Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake

I've mentioned before that one of my favorite parts of the holiday season are the warmly spiced pies. As a kid, I didn't used to like apple pie, but I've always been a fan of pumpkin or sweet potato pie. I would make it all year round if my family would help me eat it. So, pumpkin or sweet potato pie in some variation or another is a must on my Thanksgiving table. This year, I made this pumpkin mousse cheesecake that is basically a pumpkin pie and cheesecake all in one, but is not a pumpkin cheesecake. I like the fact that the two desserts are layered rather than completely combined so you can taste each component, but it still works beautifully together.

I was more than pleased with this recipe from Brad Farmerie. Not only is it delicious, it's also super simple to put together, much simpler and quicker than an actual pie or cheesecake. It's also very impressive looking and can be done ahead of time. Instead of graham cracker crumbs, I used speculoos cookie crumbs and really loved the spice that it added. You can really use any crisp cookies you like.

I also modified the pumpkin mousse part, using whipped cream instead of whipped egg whites since I didn't really want raw eggs in it, but do what you like. I've made Ina Garten's pumpkin mousse in the past with great success, so I based this pumpkin mousse off of that one. I'll have to add that recipe here when I get a chance. Anyway, I really recommend giving these bars a try if you'd like a pumpkin dessert but not necessarily a pumpkin pie, you'll be glad you did.

Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake
Recipe adapted from Brad Farmerie
Makes one 9 x 13 inch pan

2 cups cookie crumbs (graham crackers, speculoos, gingersnaps, etc.)
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Butter a 9x 13 inch baking dish. Combine the cookie crumbs and the melted butter. Press into the prepared baking dish and set aside while you prepare the cheesecake layer.

1 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temp
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a handheld mixer and a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese, salt, and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing until well incorporated. Spread the cheesecake mixture over the crust and bake for 20 min. Let cool completely.

Pumpkin Mousse
1 1/4 oz envelope of powdered gelatin
1/4 cup water
1 15 oz can pure pumpkin puree
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup heavy cream

Fill a small bowl with the water and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften.

In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, mix the pumpkin puree, milk, sugar, egg yolks, salt, and cinnamon together for 10-12 min until it thickens and reaches about 158 deg F. Off the heat, add the softened gelatin and mix until combined. Let the mixture cool to room temp.

Once the pumpkin mixture is cool, whisk the heavy cream in a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or by hand until it reaches soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture. Spread the pumpkin mousse over the cooled cheesecake and refrigerate at least 8 hrs, preferably overnight.

Serve from the fridge with additional lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired. Cheesecake will last wrapped in the fridge up to a few days.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I've seen many versions of whoopie pies over the years and intended to make some eventually, but never really had enough motivation to do so until I saw these ones from Matt Lewis of Baked recently. It sounded like the perfect thing for Thanksgiving this year since it's basically like a pumpkin roulade with cream cheese frosting in a different format and you may know that pumpkin roulade is one of my go-to desserts for Thanksgiving.

Whoopie pies are essentially mini cake sandwiches. I found the cake/cookie part tasted best when it was fresh, so I would recommend making them the day you plan to serve them if possible. You can make the filling a day ahead though. I didn't have any problems with this recipe though I did scale back the cloves. I also reduced the amount of frosting since I prefer a smaller amount, but if you like a generous amount of frosting in your whoopie pies, feel free to make the full amount.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Recipe adapted from Matt Lewis of Baked
Makes about 2 dozen whoopie pies

Whoopie cookies
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp coarse salt, half the amount of fine salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1/3 tbsp. ground cloves
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Prepare about 3 baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.

Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and the spices together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and oil until well combined. Mix in the pumpkin puree, then the eggs and vanilla, whisking until well combined.

Gradually, fold in the flour mixture until incorporated. With a small tbsp. sized ice cream scoop, scoop mounds of dough onto your prepared baking sheets, spacing them about an inch apart, and place them in the oven. Bake for 15-18 min, depending on the size of your cookies until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate them halfway through for even baking. Bake the cookies in batches if necessary.

Let the cookies cool completely on the pan before filling.

Cream cheese filling
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
5 oz cream cheese, room temp
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
pinch of salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Sift the powdered sugar and set aside. In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, with a hand mixer, or wooden spoon, beat the butter for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Then add the cream cheese and beat for another 1-2 min until well incorporated. Add the sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt and mix until combined. Filling may be made a day ahead.

To fill the whoopie cookies, use an ice cream scoop, spoon, or a piping bag to frost the bottom of one whoopie cookie. Then top with another and press together gently. Store in the fridge, covered, for at least 30 min before serving. Whoopie pies will last in the fridge for up to several days or in the freezer for longer.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Simply Mindblowing Coconut Maple Granola

Can I just say that this granola is insane? Insane as in amazingly good, beyond words, but I'm going to try to describe it for you anyway. It's bursting with coconut goodness, it's a bit sweet yet salty, the granola is fluffy but crisp, and it's probably the best granola I've ever had, definitely the best one I've ever made. The components are all super simple and it doesn't sound all that special, but there's just something about coconut oil that brings this granola over the top. Do yourself a favor and make this granola.
The recipe is slightly adapted from Tracy of Shutterbean, so you know it's going to be good with all her granola making experience. This is a loose unclustered granola that really would be perfect in anything. Granola is just so easy to make and so much better when you can make it that there's just no reason to buy it. I've become just a bit obsessed with homemade granola these days and I'll continue to try other ones, but I'm sure that I will be dreaming of this one and coming back to it time and time again.

Coconut Maple Granola
Adapted from Shutterbean
Makes about 6 cups

3 cups rolled oats, not quick-cooking
3/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
3/4 cup raw almonds, or mix in roasted almonds at the end
4 tbsp flaxseed meal
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 tsp fine salt

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, almonds, flaxseed meal, brown sugar, and salt.

Add in the melted coconut oil and maple syrup and stir well to combine. When everything has been mixed thoroughly, pour the mixture onto a lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 min, stirring every 10-15 min until the granola is lightly golden brown.

Let the granola cool completely before storing in an airtight container. It will last for up to several weeks at room temp.