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.

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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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Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

It’s hard to believe that my favorite season is right around the corner. After a hot and humid summer, there is nothing that I love more than the cool and crisp air of a fall afternoon. Although the official start to the season is still a couple weeks out, all signs point to autumn here in Ann Arbor. Students have returned to campus and classes have started. Football season is underway and my fantasy league is up and running. Starbucks has my favorite drink—caramel apple cider—on their special fall menu. Perhaps most exciting, is the return of my favorite pumpkin-themed fall desserts. Simply put, I love almost everything about fall. I think the word cloud below does a good job of showcasing this.

fall

There’s no doubt about it: Pumpkin is the quintessential fall flavor, and I especially love it in desserts. Pumpkin desserts are no stranger to the Sweet Precision Kitchen. In past years I’ve made pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, and pumpkin cookies. This year I’m adding to the lineup with some tasty pumpkin muffins that are sure to leave your kitchen smelling divine. The delicate pumpkin flavor of these muffins is enhanced with tart cranberries. This recipe is a winner and can easily be doubled if you’re bringing it to a larger function.

Low Fat Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Servings: 12 • Size: 1 muffin • Calories: 170.0 • Fat: 4.0 g • Carbs: 33.0 g • Fiber: 1.0 g • Protein: 3.0 g • Sugar: 18.0 g • Sodium: 282 mg

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large egg
2/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and next 5 ingredients (though cloves); stir well with a whisk.

Combine granulated sugar and next 5 ingredients (through egg) in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Fold in cranberries.

Place 12 paper muffin cup liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray. Spoon batter into prepared cups. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pan immediately; place on a wire rack.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Canned pumpkin offers the same health benefits as fresh, but is a little more convenient. It contributes both color and moistness to these fruit-filled muffins.

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Pumpkin Tiramisu

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 Matt and I spent our first Thanksgiving together in Ann Arbor. Although we attempted to scale our meal back to a portion suitable for two, our refrigerator is stuffed with leftovers suitable for an entire weeks’ worth of Thanksgiving dinners. Our meal included some inspiration from New Orleans (where Matt’s alma mater is located), with BBQ shrimp. It even included a macaroni and cheese bake-off—although the winner is still in dispute. Overall, it was a lovely day filled with many first times and memories in the making.

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Last year, I shared with you my list of things I was most thankful for in 2012. In keeping with tradition, I have decided to do the same this year. In no particular order, here are five things I am thankful for in the past year.

1. Love—for letting me feel what it means to be truly alive.
2. Good health—for enabling me to live each day to the fullest.
3. Tears—for helping me express my deepest emotions.
4. Friends and family—for being my closest companions in life.
5. My mind—for the ability to think, store memories, and create new solutions.

No Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without dessert. This year I tried a new recipe from one of my coworkers for pumpkin tiramisu. This recipe won the fall baking competition at work, and after your first bite you will immediately know why. With layers of pumpkin-mascarpone, custard, and gingersnaps brushed with Calvados syrup, the flavors and textures form a deliciously creamy dessert.

Pumpkin Tiramisu Recipe

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Ingredients
3 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from 1 1/2 envelopes)
2 tablespoons water
6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 quart whole milk
one 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound mascarpone (2 cups)
3 tablespoons Calvados or other apple brandy
1 1/4 pounds gingersnaps, 1/4 pound finely crushed

Directions
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk the yolks, cornstarch, salt and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar until the sugar is moistened. In a large saucepan, heat the milk just until steaming. Whisk 1 cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Pour the mixture into the milk in the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until boiling and thick, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the pumpkin puree and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Off the heat, whisk in the gelatin, vanilla and cinnamon. Whisk in the mascarpone.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, microwave the Calvados with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar at high power for 10 seconds, just until the sugar is dissolved.

Arrange one-third of the whole gingersnaps in a 9-by-13-by-2 1/2-inch baking dish. Lightly brush the gingersnaps with some of the Calvados and top with one-third of the pumpkin custard. Repeat the layering twice more with the remaining whole gingersnaps, Calvados and custard. Sprinkle half of the crushed gingersnaps on top and press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the tiramisù. Freeze overnight.

Let the tiramisù stand at room temperature for 6 hours, until thawed. Sprinkle with the remaining gingersnaps. Serve.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Thanksgiving is a busy time and this dessert can be made in advance to save you some time in the kitchen on the big day. The pumpkin tiramisù can be frozen for up to 1 week. Thaw at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Cheesecake-Filled Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Halloween is a time for ghouls, ghosts, goblins… and why not a pumpkin too!

