Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

There’s no doubt about it, pumpkin is a quintessential flavor of fall. Although I appreciate pumpkin in all its forms, I especially love it in desserts. Pumpkin desserts are no stranger to the Sweet Precision kitchen. In past years I’ve made pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin tiramisu. I’ve even written a post about how to make your own pumpkin pie spice! This year, I’m adding to the lineup with some tasty pumpkin bread that is sure to leave your kitchen smelling divine.

This week marked the four year anniversary for Sweet Precision. I made my first Sweet Precision post on October 4th, 2012. Looking back, Matthew and I were just beginning what would be a one year long distance relationship with him moving to Ann Arbor to start his PhD program. I was continuing to enjoy life in Washington DC, but found myself feeling alone in a city that we had once explored together. I needed something to funnel my newfound spare time into—and a new baking blog was the perfect project.

Since then, it seems as though time has flown. I’ve moved to Ann Arbor, Matthew and I have gotten married, he has completed four years of his PhD program, and we’ve even welcomed a new puppy into our family! In the midst of all this, I’ve continued baking and blogging.

What an amazing 4 years it’s been. Posts come and go (perhaps not as often as they once did), but what makes this whole blogging experience so amazing is your contribution as readers and followers. Thanks for reading my posts, trying out the recipes, and leaving your thoughtful comments. Here’s to another year of baking mishaps and masterpieces in the Sweet Precision kitchen!

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from All Recipes 

Ingredients
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Directions
Adjust oven rack to middle and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 9×5 inch loaf pans.

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

Bake for about 60 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Avoid getting rims around the edges of quick bread loaves by greasing the baking pans on the bottom and only 1/2 inch up the sides.

Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffin Tops

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As a baker, it always feels good when someone appreciates the fruits of your labor in the kitchen. While Matthew doesn’t have a sweet tooth like I do, there are a few items that he frequently requests from my baking repertoire. Enter these delicious pumpkin muffin tops. The first time I made these cookies was Matthew’s first year of graduate school. Since then, I get about a yearly request for said cookies. When I was struggling to come up with a dessert to bring to a picnic this past weekend, he calmly looked at me and said “I think people would really enjoy your pumpkin muffin tops.” A couple days later when he saw me looking at the recipe he added, “We could always… (insert innocent pause) save just a few cookies for us to eat.” Uh huh. Game well played Matthew. Given the title of this post, you know how this story ended.

This is actually the second time I’ve posted these cookies on Sweet Precision. This updated recipe has more spices (hello ginger and nutmeg) and more butterscotch chips, because… butterscotch. I was excited to break out my first pumpkin recipe of the year because it signals that autumn is almost here. I saw my first sign for a pumpkin spiced latte last week which truly signals the start of the season! So break out a can of pumpkin, embrace autumn, and give these delicious cookies a try!

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Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffin Tops
Makes approximately 24 cookies

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups butterscotch chips

Directions
Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla until blended. Mix in the flour mixture to incorporate it. Mix in 1 cup of the chips.

Using an ice cream scoop with a 1/4-cup capacity, scoop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2-inches apart. Use a thin metal spatula to smooth and flatten the rounds. Sprinkle remaining chips on top of the cookies.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 16 minutes. Cool them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
When baking cookies, it’s best to put one batch at a time in the oven. Cookies need to bake on the middle rack for even baking. If you can fit two pans on the middle rack without touching, you’ll get the baking results you want. If you add additional sheets of cookies on higher or lower racks, they might bake unevenly. You may save some time, but the cookies will suffer.

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Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all that we have in our lives. It’s a time of family. A time of reflection. A time of giving. And a time of stuffing! This year Matthew and I are spending Thanksgiving in Ann Arbor together. We’re both pretty excited to go and watch the Detroit Lions play their annual Thanksgiving Day football game. I’m even more excited that I convinced Matthew to come and watch America’s Thanksgiving Parade before the game. A tradition that started in 1924, the parade shares the title for the second oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States along with the Macy’s parade in NYC.

Each year I like to share with you a list of things that I have been thankful for over the past year. It seems as though the days run into months so quickly, and so often we forget to stop and have a little time for reflection. Keeping with tradition, here is a list (in no particular order) of five things that I am thankful for during 2015.

1. Having a Partner—being in a romantic relationship can teach you so much about the world and yourself.
2. Safety and Security—being able to wake up without immense fear frees us up to really live life.
3. Diversity—the world would be a boring place without diversity.
4. Challenges—without challenges in life, we wouldn’t be the people we are now.
5. Having a Home—whether you live in an apartment or a mansion, having a place to call home is something to be thankful for.

No Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without dessert. Sweet potato pie is one of my favorite holiday desserts. While many people prefer pumpkin pie, there is no contest in my opinion. I grew up with sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I didn’t even know that pumpkin pie existed (gasp) until I was much older! Homemade sweet potato pie is real Southern comfort food. Fresh sweet potatoes, cinnamon and nutmeg are the secrets to this delicious pie recipe.

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Sweet Potato Pie
Makes approximately 8 servings

Ingredients
1 pound sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

Directions
Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin.

Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
It’s best to boil the sweet potatoes right before you bake the pie. The texture will be much smoother when you mix the other filling ingredients right after boiling and peeling. If you store the potatoes in the fridge before mixing, the pie will have a grainier texture.

How are you spending your Thanksgiving Day?!

 

Miniature Caramel Apples

We’re headed into that time of year when it feels as though there is some deliciously appetizing (albeit unhealthy) treat lurking around every corner. I always breathe a sigh of relief after making it through November and the irresistible pumpkin desserts that are everywhere I turn. My relief is short lived because December brings scrumptious holiday cookies and candies. It’s no wonder the average American gains 4 pounds over the holiday season! This year my solution is to try making my favorite desserts in miniature sizes. I will report back in January on the relative success of this experiment.

Caramel apples are hands down, one of my fall favorites. The only problem is that sometimes an entire apple seems like too much. My simple answer to that problem? Caramel apples… done miniature style! My mom and dad were in town this past weekend and I thought this would be a fun baking project for us all to do together. Both my parents were excellent helpers and we all had a lot of fun!

These caramel apples really are  simple and would be a perfect baking project to do with children. Getting the caramel on is the most difficult part, and is best reserved as an adult job. Once that is done, you can decorate the apples however you would like. We used toffee candy chips, pecans, and sprinkles!

Miniature Caramel Apple Recipe
Makes approximately 18 miniature caramel apples 

Ingredients
3 large Granny Smith apples
18 popsicle sticks
1 1/2 cups caramel baking bits
1 tablespoon heavy cream
crushed nuts or sprinkles for topping

Directions
Peel apples. Using a melon baller, scoop out apple balls. Insert the sucker stick into the apple. Be careful not to puncture the stick through the other end. In a small pot add caramel baking bits and heavy cream. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted. Fill a small bowl with icy water. Set aside.

Thoroughly dry the apple with a paper towel to remove excess moisture from the surface. Dip the apple into the mixture, swirling to coat and being sure to get the caramel on the stick a little. This will help keep out the water on the next step. Immediately dip the caramel apple into the icy water for a few second to quick set the caramel. Dry the caramel off gently with a paper towel. Press the top of the caramel apple into desired topping if using. Place caramel apple into the fridge or freezer to finish setting.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
It is best to work in batches of 3-4 when you are making these mini caramel apples. Also, be sure not to add more than a tablespoon of heavy cream to the caramel otherwise it will be too runny any won’t set. I found this video to be helpful explaining the entire process.


 

 

All Day Apple Butter

An important requirement of fall is apple picking. When I was younger my mom and I would take multiple trips to the apple orchard to stock up on apples in the fall. It’s a tradition that I’ve enjoyed continuing throughout the years.

There are SO many things you can do with apples when it comes to baking. If you need a little inspiration, check out my Caramel Apple BarsCountry Apple Galette, and Apple Tarte Tatin!

My love of apples aside, this post is also about canning. Can you believe that it took me almost 30 years to try my hand at canning?! If you are truly dedicated to getting the canning process right, it will require a little research and reading before you head into the kitchen. I spent about 30 minutes on the phone with my dad, who I consider to be a seasoned expert in the art of canning. I’d also recommend the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving as wonderful guide and instruction manual. I’m going to save some of my canning tips and tricks for another post, and today I’ll share my amazing apple butter recipe with you.

Did you know that apple butter actually has NO butter?! I was somewhat surprised when I first discovered this. Apple butter gets its name because you basically cook apples down to the consistency of butter so your sauce is spreadable. Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce produced by slow cooking of apples to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelizes, turning the apple butter a deep brown. All you need are apples, sugar, and some spices. It doesn’t get any simpler. I really like this recipe because you cook the apples in a crock pot for an entire day which means that your home will smell simply divine.


All Day Apple Butter Recipe
Makes approximately 8 half pint jars

Ingredients
5 1/2 pounds apples – peeled, cored, and finely chopped
3 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions
Place the apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on high 1 hour.

Reduce heat to low and cook 9 to 11 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown. Uncover and continue cooking on low 1 hour. Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness.

Spoon the mixture into sterile containers, cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If you want to ensure your apple butter is free of lumps, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce before the final hour of cooking. I tried this and was very pleased with the smooth and creamy texture that resulted.