Monthly Archives: October 2015

Butternut Squash Soup with Jalapeno

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This summer, one of the vegetables I raised was Butternut Squash. It did very well. As I wrote my different relatives, I got over 12 squash that weighed at least 4 pounds each. My sister said she had been able to taste a Butternut Squash soup that was good, and sent me a pointer to the recipe.

This year, I am finding many Butternut Squash Soup recipes. There are several things they all seem to have in common; they use fresh ginger, and coconut milk. And they add capsicum heat. That is the burn from hot peppers. Caprial Pense’s recipe (Curry Winter Squash Soup) gets it heat from the peppers in the curry powder, while this recipe goes straight for the hot pepper by adding a Jalapeno. Finally, they all seem to use a cream product as a garnish- sour cream, cremefraiche, … And as a result, all the photos of the different soups look exactly alike!

Butternut Squash Soup with Jalapeno

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 16 oz. chicken broth
  • 12 oz. evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs granulated sugar
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • sour cream for garnish when serving

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat; stir in the onion, ginger and jalapeno pepper; cook until the onion turns transparent.
  2. Add the squash and broth and raise the heat to high to bring the pot to a boil.
  3. reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer until the squash is tender- about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the evaporated and coconut milks, and sugar; cook for another 5 minutes. Puree the soup** (see below)
  5. Add salt and black pepper to taste, and stir well into the pureed soup.
  6. Ladle the pureed soup into bowls and garnish with a large spoon of sour cream to serve.

**To puree the soup, if possible, use a stick/immersion blender. If not, then do the soup in batches in a blender as follows:

  • ladle some soup into the blender, do not fill the blender more than half full.
  • hold the lid on the blender with a towel so you don’t get burned; then pulse the blender a few times to break up the chunks before turning it onto Puree.
  • Pour the pureed soup into a clean pot, and continue to puree the soup in batches until it is smooth.

When I seed a squash, I always save the seeds and roast them. That is so easy, and they are a good snack.

Since I also grew my own Jalapenos this year, I was finishing my last harvest of the jalapenos and saved two out for making this soup. So I added extra heat by using both the jalapenos instead of just one. It was okay, and the sour cream garnish gives you a chance to cool your mouth from the heat if necessary.

Halloween Cookies and Cupcakes

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This Halloween, beside the cake pops that I made, I also made the witch cupcakes again, and spider cookies. The cupcakes were to test if I had learned anything from last year; I think I did. The cookies are because both daughters sent me pointers to them, so I felt I should try them. Interesting enough, the article does not specify a cookie, but only the decorations- use any cookie.

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The biggest problem I seemed to have last year with the witch cupcakes was I thought the buttercream frosting sagged, and the witch face went into the cupcake. So I took an idea from the Christmas Tree cupcakes, and made the buttercream frosting much thicker so that it wouldn’t sag. I added 3/4 cup extra powdered sugar for 1 pound of powdered sugar in the recipe for The Decorette Shop’s Butter Cream Frosting. I think that did the trick. In fact, the frosting was thick enough that I was able to make long noses on the witches.

And of course, now that I know where to buy eyes (The Decorette Shop), I gave my witches buggy eyes. The eyes have imperfections where the pupils are not always centered; this gives the witches a wandering eye look where sometimes the eyes don’t look in the same direction.

For a cupcake, I chose to use the Black and White Irish Cream Cupcake recipe but to make it all chocolate. The only difference was that I added 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate to the entire batter rather than dividing the batter in half and only adding 3 ounces to one half of the batter. And I didn’t have the problem of filling the cupcake papers since I wasn’t trying to keep the black and white theme.

I had leftover ganache from when I had made the original cupcakes, and so after cutting the cone out of the cupcake for the hat, I frosted the cupcakes with the ganache to minimize their drying out. Then I piped the extra stiff green Butter Cream Frosting into the hollow and let it build up to create the head. I gave the buttercream a 24 hour wait to allow it to dry and crust before I tried decorating it. Meanwhile, I made the witches’ hats, including piping the orange band to fill in around the edge of the cone. Both the orange band and the black mouth are colored Royal Icing made from the Decorette Shop recipe; I like working with the Royal Icing for decorations as it drys quickly and hard. I also used it as the glue for fastening the cone to the chocolate wafer, and later for fastening the hat to the head.

When I attached the hats to the heads, I needed to flatten a spot on top of the head so the hat had an area of contact. After piping the heads, the top was left most often as a point. It turned out easy to cut off a small amount of the green buttercream to make the flat spot.

