Pumpkin Spice Macarons

 

Are you a lover or a hater? We’re talking pumpkin spice. Please don’t be a hater, I’ll be crushed.

You know who you are. Yeah, you cinnamon haters. You spice deserters. Spice is life! Spice is my jam.  I could spend all day in a spice store-and I’m sure I have. Opening jars and sniffing. Certain cultures embrace spice. Just spend an afternoon in an Indian grocery store and you’ll know what I’m talking about; you’ll find me snorting the packages like a junkie.

You’ll wonder why I don’t give specific measurements for the buttercream in this recipe. It’s because everyone has a different barometer when it comes to cinnamon and the other spices that dance together in pumpkin spice blend.

I was poking around in Homegoods store (oh yeah the Gourmet foods aisle) one afternoon and found a jar of pumpkin curd. Now, I’ll be the first to admit you can make ALL kinds of curds, but I had never heard of pumpkin curd, so that jar found it’s way into my cart. It was rather loose for a curd, and also contained a bit of orange flavor, so I stirred a little bit (~ 2 Tablespoons)  of it into a basic vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream and added little shakes of pps (pumpkin pie spice) until it tickled me just right.  You can substitute pumpkin butter in place of or even a spoonful at a time of pumpkin puree I think to achieve a flavorful buttercream.

 

Pumpkin Spice Macarons

107 grams egg whites

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

110 grams granulated sugar

124 grams confectioners sugar

140 grams blanched fine almond flour

1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

orange gel food color

 

In a food processor place the almond flour and confectioners sugar and run for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides so the mixture settles into the processor bowl. Repeat this 2 more times, then sift mixture through a strainer (it doesn’t have to be fine) over a large bowl (I use a 5 quart size stainless steel bowl). Preheat the oven to 300° F convection, 325° F for non convection setting.

In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk by hand (using the mixer whisk) until foamy for about 30 seconds. Prepare two baking sheets with either parchment paper or Silpat liners. I use these macaron mats by Velesco

Set the mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment assembled to the mixer, and start the meringue by running mixer on power level 4 (Kitchen Aide) and start gradually adding in the granulated sugar- run/whisk for 2 minutes once all the sugar is in. Stop once to scrape the sides of the bowl to push down any sugar that appears on the sides.

Increase mixer then to power level 6 and run for 3 minutes.

Increase mixer to power level 8 and run for 3 minutes.

Stop mixer and with a bamboo skewer or toothpick add in your gel color.

Increase mixer to power level high (10) and run for 1 minute (Just to show it who’s boss!!) or until meringue is stiff peaks. A sign that meringue is ready is there will be a good amount collected within the whisk and if you turn the bowl upside down the meringue will not slip or move. If the color does not appear to be mixer to your liking at this point I add in any color and mix gently by hand; being careful not to overmix.

Add one half of the meringue to the almond flour/sugar mix and start folding with a rubber spatula until mixture starts to look cohesive. Add in the remaining half of meringue and continue to gently fold, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. The batter is perfect when you lift up the spatula and tip the pointed end of the spatula down and ribbons of batter fall smoothly back into the bowl. I like to gauge its ready when I can count ~ 4 ribbons falling without breaking and I can “draw” a figure 8 with the batter when lifting the spatula and letting it fall into the bowl.

Fill your pastry bag by using a heavy tall cup or mason jar to hold your pastry bag with the top folded over the glass. When preparing your bag after you drop in your round tip (I use an Ateco 804), twist the bag right above the larger end of the tip and push it down into tip. Fold the top 4 inches of the bag over the jar or glass.

 

Let the batter fall right into the bottom of the bag and continue filling to ensure you don’t get air bubbles. When ready to pipe and all of the batter is in the bag, twist the top of the bag and when ready to pipe, push down with your dominant hand to force the bottom of the tip to open.

