Dark Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding

As the leaves start to fall and the air becomes a bit chilly, my craving for pumpkin-flavored food starts to appear.  My belly craves warmth, comforting food–dessert.  And, to me, nothing screams comfort like bread pudding.

I’ve found that bread pudding either evokes intense excitement or scrunched-up noses when mentioned.  Sometimes described as “soggy bread,” I wouldn’t find the dessert that enticing either.  But, after having worked in an Irish Pub for over three years, I’ve discovered the truth.  Soggy bread, as some call it, is delicious. Just look at that picture and tell me you wouldn’t want a sample.

I came across this recipe in Gourmet years back and it has stuck in my mind ever since.  Naturally, though, I found an excuse to add chocolate (like this pumpkin bread).  The result was extremely decadent, especially served warm with ice cream.  It makes a great breakfast as well!

Dark Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Adapted from Gourmet & Martha Stewart
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
5 cups cubed day-old bread (I used challah)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks
1/4 cup pumpkin butter (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, sugars, eggs, egg yolks, salt, and spices.
Toss bread cubes in melted butter in another bowl. Sprinkle in chocolate and mix again.  Transfer to a 8×8-inch square baking pan.  Pour the milk mixture over the bread and chocolate.  Dot with pumpkin butter.  Bake until the custard is set, 25-30 minutes.

Silky Pumpkin Pie

You just can’t celebrate Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.  And, if you have yet to find a recipe for this year’s festivities, I strongly recommend you to choose this one.

I made this pie for an early Thanksgiving celebration with a few friends, and let’s just say that it didn’t last long!  The filling is exceptionally creamy and perfectly spiced.  Add in a buttery homemade pie crust with a generous amount of ginger, and you just may be surprised by how delicious pumpkin pie can actually be.

Silky Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Crust
If you are short on time, you can opt for a store-bought pie crust.  However, I strongly recommend that you attempt to make your own.  You’ll be amazed by the taste and textural difference. Makes one 9-inch pie.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
10 tablespoons cold butter, diced and frozen for 15 minutes
1/4 cup ice water
Filling (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated):
2 cups half & half
3 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 15-oz can pumpkin purée
1 15-oz can sweet potato purée
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon sea salt
To Make Pie Crust:  In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and ground ginger.  Cut in the cold butter until the majority of butter pieces are about the size of peas.  Add the ice water and mix until the dough can be formed into a compact disk.  (If the mixture is still dry, add ice water by the tablespoon, until the mixture comes together.  If you are new to homemade pie dough, a slightly wetter dough will be easier for you to roll out.)  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Can be made several days ahead.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Generously flour your workspace.  Roll the pie crust dough into a 12-inch circle.  Roll the dough around the rolling pin and set in the pie plate.  Gently push the dough to conform to the plate, without stretching.  Tuck the edges of the dough under and crimp.  Freeze for 15-25 minutes.
Remove the pan from the freezer.  Line the crust with a piece of foil and fill with pie weights (I use dried beans).  Bake the crust for 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and pie weights.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
To Make Filling:  While the crust is baking, whisk the half & half, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla together in a large bowl.  Set aside.  In a large saucepan, mix together the pumpkin puree, sweet potato puree, brown sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Heat the mixture over medium heat until it begins to “sputter”, which should take less than 10 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, and continue to cook until the mixture is very thick, and semi-shiny, which will take another 15 minutes.
Add the pumpkin mixture to the cream mixture and whisk well.  Using a fine-mesh strainer and a rubber spatula, strain the warm filling into a bowl.  Mix the filling again, and add to the pre-baked pie crust.  Return the pie to the oven, and reduce the heat to 350 degrees.  Bake until the center of the pie registers 170 degrees, about 35-45 minutes.  Cool the pie on a wire rack for at least 1 1/2 hours.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread with Streusel

This past summer, I spent much of my time experimenting in the kitchen with my dear friend Melika, whose passion for both food and life exudes happiness on everyone she meets.  Although we often cooked together several days a week, it was a tradition to hold Thursday morning breakfasts before we strolled off to work.  These, however, were not your ordinary college student’s breakfasts, rather elaborate creations that evoked minutes of silent savoring on our sunny porch.