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For the spider cookies, I started by making a batch of Ethel’s Sugar Cookies as cutout cookies, rolling the dough out and cutting it with a 2 3/4 inch biscuit cutter. I like the results of that recipe for keeping its shape with little spread. Then I used brown Royal Icing to pipe the spider’s legs.

While I was making certain the legs were drying, I unwrapped my Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and used the brown Royal Icing to attach the eyes. Then a little Royal Icing on the top of the peanut butter cup and invert it onto the center of the legs for the spider.

Here is The Decorette Shop’s Butter Cream Frosting recipe:

BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Hi-Ration Shortening (a Decorette Shop product)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 to 3 drops Butter FLavor (also available at the Decorette Shop)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. vanila
  • 1/4 tsp. Almond Flavor
  • 1 Tbsp. meringue powder (also available at the Decorette Shop)
  • 1 lb. powder sugar

Directions

Put all ingredients in bowl and beat at medium speed for 10 minutes.

Pub Cookies

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My sister Ann sent me this recipe, and after a quick glance, I put it aside. It called for pretzels and I would have to put those on a shopping list and get them someday in the future. But a couple other things also caught my eye. 1) The full name of the cookies is Gelato di Superior Pub Cookies. 2) There are a lot of ingredients in the cookies. 3) The recipe calls for a ½ cup scoop size.

I made the cookies according to the recipe and you can see the enormous size of each. That plate is 7 ½ inches in diameter! I only got 4 cookies on my cookie sheet at a time, and this created a problem since the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 30 minutes; I had to use several of my other pans to be able to continue to process the cookie dough. So one thing I wanted to do is to reduce the scoop size; I found eating one cookie more than I liked and immediately cut all the rest of the finished cookies in half. So a scoop size of ¼ cup is probably adequate – that would be a #16. I have a #20 that I will use next time.

But let me go back to the name of the cookie, and its origin –Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. There is a historical area of the park that includes a row of bathhouses from back in the 1800s. One of those bathhouses –the northern most- is the Superior. It currently serves as a brewery and restaurant. The web site gives the cookie the identification of Superior Bathhouse Brewery & Distillery’s Gelato di Superior Pub Cookie. So you can see why the enormous cookie size; people probably stop in and buy a cookie to munch on as they do the tourist bit up and down Bathhouse Row road.

After I made my Halloween Cake Pops, I did have some left over pretzels, and so I made the cookies. When the recipe says to put the uncooked regular oats and next four ingredients in a large bowl, it really means a large bowl. I used a 4 quart bowl and almost couldn’t get everything combined. However, there may be an easier solution; almost everything in the recipe is either 1 cup, or 1 teaspoon, so I think the recipe could easily be divided in half making the 4 quart mixing bowl adequate.

My final suggestion is with regard to the crushed pretzels; I did not crush them greatly, and they ended up sticking out in several places. As always, I think it might be well to run a knife through them to make them about the size of the chocolate morsels and chopped sandwich cookies.

Below, there are two versions of the recipe – the original, and Errol’s half size version. Other than the amount of ingredients, and the scoop size, both recipes are the same and give a similar number of cookies – about 15.

Original Gelato di Superior Pub Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups uncooked regular oats
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup crushed pretzel sticks
  • 12 chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped
  • Parchment paper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Beat first 3 ingredients ar medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating just until blended.
  2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl, gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Combine oats and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add cookie dough to oat mixture and blend using your hands.
  3. Roll about 1/2 cup dough into a ball. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Flatten ball to 1/2 inch thickness with the palm of your hand. Repeat procedure with remaining dough.
  4. Bake at 350 for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on pan on a wire rack (about 30 minutes). MAKES 15 SERVINGS.


After the first batch, I found that 18 minutes made the cookies more crisp than I like, and I cut the cooking time down to 16 minutes. Also, if you have two pans in the oven on the middle and lower shelf, you need to rotate the pans about half way through; the lower pan is shielded from the upper heating element, and will not be as cooked as the middle pan.

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Errol’s Version of Gelato di Superior Pub Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cups uncooked regular oats
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup crushed pretzel sticks
  • 6 chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped
  • Parchment paper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Beat first 3 ingredients ar medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add egg and vanilla, beating just until blended.
  2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl, gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Combine oats and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add cookie dough to oat mixture and blend using your hands.
  3. Roll about 1/4 cup (#16 scoop- I used my #20) dough into a ball. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Flatten ball to 1/2 inch thickness with the palm of your hand. Repeat procedure with remaining dough.
  4. Bake at 350 for 16 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on pan on a wire rack (about 30 minutes). MAKES 15 SERVINGS.


