October 25, 2012

Pump(kin) It Up

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Many people develop their love for pumpkin when they’re young. For them, the turning of the leaves means unlimited access to pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin-everything-under-the-sun. When I was growing up, however, I never developed that penchant for pumpkin. The only pumpkin-anything items we ever had in our house were jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween and the obligatory pumpkin pie for my grandma’s sake for Thanksgiving. And, according to my logical reasoning as a child, a pumpkin was a squash, a squash was a vegetable and vegetables did not belong in desserts.(For the record, I do know now that squash is technically a fruit, and that vegetables can fit in perfectly with desserts.)However, after I came to college and befriended many live-for-everything-pumpkin fanatics, I had to see what the big deal was. I first dipped my toes into the pumpkin pool with pumpkin-spice lattes; although there was no actual pumpkin involved, I immediately fell in love with pumpkin’s well-known warm, nutty flavor complements. I then waded further into the pool with pumpkin cheesecake, where the intensity of the pumpkin flavor was tempered by tangy, sweet cream cheese.But it was this week’s combination with one of the greatest creations in the culinary world — brown butter — that made me dive headfirst into the deep end.These pumpkin brown butter cupcakes embody both the best of autumn and the best of pumpkins. The brown butter boasts a toasted, toffee-like flavor that adds depth to the classic pumpkin-spice trio of cinnamon, ginger and allspice. And one bite of the cake itself is like biting into a soft, plump pillow, albeit a delicious pumpkin one.The cupcakes are then topped with a smooth, sweet and tangy maple cream cheese frosting. Cream cheese frosting is a favorite go-to of mine when I need a perfect complement that won’t overwhelm the main attraction. And the added twist of pure, sweet maple syrup immediately transports you to an autumnal forest in the heart of October.For diehard fanatics, this dessert will reaffirm your passion for pumpkin. And for pumpkin newbies sitting on the edge of the pumpkin fanatic pool, this dessert will make you dive right in and never want to leave.

Pumpkin Brown Butter Cupcakes

(Recipe from SprinkleBakes)

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

¾ cup unsalted butter2 cups all-purpose flour1 ½ teaspoons baking soda3 teaspoons ground cinnamon1 teaspoon ground ginger¼ teaspoon allspice1 teaspoon salt1 ½ cups granulated sugar½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed1 ½ cups pumpkin puree3 large eggs½ cup sour cream

You will also need cupcake liners or nonstick baking spray.

Directions:

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners or spray with nonstick baking spray.2.     Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring butter intermittently until the butter is browned to a golden brown color. (I browned my butter to a dark brown color to make it more toasted; you can brown the butter to your liking.) Pour the browned butter into a small bowl and let it cool. Do not let it solidify.3.     In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and allspice. Set aside.4.     In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Next, whisk in the eggs and sour cream until the batter is combined well.5.     Whisk in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.6.     Whisk in the brown butter until thoroughly blended into the batter.7.     Fill muffin tins with batter, about halfway full.8.     Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes (mine were done in 20 minutes), or until they spring back after you press them in the middle. A toothpick that comes out clean after you insert it into the middle of a cupcake will also indicate doneness.9.     Allow cupcakes to cool in the tins for five minutes on a wire rack.10.  Remove cupcakes from the tins and place them on the rack to allow them to finish cooling.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

(Recipe from smitten kitchen)

Ingredients:

16 ounces cream cheese, softened½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature2 cups powdered sugar¼ cup pure maple syrup (You can add a bit more syrup if you want a stronger maple flavor, like I did. However, you may need to add a little more powdered sugar to make sure that your icing doesn’t become too thin.)

Directions:

1.     With a stand mixer or hand mixer, blend together the cream cheese and unsalted butter on medium until smooth.2.     On a lower speed, gradually add in the powdered sugar and maple syrup.3.     Turn up the speed to medium and beat until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.4.     Cover the frosting and chill for ten to 20 minutes in the refrigerator until the frosting sets enough to spread smoothly.

Original Author: Elizabeth Young

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