Last Halloween I shared a post about my Strawberry Shortcake costume that I was so excited to wear until my plans were foiled by the infamous Minnesota Halloween blizzard of 1991. I figured why not stick with the tradition, and share another fun costume story with you this year!

In our household growing up, Halloween costumes were never purchased from the store. Instead, they were creatively crafted from whatever items you could find around the house. Growing up in Minnesota, Halloween comes at a time of year that is pretty chilly. Therefore, you definitely don’t want to be parading around the neighborhood in shorts or a t-shirt.

My mother, being the smart woman she is, decided that she would create the ultimate Halloween costume for me one year. It fit the criteria of being both homemade and warm. We went to JoAnn fabrics and bought some orange fabric and some accompanying fabric paint. We came home and she crafted a giant pumpkin costume complete with eyes, a nose, and a mouth. All that one had to do was slip on the costume and fill it up with insulation of your choice (which ranged from newspaper to balloons). The look was completed with some orange face paint and some green sweatpants with a turtleneck. This costume was such a classic that I wore it for several years!

Continuing with the pumpkin theme of this post, these cupcakes are pumpkin all the way. The center is a pumpkin shaped cheesecake and the cupcakes themselves have canned pumpkin in them. This recipe can easily be split into two days which makes them pretty easy to pull together. Since there is already quite a bit of prep work, I cheated and used box cake mix—you should too without any guilt!

Cheesecake-Filled Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
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Mini Cheesecake Ingredients
butter, to coat the inside of your pumpkin molds
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
orange and green food coloring
silicone pumpkin molds

Cupcake Ingredients
1 package (2-layer size) spice cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1/4 cup oil
3 eggs

Frosting Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 pound cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
3 1/2 pounds sifted confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
orange food coloring
sprinkles for decoration

Mini Cheesecake Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter the cavities in your pumpkin molds.

Combine cream cheese, sugar, heavy whipping cream, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor, pulse until smooth. Alternatively, mix cream cheese and sugar together until well blended. Add whipping cream, eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. Remove about 2 tablespoons of filling and color it green. Color the remaining filling using orange food coloring.

Paint the green filling into the stems of 40 cavities. The filling is pretty thick and should stay in place nicely, but just to be safe, pop these filled molds into the freezer for 5 minutes before filling with the orange cheesecake.

Set silicone pumpkin mold on a baking sheet. Fill the pumpkins with orange cheesecake filling. Leave a small amount of room in each mold for the filling to expand while baking (about a 16th of an inch.)

Bake 12-14 minutes until the tops look set but the cheesecake pumpkins are still jiggly. Allow to cool for 30 minutes at room temperature, then place in the freezer for at least 1 hour. You can, at this point, wrap the mold well and store them in the freezer for up to several weeks.

Remove the molds from the freezer, turn the mold upside down and press the pumpkin cheesecakes out. I set mine on a non-stick baking mat just to be sure they wouldn’t stick later once they thawed. It will be easiest to move these now to a serving platter or dessert plates.

Cupcake Directions

Heat oven to 350ºF. Beat cake mix, sour cream, pumpkin, oil, and eggs until blended. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan. Pour a thin layer of batter into each of the cupcake liners.

Remove the Mini Cheesecake Pumpkins from the freezer. Un-mold them, and stick 2 cheesecakes together (put their backsides together) then place them in the center of each cupcake liner. It is very important that you know which way your cheesecake pumpkins are facing. Later when you cut into a cupcake to reveal the pumpkin, you want to cut across the front not the side.

Fill the cupcake liners up over the cheesecake pumpkins. I felt it was easiest to put my batter in a large disposable pastry bag and pipe it into the cups. Once all the cups are filled allow them to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. While you are waiting, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the cupcakes for 20-22 minutes until they are set around the edges and puffed in the middle. As the cupcakes cool, they will sink a bit in the center. Allow them to cool completely.

Frosting Directions
Cream butter, shortening, cream cheese and extracts. Gradually add confectioners sugar and salt. Beat on low speed until nice and creamy. This recipe is for a stiff consistency. For a thinner consistency, use 3 pounds of powdered sugar instead.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
To make the perfect cream cheese frosting, your cream cheese must be at room temperature. You can ensure this happens by letting it sit out overnight. Butter should be at room temperature, but still a bit cool (try leaving it out for 2-3 hours before making the frosting). The butter shouldn’t be completely soft and mush in the package. It should be soft, but still hold its cube shape.

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