Lady Cheeks & Pumpkin Tiramisu

As beautiful as simplicity is, it can become a tradition that stands in the way of exploration.

– Laura Nyro

A few Turkey Days ago, my family and I celebrated at a friend’s house. The meal was wonderful, of course, but mostly I remember the dessert table. There were pies and cakes, chocolate and pumpkin and everything in between. My sweet tooth was in absolute bliss. But the one thing that I knew I had to adopt for my own immediately was a pumpkin gingerbread trifle. Layers of fluffy pumpkin mousse and thick, rich hunks of gingerbread under a mountain of whipped cream won my baker’s heart faster than I could lick the spoon. And it has been a personal holiday tradition ever since.

So this year, I of course planned to make it for Thanksgiving because no holiday season will ever be complete without it again. But for a variety of reasons, too much of my year has been spent feeling like I’m going nowhere. In a rut I couldn’t see how to dig myself out of. I needed some kind of shift. I needed to feel free to explore, to do something new, and to not care what others thought about it.

Then I found this recipe for pumpkin tiramisu. Inspiration, indeed.

In the case that you do not:

  • lack any kind of social life
  • have a plethora of time on your hands
  • have an insane desire to make absolutely everything from scratch
  • or all of the above,

I will give you the pumpkin tiramisu recipe in its entirety before explaining the lady fingers cheeks extravaganza. I’m still very happy I made them from scratch; I’m just thinking that realistically, normal human beings who don’t plan out entire weekends around baked goods may prefer to use the store-bought lady fingers. Even if they are considerably lacking in the charm and, more importantly, leftovers that my little lovelies had.

Pumpkin Tiramisu

gently adapted from this Bon Appetit recipe

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You will need:

  • springform pie pan
  • wax paper
  • 12 oz (1 1/2 c) whipping cream
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
    • for all you New Englanders, may I recommend Vermont Creamery’s? Local is love!
  • 15 oz pure pumpkin (canned is fine!)
  • 1/2 tsp each of ginger & cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp each of cloves & nutmeg
  • 6 oz ladyfingers (recipe to follow)
  • 4 – 6 Tbs rum
  • 2 oz crumbled amaretti cookies

And no, I did not make the amaretti from scratch. I’m crazy, not suicidal. [Amaretti are delicious little Italian almond cookies; see my very first encounter with them here in my cooking class in Florence!]

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1. Line the bottom of your pie pan with the wax paper. I did it by opening up the pan, placing the paper over the bottom sheet, then re-springing(?) the pan back together. Use a sharp knife to cut the wax paper around the edges.

2. Crowd the bottom of the pan with ladyfingers and sprinkle generously with rum. The original called for 4 Tbs for both layers…I’m pretty sure I went well over that. And I would do it all over again.

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3. Beat the whipping cream with the sugar until it is…um, whipped cream.

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4. Add the pumpkin, marscapone, and spices; I highly recommend freshly grated nutmeg. No need to measure, just whip out your microplane and grate a little into the mix.

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5. Mix well.

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6. Spread half of the pumpkin mixture over the fingers; repeat the layering once more (ladyfingers>rum>pumpkin.)

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7. Grate a little extra fresh nutmeg over the top for a lovely scent & speckled look.

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8. Let set for several hours – overnight is best.

9. Just before serving, crush the amaretti and sprinkle them over the top.

10. Eat your pumpkin-lovin’ heart out.

Sounds pretty simple, right? It is, especially the eating part. I highly recommend this recipe, as I would most that involve mascarpone cheese.

As for the ladyfingers, I found this recipe from The Cupcake Project about a year ago and have been enamored of the idea of making scratch tiramisu ever since. No better time than Turkey Day, right?

Just nod.

Ladyfingers Cheeks

Makes enough to keep you from making them again for a solid few months

So, as you may or may not now, traditional ladyfingers are made by piping the batter into a long finger-like shape and then baked – I know, control your shock.

I am always looking for ways to decrease dish pile-up and general mess while baking. This recipe, which is actually for tiramisu cupcakes, makes the cookies in the bottom of muffin tins because they are the base of the cupcake. I liked this idea, because it seemed a lot easier than modeling a pastry bag out of a Ziploc (I’ve done it before, and I’m not a fan). I decided to use mini muffin tins, and thus, ladycheeks were born.

So let’s do this.

You will need:

  • 3 bowls (two large, one small)
  • nonstick spray
  • mini muffin tins
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 c. + 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder**

**Note: I was in the process of reading a lot of recipes before making these and used more than double the amount of baking powder by accident. It really didn’t change the flavor, though I can’t speak to what the exact texture should be. Let me know if you make them!

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Separate your egg yolks and whites.

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Make sure there is NO YOLK in your whites, or they won’t beat up right. (That yellowy spot you see in the whites isn’t yolk, just an extra dense glob.)

Also, I recommend separating at least your whites, if not your yolks, in a separate prep bowl before you put them in the large mixing bowl to make sure no shards of shell get in. There’s nothing ladylike about uncalled-for crunching.

