Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Icing

As we were heading out for our Lake District pod-camping adventure on Friday, as well as whipping up the good old Pumpkin Donuts, I scoured my favourite Primrose Bakery cupcakes book for a pumpkin recipe for us to use up the second of our two pumpkins.

Bailey was in charge of carving this second pumpkin and he actually took it very seriously and the end result was ace! A very spooky pumpkin indeed.

The recipe I chose from Primrose was for Pumpkin Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Icing which sounded absolutely lovely - like a yummy, Hallowe'eny alternative to carrot cake.

I was happy with how the cakes turned out as they tasted very moist, flavoursome and with bags of flavour.

Although the cakes tasted nice, I was a little disappointed with the fact that they didn't really rise much - I think this could have been because I added the pumpkin purée to the cake batter when it was still quite hot. Next time I will prepare the pumpkin purée in advance so it cools down so as not to affect the rise of the cakes. Also the cakes got a bit squashed in the car which made them look pretty ghoulish but I guess there was nothing I could have done about that!

I think the Pumpkin Cupcakes went down well with the campers this weekend as being a little bit Autumny they fit in very well with our rural surroundings.

I was very happy with Hannah's comments who said the cupcakes were "just her type of cake"! Great stuff.


For the cakes:
100g butter, softened
240g brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g pumpkin flesh
125g self-raising flour
120g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
120ml milk
1 teaspoon vinegar

For the icing:
200g cream cheese
200g icing sugar
125g butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cook the pumpkin for 3 minutes in the microwave until tender and blend to make a pumpkin purée and leave it to cool. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time followed by the vanilla, and mix well throughout.

Put the two flours, the cinnamon and ginger together in a separate bowl. In a jug, combine the milk and vinegar. Sift one third of the flours into the original mixing bowl and stir, before adding one third of the milk and stirring.

Repeat until all the flour and milk has been mixed into the cake batter.

Spoon the cake batter into the cupcake cases until they are two-thirds full of cake mix.

Place the cakes into the oven for around 25 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and cooked all the way through. Leave the cakes in the tin for around 10 minutes, before taking out and leaving to cool fully.

Meanwhile, make the icing by combining all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and stirring well to get rid of any lumps.

Ice the cakes using a palette knife before topping with Hallowe'en sprinkles or decorations. Yum scrum!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hallowe'en Mini Pumpkin Donuts

After my Mini White Chocolate Donut success the other day, I decided I wanted to try and make a slightly more diet-friendly donut for us to take on our Hallowe'en camping trip to the Lake District. I also had plenty of yummy pumpkin leftover from Tuesday's Pumpkin Pasta adventure and had wanted to try making pumpkin donuts for some time.

Again the donuts were really easy to make and even less time consuming as I decided to do away with the piping bag which didn't affect the quality of the donuts at all.

Although most of the donuts are safely packed away in a tin ready for us to eat on our camping trip, Bailey and I did have a few cheeky donuts with a cuppa and we really liked them. They didn't taste boring or healthy at all and had quite a nice cakey texture. They sort of reminded me of carrot cake in a way. Also Bailey discovered they can instantly become a really naughty treat when you put a blob of Arequipe / Dulce de Leche on top of the donut before popping it in to the mouth!

I'll definitely be trying this recipe out again soon, maybe with courgette, carrot or beetroot once the pumpkin-dominated Hallowe'en festivities are behind us!

Recipe (makes 44 mini donuts):
250g flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
50g brown sugar
10g Splenda
230g Pumpkin
2 eggs
4 tablespoons semi-skimmed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4-5 teaspoons granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Chop up the pumpkin and add to a microwave-proof container. Cook the pumpkin in the microwave for 3 minutes until tender. Leave to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, bicarb, nutmeg and cinnamon together in a large mixing bowl.

Add the sugar and Splenda to the mixing bowl and stir. Mix the cooked pumpkin, the eggs, the milk and vanilla extract in a measuring jug and beat together.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and gradually add the liquid, stirring well after each addition to avoid lumps. When you have a smooth, thick batter, add two teaspoonfuls of the pumpkin donut batter to a mini donut pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Place into the oven for around 15 minutes or until the donuts no longer feel squidgy to the touch.

Take the donut pan out of the oven and allow the donuts to cool for a few minutes before popping them out onto a board and allowing to cool.

Taking about 10 donuts at a time, place them inside a tupperware box and sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar. Shake the box so that all of the donuts get an even coating of sugar to give them a bit of crunch.

The donuts are now ready to be eaten and enjoyed as a Hallowe'eny treat. Have a spooktacular time!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mini White Chocolate Donuts

On Sunday I was invited to the Baby Shower of my lovely friend Rebecca Sterritt's newly born niece, Lucy.

I thought I would take the opportunity to try out my lovely new donut pan purchased from eBay for the bargain price of a tenner, which I decided to buy in order to make delicious yet healthier donutty treats.

Making donuts was a lot of fun. Not only did I get to use my lovely pan but we also used the piping bag that we have on loan from Krystle.

In fact we soon discovered that it was Bailey who was the whiz with the piping bag and eventually I just gave up and let him do all the piping as I was getting it all over my hands.

