Archive for October, 2009

Pumpkin Brownies

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I found myself with a whole lot of of pumpkin to use up the other day – remains from the giant-sized can I was forced to buy when my grocery store ran out of cans for normal-sized people.  What else is a girl to do but purchase enough squash for a small army when pumpkin pancakes are on the mind?  I promised myself I’d bake something with the leftovers.  And so here I am!

There’s obviously LOADS you can do with pumpkin, but I wanted to get creative.  Actually, what I really wanted was a brownie.  But I couldn’t forgo the pumpkin mountain in my fridge to fulfill my chocolate-y desires.  How utterly wasteful that would be.

Then it hit me. Pumpkin. Brownies. Half fudgy brownie.  Half dense, pumpkin-y delight.  I was so very excited about my highly original, super fun, and simply ingenious idea. Then I found out Martha Stewart had already done it.   Of course she had.

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Not to be outdone by the diva homemaker, I set out to put my own twist on the pumpkin brownie idea.  And twist it I did!  Along with performing my standard Sweet + Natural adaptations to Martha’s recipe – whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, Sucanat for sugar, etc. – I made a bunch of other changes to ensure I got exactly what I was looking for.  Added some extra spice to the pumpkin…used a bigger pan…but most importantly, eliminated the baking powder.  Martha’s brownie pics look too much like cake, right?  Now, I have nothing against cake.  Unless it’s trying to pose for a brownie.  In that case, believe you me, I will not be fooled.  I want fudge, not fluff.  No baking powder = lower rise = density-dense flavor-packed yumminess.  Yes.

Here’s my take on Pumpkin Brownies:

Base mixture:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cup Sucanat

4 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chocolate mixture:

6 ounces grain sweetened chocolate chips

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Pumpkin mixture:

1 1/4 cup pumpkin

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ginger

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 11×7-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  For the base mixture, mix together whole wheat pastry flour and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together Sucanat, eggs and vanilla until well-combined.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until blended.  Divide this mixture into two bowls.  For chocolate mixture, melt chocolate chips and oil in a bowl.  Stir into one half of the base mixture.  (Note: If batter feels dry, just steal some base mixture from the remaining half and add it in.  I found the chocolate batter to be drier than the pumpkin batter, so this is totally cool to do.  The pumpkin batter is very generous and will not hold it against you.)  For pumpkin mixture, combine pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in a bowl.  Stir into other half of base mixture.  Spread chocolate batter evenly into prepared pan.  Top with pumpkin batter.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 24 brownies.

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Success!  The no baking soda idea did the trick in making these Pumpkin Brownies brownies and not cakey, chocolate-and-pumpkin flavored squares.  They were indeed the fudgy, dense, pumpkin-y delights I set out to achieve.  They also just so happen to be orange and black – quite fitting for the upcoming Halloween holiday, wouldn’t you say?

What’s the most interesting brownie you’ve ever eaten?

P.S. After mentioning it in my last post, I’ve had a request to share my European vacation with you all. Now I know such a trip is totally unrelated to Sweet + Natural baking, but I’m highly tempted to oblige – mostly because I love reliving it! Would you guys be interested?

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Pumpkin Banana Oat Muffins

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Hiiiiiiiiiiiiii.

I’m back!  You’ll have to forgive me for the past couple months.  They were arguably the busiest of my entire life.  But I am baking once again!  Before we get into the details of my latest delicious creation, here’s a brief recap of recent events to give some context for my absence and perhaps entice understanding from my wonderfully patient readers:

  • Moved into my new apartment
  • Unpacked – umm…amidst the busyness, this took several weeks
  • Waited for cable / internet to be installed…twice – thanks for not showing up the first time Time Warner!
  • Travled to Rhode Island for a weekend to attend a wedding
  • Planned and conducted a major brainstorming workshop for clients at work
  • Cheered for the Cardinals at a Mets game – they’re in the playoffs now!
  • Celebrated a good friend’s birthday
  • Drove to CT and back for work meetings – times two
  • Vacationed in Europe with Dan for 10 days – an absolute DREAM!  If this were a travel blog, I could do a billion posts about that trip!
  • Worked 75+ hour weeks for a month straight, including through Labor Day weekend…
  • …while I was in Chicago visiting my sister – and having lunch with Jenn!
  • Traveled across the country for a week to watch market research focus groups
  • Played host to my parents while they were in NYC for a weekend
  • Researched and bought a new bike – wheeee!
  • Brunched with old friends from high school
  • Went to several doctor appointments
  • Plus a whole bunch of other very important stuff that I need to keep secret for now…shhh…

Whew!  A lot of work (sad…) but a lot of fun (happy!) in there too.  With all of the above going on, I haven’t had much time – or kitchen access! – to make my own meals, let alone do any awesome baking.  However, the dust seems to be settling – knock on wood – so I am keeping my fingers crossed that we can now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

To kick it off, let’s play a little game of Train of Thought, shall we?  I’ll show you how I decided to make what I’m sharing with you right now!

Today = October.  October = fall.  Fall =  pumpkin.  Pumpkin = great oatmeal mix-in.  Great oatmeal = pumpkin + mashed banana + flax + …  Ooh – I got it!

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These Pumpkin Banana Oat Muffins both welcome the new season and celebrate my re-found ability to make breakfast in the morning.  Pumpkin, banana, flax and maple syrup are the ingredients that make up my favorite bowl of oatmeal – and they’re now brought to you in muffin form!  Top these off with some peanut butter and you’re good to go.  Yum!

Here’s my recipe for Pumpkin Banana Oat Muffins, adapted from this recipe:

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

3/4 cup flax seed meal

2/3 cup maple syrup

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup oats

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375*F.  Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, mashed bananas, vanilla, eggs, flax seed meal and maple syrup until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix whole wheat pastry flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just blended.  Pour into prepared muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes.  Makes 18 muffins.

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I was quite pleased with these muffins!  Seems like the ole baking skills haven’t gotten too rusty from lack of use.  Dan liked them too – though his enthusiasm might have been more reflective of the fact that I was baking anything at all!  Moist, chewy and filled with healthy ingredients – they’re a perfect way to start the day.

Do you eat oatmeal?  What would your fall + oatmeal muffins look like?

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