Pipe the batter onto prepared baking sheet with 30 macarons per sheet. Six across the long side, and five rows perpendicular. Sift a light dusting of cocoa powder over each piped macaron round. Take the sheet pan and wrap against the counter for 13 times. Repeat x 2 more times of 13, then look for any visible air bubbles and pop with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. Allow the macarons to rest for 10-30 minutes, then bake in a preheated (convection oven if you have at 300° F , 325° F for NON convection oven*) for about 16-18 minutes or until the cookie does not wiggle when attempting to check by carefully grabbing both sides of a cookie and gently testing.

Let the tray rest on a wire rack and then bake the second tray.

Cool the cookies completely and pipe the buttercream between two cookies and sandwich together.

*A word about oven temperatures: EVERY one’s oven is different and after painstaking doing several batches of macarons I determined that in MY oven 300 F convection setting is best for me. Check your oven temperature against a thermometer placed in the middle of your oven. Some people bake there’s at 285, 290, 310 etc. unfortunately it’s something that you have to play around with and determine what is best for you and your oven.

 

Pumpkin Spice Buttercream

3 egg whites (large eggs)

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter

pumpkin curd or pumpkin butter to taste

pumpkin pie spice to taste

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla,  then beat until smooth. Fold in the pumpkin curd/pumpkin butter or puree; whichever you are using and taste it as you go along, adding in little shakes of spice mixture to your liking.

Note: you can make the buttercream a day or two ahead and keep chilled in the fridge, just let it come to room temperature and stir vigorously with a spoon or re whip with the whisk attachment.

 


Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies

I must admit- I’ve never really been into whoopie pies until last year when I made my first batch. I suddenly occurred to me that you know that trick everybody does where they take their cupcake and tear off the bottom and place it on top of the frosting to create a sandwich? well…it’s kind of like creating your own whoopie. Besides, whoopies are a whole lot cuter-especially when you make them mini size they are perfect party fair.

Come on, you know you want an excuse to call up your neighbor and ask “Do you want to come over for some whoopie?” Ha Ha Ha. Sorry, I had to slip that in there. But kidding aside, it’s fun to have the girls over to catch up on the neighborhood gossip (not kidding- kinda, sorta) while you scoot the boys outside to the deck  while they drink their beer so you can nibble on a few of these cuties drinking your seasonal drink of choice.

I made two mini sizes. I was playing around with the recipe during my recipe development phase; including even how to scoop them. At first I tried using the ice cream scoop method using a mini scoop, and they just did not come out uniform or smooth enough on top, (esp. since the batter is a bit sticky), so I switched to using the tried and true piping bag method. Not only was the piping bag method the winner but each and every cookie came out uniform in size (but full disclosure I used a template*See note below). I piped two different sizes (1.5 inch and 2 1/4 inch size). I know this is rather small, so you can obviously go bigger since we are talking really small here. I would not go bigger than 3 inch size though since they are a rich in flavor. I actually think the 2 1/4 inch size is perfect to be quite honest which is about 3 bites worth.

Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies

yield: 2-3 dozen depending on the # of size you make

3 Cups all purpose flour

1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. kosher salt

3 Cups canned pumpkin puree

1 C vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 Cups firmly packed light brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

 

In a large bowl place the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and egg and whisk to combine. Then add in the brown sugar and vanilla and whisk again to combine until smooth. Using a metal type strainer, hold it over the bowl and sift through the dry ingredients, then whisk until combined.  (Alternatively you can whisk the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to the wet). Regardless, mix gently until the mixture is comes together but do not over mix. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip (I like to use an 806). Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350° F with rack in center position. Pipe batter spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake one tray at a time 10-12 minutes until just set and when touched they spring back. Let cool on tray for a few minutes then remove to cool completely on wire rack. When cool sandwich with cream cheese frosting recipe. Note: for the 2 1/4 inch cookie size I felt that 1 tablespoon scoop frosting worked perfectly, and the smaller size, just use a little less.