I would definitely say donuts are an impressive home-made gift. I was dead pleased that at the party, people seemed to think that making donuts must have been loads more difficult than it actually was and were shocked that I'd made them myself from scratch. Someone even asked me: "So did you just buy some mini donuts and decorate them?" When I said  no people were dead surprised which made me feel like a good cook. Which is always good.

Anyway eating aside, I had a fab time on Sunday. It was great to see the wee baby looking so tiny and cute and to see Mum looking so well. It's always lovely to see Miss Sterritt (and I also had the pleasure of seeing Miss Duff!!) and I'm sure she will be a great aunt!

Recipe (makes 32 mini donuts):
170g plain flour
105g sugar
1 and a 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
150ml milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
25g butter
Cooking spray
100g white chocolate
3-4 drops red food colouring
Pink sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour and crack the egg in before mixing it in well. Mix the milk and the vinegar together in a jug before gradually adding it to the mix, stirring it in well at the same time. Finally, melt the butter in the microwave and add that to the mix.

Prepare your mini donut tin by spraying well with cooking spray.

Transfer some of the donut mix into a piping bag. Carefully pipe the donut mixture into the donut pan, only filling about halfway as the donuts do rise quite a bit.

Put the donuts into the oven for about 5-7 minutes depending on your oven, until they are golden but not too brown as what with them being small they may end up a bit biscuity!

When all of the donuts are out of the oven, as they cool, melt the white chocolate in the microwave for about a minute before adding the pink food colouring to it and mixing...

...until it's a pretty pink colour.

Once the donuts are cool, dunk them into the white chocolate mixture to get a nice pretty thin layer of pink chocolate.

Cover the donuts the with the sprinkles while the chocolate is still melted so that the sprinkles stick to the chocolate topping.

Leave the donuts to cool until the white chocolate has set again and the sprinkles are firmly stuck to the donuts.

Then... eat and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Craig vs Food - The Seppuku Challenge

This won't be a long post but we thought it was worth recording in our food blog as it is both inspiring and food related. Our good good friend Craig Ockwell just returned from a holiday to NY city. We knew he had planned to take part in a hot food challenge called the Seppuku Challenge at the Buffalo Cantina in Brooklyn. We were aware of this because professional hot food eater TV presenter Adam Richman of Man Vs Food fame had attempted the Suicide Wings challenge on telly and failed miserably...

Remember that he eats hot food for a living. Now consider that the Seppuku challenge involves hotter chicken wings and a tighter time limit and a post eating 3 minute no wiping, no drinks rule. To see how Craig did simply look below...

The scale of Craig's achievement cannot be perceived by mere mortals, I regularly eat his spicy food and it often causes a variety of organs to fail. This stuff is in a different league.

If you see this man you should buy him a beer...

Pumpkin Fusilli with Feta and Sage

Like last year, due to my love of bargains and "getting into things", we seem to have ended up with TWO pumpkins. One of them is so massive it's actually quite ridiculous but I saw it on sale in Withington for £2.99 and I couldn't resist.

So last night I decided to tackle the beast and cook up something yummy for our dinner. I am always surprised at how easy carving a pumpkin actually is and once again it was pretty easy even if this massive one did involve quite a bit of elbow grease.

As you'd expect, the pumpkin produced quite a lot of flesh so I kept about 300g of it back to make Pumpkin Donuts, then used the rest to make a Pumpkin Fusilli with Feta and Sage, inspired by Simon Rimmer's warm pumpkin and feta salad I saw him make on Saturday at North West Food Lovers' Festival.

As I had also heard that roasted pumpkin seeds are "the mad note" I decided I would try to toast some off with a bit of salt and paprika and pop them on top of the pasta for a bit of texture and flavour.

I even used some really fancy Asda "Extra Special" Fusilli Gigante. Posh, eh?

Although the dish turned out pretty tasty and an ace way of using up pumpkin, there are definitely a few tweaks I would make for next time. Firstly, I was not a fan of the pumpkin seed addition. I don't know who it was that was banging on about toasted pumpkin seeds and maybe I did them wrong but they weren't good. Too sharp... in the literal sense of the word!

Secondly, I would chop the sage up nice and fine rather than in large leaves so the flavour was more equally spread out. Finally, I would crumble the feta up rather than have it in large blocks as when you got a bit on your fork with sage, pumpkin, pasta and feta it was really awesome!

Recipe (serves 4):
The flesh of an average-sized Pumpkin
The seeds of a Pumpkin (Optional! I personally would opt out!)
400g Fusilli Gigante
A few pinches of Paprika
170g Feta Cheese
28g butter
15 Sage leaves
Salt and Pepper

Start by  chopping up the pumpkin flesh nice and fine before adding it to a large pan which has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Cook the pumpkin down for around 15-20 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, cook the pasta to the packet instructions in salted water and, if using, start to toast the seeds off. When the seeds are brown and toasty, sprinkle them with paprika and salt, cook for a couple more minutes then remove from the heat.

Blend up the pumpkin flesh to make a pumpkin purée.

Melt the butter in a large pan.

Chop up the sage leaves finely (I didn't do this but recommend that you do) and add them to the melted butter and fry for a good few minutes.

Add the pumpkin purée to the sage and butter and allow to cook for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the pasta before adding it to the pan with the pumpkin sauce and stirring well. Crumble the feta into the sauce.

Transfer to a plate and, if using, sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds and serve.


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