Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

The other day there was a box of old bread left in the break room at work. The note on the box said that the bread was free and could be used to make breadcrumbs or croutons. I had other plans.

Originally I had thought that I would make a french toast type of bread pudding but while I was at the grocery store I saw that pumpkin was on sale and I changed my mind. The process was really simple since I basically just followed the directions for pumpkin pie that is on the back of can of pumpkin. Instead of pouring the batter into pie crusts, it was poured over the bread.

Alright, lets get into this post. This is another step by step posting since people seemed to enjoy the last one.

As usual, I like to have all the ingredients out before I start. That way I know if I'm missing anything and can then make changes to the recipe beforehand. As you can see, there is a loaf of bread, some eggs, sugar, a can of pumpkin, 2 cans of evaporated milk, and some cinnamon and nutmeg (the nutmeg is whole, I grind it by hand because it tastes better that way).

As you can see, I have cut up the bread into about 1" size pieces and I combined the sugar and spices (well, I didn't stir them together before this picture was taken, but you get the idea). The next step is to add the eggs to the sugar mixture and stir well. Then you have to stir in the can of pumpkin and finally you stir in the two cans of evaporated milk.

Now that all the liquids are combined, you just need pour the wet mixture over the bread. Be sure to pour it evenly and not to put too much into the dish. The bread will soak up some of the batter, so just pour it slowly.

Now that everything is combined, you should let the dish sit for at least an hour in the refrigerator. This will allow the bread to soak up the pumpkin mixture. Once the mix has sat long enough, you can bake it. I baked the pudding at 325 C for approximately an hour. Just check it periodically to see if it is set in the middle.

And this is what you end up with. To serve, I just dished some of it into a bowl and added some whipped topping. It definitely tastes like pumpkin pie, but isn't as rich as the pie usually is. The bread makes it taste lighter than it really is. It was a good way to use up old bread and it tastes good.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

La Bete Noire

This dish was the cover feature of the September 2006 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. A link to the recipe is here if you are interested. Also, if you click here you can see in image of the cover (at least until the new issue comes out).

I was invited to a Labor Day cookout and I wanted to make something unique so this is what I brought. I also brought some little smokies wrapped in bacon which were a real crowd pleaser (but they were nothing unique so thats about as much mention as they will get). When I saw the cover of the magazine on the rack I had to buy it. The chocolate "cake" looked very tempting. I had also never made anything like this before so I was up for the challenge.

If you clicked on the recipe you can see that the cake is flourless and uses very few ingredients. It was fairly simple to assemble but I do encourage that a bigger pot than you think necessary be used. I had a hard time stirring the eggs into the mix because I was close to spilling over the sides of the pot.

I found the recipe to be very straight forward and detailed. I can't think of any advice I can give to make it any better.

The final result was a very very rich chocolate dessert. Only a small slice is suggested because it is very rich. Some people at the party gave suggestions for another layer that is lighter and either flavored vanilla or coffee. When I make this again, I might try to change the recipe around a little to reflect such a change. I'll be sure to post the results.

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50th Birthday Cake

I was asked last week to make a birthday cake for a coworker for just turned 50. The above is what I came up with. I do have to admit, I searched around the internet and found something similar that I liked (and my boss liked) so I went with that design. The one online didn't have chocolate ghosts however.

This was a rush order so I didn't have a lot of time to prep everything so I relied on box cake mix and canned icing. Since I'm not a fan of doing exactly like the directions say, I decided that I would add some extra pudding to the cake mixes. I went to the store and picked up 2 cake mixes (dark chocolate and white), 2 packages of pudding (dark chocolate and cheesecake), and 2 tubs of white icing (I made 1/2 sheet marbled cake). I did a quick check in my head and I was confident that I had everything at home that I would need to make the cakes (eggs and oil). When I got home and prepped to bake the cake I realized that I was short half the eggs. It was already getting late and I knew that if I was going to get the cake done by Friday morning it had to be baked Wednesday night and then decorated on Thursday. So I thought about what I might be able to use to replace some of the eggs and I decided that heavy cream might do the trick. I mixed together the eggs that I had and the heavy cream and split that between the two batches.

The consistency of the batters were pretty similar to a standard cake so I went ahead and baked them. Although a bit on the heavy side, everything appeared normal after baking. After cooling a bit the cake was put into the refrigerator for the evening.

The next night I turned the cake onto a board and started decorating it. I cut two corners off the cake to make the tombstone shape and I tinted the icing grey (which is somewhat blue/purple) with black food coloring. For the writing and the ghosts I used melted chocolate. The writing was done directly on the cake whereas the ghosts were drawn out on wax paper and allowed to harden before being put on the cake. The "grass" around the edges of the cake is colored coconut.

The cake was a big success and I don't think anyone turned it down (nor left any on their plate). The cake was really dense but the mixture of the dark chocolate and cheesecake flavors made it so it wasn't too rich.

So the lessons learned from this cake were that heavy cream can sort of be used to replace a few eggs and that chocolate makes a great decorating medium.

And, I think my skills are getting better with each cake I make, but the writing still needs work.

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