* A long winded word about templates….I have a heavy paper type macaron template I use for my piping that I slide under the parchment paper and right before the cookies are ready to bake simply remove the template and reuse for the next tray when piping. I have various sizes that I’ve made over the years by copying circles with a sharpie around biscuit cutters. For a useful tip- Fold down the two opposite corners of your parchment sheets and then fold them back up so the corners are standing back up to use as a “Tab” so you can to grab the piping template a bit easier. If you don’t have the patience to make a template here are two recourses of two different sizes. For the 1.5 size the Southern Fatty blog has a template here. For a 2 1/4 inch size, here is a link for a 2 inch template here, and you can quickly trace with a 2 1/4 biscuit cutter using a pen to mark the outline so you have the right size and print out another sheet tape the two sides together so you can slide it under to fill a half sheet pan under your parchment. If this seems like a lot of work, you’re right, but you will be amazed that you will not waste any unmatched sized cookies when it comes to assembling your whoopies. Also, if you like to make macarons like I do- save your templates and you can use them over and over again multiple times. So, it’s up to you how OCD you want to be. Me, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to stuff like this, so hey, I can’t help myself.

Cream Cheese Filling

1 stick (1/2 C) unsalted butter (cold), cut into 1/4 inch size cubed pieces

8 oz. cream cheese (cold) and cut into 12 equal pieces

3 Cups confectioners sugar, sifted

1 tsp. vanilla

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the cold cubed butter and beat until pliable and the butter is sitting along the sides of the bowl. Scrape down the bowl, and beat a few more times on low. Add in the cold cream cheese and beat on low speed for a few minutes, stopping to scrape down, and in between  the beater to loosen the cream cheese so that it falls to the bottom of the work bowl. Continue to beat on low to medium speed for a few minutes until the two come together. Add in about half the confectioners sugar and stir speed slowly at first so that the sugar does not cause a mess, then increase speed and beat on slow to medium speed, increase speed in bursts, but do not beat at high speed-you want the mixture to remain cold so it does not turn runny. Add in the other half of the sugar and continue to stop and start and scrape down sides a needed and beat on low speed just it has come together. When it looks like it has come together, increase on high speed just for a few seconds to get rid of any lumps, but no longer than a few seconds. Cream cheese frosting is funny-if you beat it to death-it looses its structure and turns too runny. I have been making my cream cheese frosting this way rather than starting from room temperature and it always maintains it’s structure. It helps to have the cream cheese cut into small pieces when you start. You might have to practice a few times, so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get it perfect the first time.  I hope you like this way!! I always start from cold now and it’s not failed me.

 

 

 


Pumpkin & Spice Glazed Scones

 

pumpkin spice scone

Pumpkin season is here! Have you been to Trader Joe’s?!  If you have, then you know what I’m talking about- they take it to a whole other level,  it’s  a PUMPKINpalooza. Crazy. I left there in awe of all the pumpkin things they offer- it got me inspired to make a good pumpkin scone. It had to be moist, it had to have the right amount of spice, and it had to have a great glaze. I did three variations of the recipe before I came up with the right mixture of spice. FYI, pumpkin spice mix you buy in the store did not do it. Trust me on this. Pumpkin needs a lot of spice in order to let it sing. See below also for my tips on getting moist, tall scones.

Don’t you just love Fall? A good cup of hot cider, a great scone, the Sunday paper. What more does a girl need?

PumpkinSpiceGlazedScone

pumpkin spice scones with classic glaze and spiced glaze

 

pumpkin spice scone with classic and spiced glazed

Pumpkin Spice Glazed Scones

yield: 8 scones

2 Cups All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup sugar

1 Tbsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1  1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. mace (seek this out- it makes all the difference!)

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 stick (1/2 C) cold cubed unsalted butter

1/2 Cup canned pumpkin puree

1 lg. egg

1 tsp. vanilla

3 Tbsp. heavy cream

[Tips for making great scones:]

  • Cut the butter first into small cubes, and set back in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to keep cold while you measure out the rest of the ingredients.
  • Using a food processor helps to avoid overworking the dough AND keeping the butter cold while mixing.
  • Do NOT overwork the dough. Overworking/overmixing the dough results in a drier less moist scone.
  • Chill the formed scones to help retain their shape when baking (results in a taller scone).
  • Always use an oven thermometer to make sure the oven is calibrated to the exact temp called for in the recipe.
  • Place the rack in the mid high portion of the oven rather than the lower portion (prevents bottoms getting too brown)

Scones:

In a food processor place the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt. Pulse 4-5 times to combine well. Add the cubed cold butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal with the butter resembling size of peas.