Frittatas with beet greens, goat cheese and caramelized onions, yogurt with freshly picked strawberries, Greek honey and homemade granola, homemade lemon and raspberry muffins, the list of delicious food goes on and on.  At the end of the summer, however, Melika had to move back to NYC for school, thus ending our much-cherished Thursday morning tradition.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure to spend an afternoon in the kitchen with my Thursday morning friend once again.  In place of an elaborate breakfast however, we decided to make a fall classic—pumpkin chocolate chip bread.

The recipe is based on the pumpkin bread recipe in my favorite and always-reliable baking book, The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook.  After two years, I have almost cooked my way through its entirety without a single disappointment; this pumpkin bread is no exception.  Extremely moist, with a spicy core of pumpkin, dots of chocolate chips, and a cream cheese streusel, this bread certainly deserves a spot in your list of favorite fall recipes as well.

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread with Streusel:
(Adapted from The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook)
Note: This pumpkin bread freezes quite well, so don’t be turned off by the amount of bread this recipe makes.  Plus, I always find that people welcome baked goods with open arms and empty stomachs.

Yield: 2-8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaves and 5 mini loaves or 3-8 x 4 ½ inch loaves
Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup pecans (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 oz. cream cheese, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour*
1/3 cup millet flour
1/3 cup barley flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups canned pumpkin purée
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 large eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cup buttermilk
1 ¼ cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat the pans with butter; set aside.

To make the streusel, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nuts and salt in a bowl.  Cut in the butter and cream cheese until the mixture resembles a very coarse cornmeal.  Refrigerate.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt; set mixture aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the pumpkin purée and both sugars.  Mix on medium speed until well combined, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time to the bowl.  Mix until incorporated, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl after you add each egg.  Mix in the oil until incorporated.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk (beginning and ending with the flour), until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide the batter among the prepared loaf pans and top with the streusel mixture.  Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean (you can expect some melted chocolate, simply make sure there isn’t any batter).  Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pans and cool completely.



*Feel free to use only all-purpose flour, or 2/3 all-purpose and 1/3 whole wheat flour if you don’t have millet or barley flour in the cupboard.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

I love the farmer’s market, especially in fall.  Although the excitement of summer tomatoes, corn and zucchini is over by now, the thought of shopping for pumpkins, squash, cipollini onions, and frost-kissed spinach makes me squeal with delight.  This past Saturday, as I strolled around the square, bundled enough to guard from the chilly breeze, I couldn’t stop staring at all the beautiful pumpkins.  Blue pumpkins, white pumpkins, carving pumpkins, pumpkin pie pumpkins-the list goes on!  I had to buy one.

After talking with one of the pumpkin vendors, I decided on a blue-gray pumpkin (I can’t recall the name) that was supposed to have a bright orange flesh and sweet flavor.  I waddled home with the five pound beauty, visions of pumpkin dishes running through my head.

I remembered seeing a tempting Thai pumpkin soup on Heidi’s site a while back, and, after revisiting the recipe, could not imagine a more fitting use for the morning’s purchase.  A purée of sweet, roasted pumpkin, combined with the heat of red curry paste, this soup is sure to please on a cold fall day.  For an extra treat, make sure to toast the seeds with salt and cinnamon to serve alongside.

Blue Pumpkin

Thai Pumpkin Soup
(adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
I topped this soup with a papaya-ginger yogurt sauce and, as hinted to above, toasted pumpkin seeds.  The dish received RAVE reviews!  Also, make sure you have a sharp knife handy before attempting to cut the pumpkin into wedges.  The hefty task  took my skimpy muscles 30 minutes!
1 large pumpkin
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
2 cans coconut milk
1 small jar Thai red curry paste (about 1/4 cup)
1 quart vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the pumpkin into small wedges and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Drizzle the pumpkin with olive oil, and sprinkle with cinnamon, salt and black pepper.  Roast until the pumpkin is fully cooked, approximately 1 hour.
Scoop the flesh from the pumpkin and place in a large stockpot.  Add the coconut milk and curry paste.  Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat  for 30 minutes to blend the flavors.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until silky smooth.  Alternatively, puree the soup in batches using a regular blender.  As always, be extremely careful not to burn yourself from the steam.  At this point, the soup is extremely thick.  Thin the mixture out with vegetable stock until your ideal texture is reached.  Adjust seasonings accordingly and serve.