delicious discourse

pumpkin for the soul

Posted in Uncategorized by delicious:discourse on October 29, 2008

When you live in a place like Texas and the only real indication of the arrival of fall is the increasing shortness of daylight, you need other reminders to get you in the mood, otherwise winter arrives and hits you rock-solid loaf of quickbread. Sometimes there is no easing into the 40-degree weather, it just happens. We Texans are just now getting our first fall weather here in Austin, which may be why I was inspired to make pumpkin quick bread for my weekly Sunday baking therapy.

Gourmet’s Cookbook Club pick for October was The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet, paired with a Pumpkin Walnut Bread recipe, which is the recipe I chose to feed my Sunday soul. My first taste of pumpkin for this fall season was about a month ago when I smartly ordered Kerbey Lane’s seasonal pumpkin pancakes for brunch. Orange and dense with pumpkin and just a hint cinnamon, they were the perfect cue that we had entered into fall; that in other parts of the country and world leaves were changing, people were wearing sweaters, and making comforting soups. Maybe it was the 90-degree heat or the fact that I was going out on Lake Austin that afternoon, but I was oblivious, even though they were deliciously tasty and inspiring. I have been thinking pumpkin thoughts ever since, which is why when I stumbled across this recipe it seemed like fate.

As usual with my quick breads, I slightly undercooked the loaf to ensure it would be moist and ever-so-doughy in the middle; it is best when it sort of melts in your mouth. Also, I recommend using organic pumpkin puree. Make sure pumpkin is the only ingredient.

Pumpkin Walnut Bread
The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet
Makes1 loaf

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter.

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t salt
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended.
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup water
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water.
1 1/2 cups sugar
Add the sugar and blend well.
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup neutral-flavor vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 t pure vanilla extract
Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth. Add the walnuts and stir until they are evenly distributed. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Any leftovers should be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Getting ahead Pumpkin Walnut Bread freezes beautifully for up to 8 weeks when double-wrapped in plastic and placed inside a resealable plastic freezer bag. Defrost, still wrapped in plastic to avoid condensation on the cake, for at least 2 hours before serving.

Photograph by Romulo Yanes, Courtesy of Gourmet

Photograph by Romulo Yanes, Courtesy of Gourmet

why? blue bell, why?

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on October 18, 2008

Dear Blue Bell,

When Texas adopted me 5 years ago, in true Texan fashion I adopted Blue Bell as my store-bought ice cream of choice. I love your classic flavors; Homemade Vanilla has accompanied every birthday cake, pie, and Thanksgiving dessert. More eclectic or seasonal flavors have been whimsical buys to be enjoyed bite by bite. The first year I lived here, my grandmother and I searched high and low for an elusive flavor recommended by a family friend; something along the lines of coconut almond. When our supermarket searches failed, we called up Blue Bell headquarters to find where the mysterious flavor could be found and discovered. It had been a seasonal flavor and if we were lucky we might get a taste next year. Not only does Blue Bell ice cream have some big Texas taste, it always made me proud to buy Texan.

Over the years I have grown more and more conscious and particular of what is in the food that I, and all Americans, eat. I have started making things from scratch one would normally buy: pastas, breads, ice creams, cakes, cookies, etc, not only because I like the process, but because I know and can control exactly what goes into each recipe. From experience I know that good homemade ice cream has usually less than ten ingredients; all of which are familiar household items with names I have no trouble discerning or pronouncing.

Two weekends ago at a friends lake house I pulled a gallon tub of Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough from the freezer and dug in for a large bite enjoying every chip, granule of cookie dough, and drop of dairy. Still savoring the bite and anticipating the next one, I automatically picked up the carton, not to look at the calories, but to look at the ingredient list. To my horror the list flowed halfway down the carton. Towards the top of the list “high-fructose corn syrup” jumped out at me. I looked at the half-bite still on my spoon never to looked at the same again. I promptly dropped the guilty bite in the sink and put the carton back where it belonged, in freezer exile. I was and still am bewildered. Why would ice cream, the most comforting and joyous of foods enjoyed for generations, need such an industrial, processed, and damaging ingredient such as high-fructose corn syrup?

In the last few years dormant consciousness has slowly, and more rapidly of late, been awakened both in the consumer and supplier. More and more people are wanting to know what goes into each bite they put into their mouths, and more suppliers are becoming more aware of the consequences to the people and the environment in every bite they produce.

Yes, you are a business, you sell a product. As a business you are governed by supply and demand; as long as you have people to buy your product, you will go on producing it. However, it is in your best interest not to harm your customer, to keep them alive, healthy, and buying ice cream. For the most part, consumers are ignorant. They need to be educated, guided, and sometimes have their hands held. This is the sad truth. So, as a Texan feeding fellow Texans, a Texan representing Texans, it is in your best interest not only to educate your neighbor, but to offer them the best product possible—one without high-fructose corn syrup, one without preservatives, one that is as sustainable as possible for both the consumer and the world in which we live and eat.

With the best of intentions,

delicious:discourse

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Take-me-somewhere-tropical-key lime pie…

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on October 14, 2008

Contemplating what to do with the mound of key limes taking over our kitchen, Matt and I deduced that we had three options: drinking lots and lots of beer, making an inappropriate amount of margaritas, or making one key lime pie. Even though I love margaritas and he loves beer with a lime, we opted for the pie thinking it would make a great dessert for our weekend lake house getaway.

Before Saturday I had nothing against key lime pie, it was tasty, but I never craved it and it was not something I ever thought to make or order. But now, there are several things I love about key lime pie. It is all about the limes, you must have good key limes, otherwise it is just any old key lime pie, not this key lime pie. I used local, organic key limes from my Greenling Local Box that are bursting with flavor. This is very important. This pie has six ingredients—six!—for a whole pie; three for the crust and three for the filling.

And wait until you taste it. The crust takes you back to grade school with an afternoon snack of graham crackers, only they are soaked in butter; one bite of the filling takes you straight to the Caribbean sitting on a white sand beach, looking out at an aqua ocean, the sun kissing your skin and a smell of citrus in the air—oh wait, that is in your mouth. The silky lime flavor continues to roll over and over your tongue, intensifying—the creamy texture perfectly accented by the rough crumbles of the crust. Yes, it is that good. In minutes I will be booking a plane straight to somewhere very tropical and sunny in an attempt to hold on to an eternal summer—or maybe I will just make key lime pie to carry me in and through the binds of winter…

key lime pie

key lime pie

The recipe is really this easy. The topping is optional. The pie stands perfectly on its own and Matt and I did not want to dilute any of the flavor, so we opted out.

Key Lime Pie
Note: Yes, it is this easy.

Crust:
1 1/4c. graham cracker crumbs
2T. sugar
5T. melted butter

Filling:
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2c. + 2T. fresh key lime juice

Topping (optional):
3/4c. chilled heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Stir crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl with a fork. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate/pan. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool.

Whisk sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks until combined. Add lime juice and whisk. Pour into crust and bake for 15 minutes. Cool. Chill for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Optional: Beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Serve pie with whip cream.