Dump the flour/butter mixture into a large bowl and form a well in the center. In a glass measuring cup whisk together the puree, egg, vanilla, and cream. Add puree mix to the flour mixture and with a rubber spatula fold in the dry ingredients until combined. DO NOT OVERMIX! Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and pat into a 7 inch circle. Cut like a pie into 8 equal wedges and place scones on  prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches space between scones. Chill the scones in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425° F and prepare a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a Silpat liner.

Bake the chilled scones at 425° F for 15-16 minutes. Avoid overbaking to ensure a moist scone.

Let the scones cool before glazing.

To glaze: Prepare the classic glaze and dip the top of each scone into the glaze (some will run down the sides) and set on a wire rack over a piece of parchment. Once set- mix the spiced glaze and drizzle over each scone. FYI: I think they taste better a bit warm, so I nuke mine in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds.

Classic Glaze:

3/4 Cup confectioners sugar + more if needed

2  1/2 Tbsp. milk

In a small bowl whisk together the glaze until smooth. Add a Tbsp. or more confectioners sugar as needed if glaze not thick enough. You don’t want it too thin.

Spiced Drizzle Glaze:

Once the scones are dipped in the classic glaze, use the leftover Classic Glaze in the same bowl and whisk in these spices: 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, pinch of ginger, pinch of cloves.

Note: to turn the glaze a more pumpkin color- I add a bit of chocolate brown gel paste food coloring along with electric yellow gel paste to achieve the perfect pumpkin color; using a toothpick of each at a time until desired color. Wait until the classic glaze is set until you drizzle the spice glaze over.


Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Calling all pumpkin spice fans. How many of you have already made it into Starbucks for your pumpkin spice latte? Uh huh. That’s what I thought. Quite a few of you…Can we get enough of fall time pumpkin treats. I think not. Here’s something you can whip up on your own–no coffee house trip needed. Pumpkin Cheesecake bars. After I made these, I thought they looked a little plain so I added a recipe for a cream cheese frosting to spread on top if you like. Cheers~

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Crumb Base:
1 1/2 Cup crisp gingersnap cookie crumbs
3 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted melted butter

1. Line a 9×9 inch square pan with tinfoil. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Lightly grease the tinfoil. In a small bowl combine the ingredients well with a fork. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake at 350 for about 14-15 minutes until crust looks set around edges. (crust may look a bit wet–that’s okay). Let crust layer cool completely. Make the cheesecake layer while crust is cooling.

Cheesecake Layer:

12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 Cup confectioners sugar
1/2 Cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 Cup pumpkin puree* (note: pumpkin puree usually comes as a 15 oz. can–which gives you exactly 1 3/4 Cups puree; you will have exactly 1 Cup leftover puree after this recipe. Freeze the remainder in a ziplock baggie for another recipe that calls for pumpkin).
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (note: if you can’t find pumpkin pie spice, use 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg)

1. With an electric mixer cream together the cheese and confectioners sugar until combined; about 3 minutes. Hint: to avoid excess air bubbles don’t go past speed 4 (or medium) on your mixer. Stop occasionally to scrape down bottom and sides of bowl. Add the brown sugar and mix (same speed) until combined. Add eggs one at a time until smooth; scraping down sides and bottom occasionally until smooth. Add in vanilla. Add the pumpkin puree and beat (same speed) until combined. Add in the flour, salt and spices and continue to beat until combined. Pour the mixture onto the cooled crust and rap the pan on the counter several times (about 20 times) until you no longer see any air bubbles rise to the surface (This helps prevent getting those nasty air bubbles you sometimes see on top of the cheesecake). TURN THE OVEN DOWN TO 300 DEGREES F TO BAKE.

