take its place on the table right there with the turkey and be something you could shove into the crockpot in the morning and not even think about till the gravy was almost done. 

My husband and I ate the whole pumpkin in two sittings.  Absolutely delicious…

(UPDATE: a couple of weeks later I got a couple more pie pumpkins, but they were too big to fit in the crockpot, so with one of them I tried the exact same recipe only in the oven. I put the pumpkin in a casserole dish with sides and about half an inch of water in the bottom, on the lowest oven shelf at 300 degrees for about 3 hours.  I didn’t like it quite as well as the crockpot version, but it could have been that these pumpkins just weren’t as nice as the first one was.  It’s easily just as painless a recipe in the oven, though, despite not being able to put it in the crockpot before work and come home to a lovely cooked pumpkin…With the other one I cooked it the same way only without the apples inside, and scooped out and blended the pulp, and now I have about 7 cups of pumpkin puree…)