The #20 scoop is slightly smaller than the 1/4 cup #16 scoop, but I don’t think it is enough to make any real difference. I got 8 cookies on my cookie sheet of this size, and they expand to about 4 inches in diameter. So you probably need to consider 5 inches placement center to center.

Halloween Cake Pops

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Having just finished the Decorette Shop‘s Cake Pops class, I had some candy melts that needed to be used. I also felt I had learned something from making the Minion Army after the class. So I dug out the cake crumbs I had frozen, and started making my Halloween treats. There were many more lessons to be learned!

As I have said before, I do not like dipping chocolates, and dipping cake pops is the same thing. By the time you get the excess dripped off, the rest has started to set. If I were lucky, all the excess would have dripped off but more likely, I still have some thick spots, and a bunch of tails where the drips have set before leaving the cake pop.

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In class, Linette the instructor had trouble getting the dipped pretzels for the skeleton to stay in place on the skeleton’s stick. I had thought about that and decided that I would try doing it in reverse order. I would dip the pretzels, let them dry, and then put them on the stick before even worrying about the skeleton’s head. The trick I saw was in mounting the stick horizontally so that the pretzels would hang down while the glue dried. After I did the bones, I worked on the heads. Here I learned that if you are going to use shapes for the cake pop, the shapes must be exaggerated. I shaped the heads so the chin area was narrower than the forehead, and then I poked holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. After gluing the heads to the sticks, and dipping the heads, I discovered that all the indentations had filled in and were lost. So the face got painted on standing out from the skeleton rather than embedded into the skull.

I used Royal Icing for all the extra design work on the cake pops, except for the bug eyes which I bought and glued on.

The other thing about the skeleton is that when I bought the pretzel, I just grabbed a bag. I think now that the pretzels are out of proportion to the skeleton. I should have looked for a smaller size pretzel which would have kept the ribs in closer to the body. Linette had said that we could also glue pretzel pieces onto the ribs to represent the arms. I gave it a try but decided it was going to be very difficult to hold the pieces in place while the candy melt set, so I skipped that step.

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While I had the white candy melt warm and working, I also decided to do a few ghosts. In this case, I took the ball with which all cake pops start, and tried to flair out the bottom to be like the flowing sheet that we all think of when we make our ghost. I think the ghosts look weak because a couple of the other cake pops have so much size. However, the ghosts are the correct size for cake pops. A cake pop should start with a small ball of dough, not bigger that about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. As it gets larger, the dough has trouble holding together through the dipping and tapping off the excess operations.

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The witch is also something I thought about how to engineer, and came up short in a couple ways. First, I made the hats. Here I rolled the ball of dough into a cone, and when it was coated I placed it on a wafer of an Oreo cookie. Notice I said when it was coated; I tried to dip the cones without a stick, and failed. The candy melt would set on the dipping fork and other implements I used before I could get the excess melt off the cone, then I couldn’t get the cone free from the dipping tool. So I ended up “painting” the candy melt down the sides of the cone using a spoon. When I finished covering the cone, I placed it on the Oreo wafer.

Having learned from the skeletons that any features had to be exaggerated, I ended up making the witch’s heads too large so that I could get a nose and sink the eyes. The original witches were at the top of the stick, and after dipping the head, I would place the hat on top of the head where it would glue to the fresh green candy melt. Unfortunately, the hat size was small compared to the head, and appears comically on top of the head. So I experimented. I drilled a small hole in the bottom of the Oreo wafer- 3/16 inch- and made the witch head smaller and moved it about 1/2 inch down the stick. After dipping the head, I slid the hat onto the top of the stick. It all looks much better in proportion.

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Finally, I used all the rest of the cake crumb dough I had in making pumpkins. I had tried to use some shaping on the dough to give the vertical segmentation that is natural to the pumpkins, but like most of my shaping, it seems to disappear in the dipping and dripping. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the pumpkins is that I used broken pretzel pieces as stems.

At this point, I have completed my Halloween Cake Pops for this year. The photos all show how I decided to present my cake pops; I filled a clear plastic 12 ounce glass with M&M candies to give it weight, and then stuck the sticks of the cake pops into the glass. It works, and the receiver also has a lot of M&M candy after the cake pops are gone.

I need to get some answers to why my dipping experience is not what I think it should be. I hope this gives you some ideas if you are making cake pops for Halloween.