2. Bake at 300°F for about 30-35 minutes or until just set. The middle portion of the pan should look JUST slightly jiggly when you gently shake the pan. Turn off the oven and prop open the door and let pan sit in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let cool completely over a wire rack.

Spread with cream cheese frosting if desired. To store: cover pan with tinfoil and chill in the fridge until firm enough to cut.

Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbsp. soft butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/4 Cup confectioners sugar, measured then sifted

In a small bowl combine the cream cheese and butter with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the vanilla and stir in the sugar and combine until smooth. Spread over cooled cheesecake.


Pie to the rescue! Mini Pumpkin Pie Tarts

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? Are you ready for all your relatives in your house at once? Are you ready for the big love fest that will ensue?

That’s what I thought. You are so not ready. You’ve got about 9-10 days before the big event.

You know there is going to be a lot of hugs, kisses, and a little extra spice thrown in. That’s what makes life interesting- the spice part. Yes, count on some bickering, some whispering; “Seriously, what is that she is wearing?!”, some whining about who gets the comfy chair, and all the little annoyances  gifts that make up a family unit.

But you still all love each other.

Deeply. Never forget that part.

Thanksgiving is about love, sharing, and yes- embarassing family stories…and pie.

At some point that embarrasing story about cousin Timmy will bubble to the surface from someone who has had a little too much chardonnay. It’s okay. This is why we have pie on Thanksgiving.

Pie smoothes out all the bumpy spots. Pie=peace. Pie= silence. Pie=happiness.  It’s my belief pie should be served at all foreign summits and UN meetings and much more would get solved…. But I digress. There is only one problem I can think of with pie. At some point, one of your clan will ask you to slice them just a sliver. You know there is always that one annoying relative who will refuse pie, (sure go ahead and refuse after I slaved all day). Diabetics are exempt. Don’t you know that it is a turkey day crime to refuse pie on Thanksgiving?!

“Oh, okay then, just a sliver for me” they mutter… (who are you kidding with that piece of sliver).

I can’t stand trying to slice a sliver.

Of anything.

Let’s get that straight- right now.

Now, I am in no way knocking the fact you are watching your weight or counting points or calories. Not in the least. I just have a big aversion to sliver slicing….So I have come up with a solution. Just try to refuse one of these mini pies bites. They are like pumpkin pie poppers; in essence the equivalent of a sliver of pie.

One last thing- I totally spotted you behind the fridge earlier with the can of Redi-Whip tilting your head back squirting in whipped cream. Your secret is safe with me. Sliver indeed….

It’s okay because I love you deeply.

Mini Pumpkin Pie Tarts

Yield: 24 mini tarts

Cream Cheese Press in Crust

3 oz. cream cheese, cubed at room temp

1 stick butter, cubed at room temp

1 Cup all-purpose flour

1  1/2 tsp.  sugar

pinch of salt

In a large shallow bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and cubed cream cheese. Using a fork mix to combine into one cohesive mass. Knead gently into a ball to gather up any scrappy bits of dough. Let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Filling

3/4 cup solid pack pumpkin (from a can)

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 Lg.egg

1/4  cup packed dark brown sugar

1  1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon salt

raw sugar or regular sugar (for sprinkling crust)

1. prepare a 24 well mini muffin tin and  spray with baking spray or use a silicone mini muffin pan. Whisk all the filling ingredients in large bowl until combined. Set aside. Using the dough, pinch off enough to form about a 1 inch ball size. Flatten dough ball into a disk and press into the bottom and up the sides of each muffin well. Pour 1 Tbsp. of filling  into each pie crust well. Brush each top edge of crust with cream and sprinkle with raw sugar or granulated sugar.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes. Because it is a custard;the filling will continue to cook even after removed from the oven and set thoroughly once cooled. The filling will puff up but will flatten once out of the oven.

2. Rest the muffin tin over a wire rack and let the tarts rest for about 15 minutes before attempting to remove from each well. To guide out of the tin; use a thin edge knife and coax out of the wells, then let the tarts cool a bit more on a wire rack.

2. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Whipped cream optional. Store leftover tarts in an airtight container in the fridge.