3. Beat egg whites with an electric beater (unless, of course, you have Hulk-like capabilities) until they form “soft” peaks.

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I love this part.

4. Add 2 Tbs sugar, then continue to beat until you have “stiff” peaks and the mix is glossy.

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5. In your other bowl, beat the yolks, 2/3 c. sugar, and vanilla together until thick and pale.

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6. In the smaller bowl, whisk the flour, spices and baking powder together.

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7. Fold half the egg white mix into the yolk mix (don’t beat).

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8. Fold in the flour.

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9. Then fold in the rest of the egg whites.

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10. Spray the muffin tins with your nonstick cooking spray and fill each cup with about a tablespoon of batter – you’re NOT making muffins, so you only want them to fill half or less than the cup.

11. Bake for 4 minutes and check on them – it might have been the excessive baking powder in mine, but these babies are done FAST. Check on the every minute or so. Repeat until your batter is done; I made 2 dozen at a time and probably had about 5 batches (which is around 120 cheeks). There were quite a few left over, but these are really a very delicious little teatime snack. You could probably get away with cutting the recipe in half, but it really depends on your layering technique.

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12. As you can see in the picture above, I cut mine in half to layer them because they puffed up more than I expected. On my second layer, I gave in to laziness and threw them on whole. Because their main job is just to soak up all the rum and pumpkin-y flavors…and the rum, it really doesn’t matter which way you go.

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And there you have it…ladycheeks a la WBIB. High-maintenance, quick to burn, and sweet all at once – a truly ladylike treat.

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A Sparkling Holiday

Thanksgiving is a magical time of year when families across the country join together to raise America’s obesity statistics. Personally, I love Thanksgiving traditions: watching football, making pumpkin pie, and saying the magic phrase that sends your aunt storming out of the dining room to sit in her car.

– Stephen Colbert

I do love Thanksgiving. A holiday that revolves completely around gathering at the table, preparing a menu that seems to be inherently seasonal, and celebrating through food. That’s pretty much my ideal day.

Add Prosecco, and I’m sold.

And so we did! As I mentioned, we recently came into possession of one bottle of each kind of sparkling white wine: a Cava from Spain, a Prosecco from Italy, and a champagne from France. It seemed so perfect, we decided we simply had to have a blind taste test – and what better time than Thanksgiving, when there are enough people to drink 3 bottles of wine at once? Answer: none. (A Friday night in college SO does not count.)

Let the recap begin.

Bottle #1:

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Not super bubbly, very grapey at first but mellowed after opening for a couple minutes & became one of the nicest.

Bottle #2:

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This one felt like there were a million teeny tiny bubbles, with a crisper flavor. My favorite by a while, but I tend to think in a “bubblier = better” mindset with any beverage.

Bottle #3:

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This one was everyone else’s favorite – the bubbles seemed “just right” (rather a la Goldilocks), and the flavor was more…mature? I don’t know quite how to describe it. It ended up being my least favorite, but everyone else’s top.

So, any guesses? I’ll give you a minute to review. In the meantime, drool over our little amuse bouche:

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Figs stuffed with gorgonzola dolce + walnut. I’m not usually a big bleu cheese fan but hot damn this was good cheese. You must try it. Get thee to Whole Foods STAT.

Ok, ready?

Bottle #1: Champagne

Bottle #2: Prosecco

Bottle #3: Cava

I was not surprised in the least that the Prosecco was my fave. It was pretty much love at first aperitivo with that one, and I’ve never looked back. The Champagne vs. Cava surprised everyone – especially the champagne – but after it opened up, it was really lovely and much more champagne-y.

The meal was pretty traditional after that – my personal favorite? The stuffing. Oh, the stuffing. I think that is the only dish that actually makes me enjoy celery. I don’t mind it cooked in soups, I can’t really stand the stringyness raw – but in sausage stuffing it is such an oddly welcome addition. I have no idea why. Really, I could eat just stuffing, my mom’s sweet potatoes and a pumpkin dessert and be done with it.

And as for that particular pumpkin dessert…

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I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow. I suggest you save room.

How was your Thanksgiving?

A Menu To Celebrate

Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.

-Kevin James

I don’t have a recipe for you – yet. I do have an incredible-looking menu for which I am salivating in anticipation.

Menu browsing is not-so-secretly one of my favorite pastimes ever. I’ve been known to sit for hours looking at and comparing the menus of different restaurants. So, in lieu of more recipes that you won’t make anyway because your menu is set in stone, here is my Thanksgiving menu. Let the drooling commence.

To start…

We recently found ourselves with one bottle of each classic type of sparkling white wine due to a few wonderful coincidences, so my mom had the idea to have a blind taste test of each bottle from the 3 main winemaking European countries to begin the meal. A true stroke of genius, I say. I will, of course, report the results!

A Sparkling Wine Blind Taste Test

  • Cava (Spain)
  • Champagne (France)
  • Prosecco (Italy) <—- my anticipated favorite (duh)

Paired with

  • Spiced & glazed nuts
  • Figs stuffed with gorgonzola dolce and walnuts
  • Shrimp cocktail

To feast…

  • The bird
  • Our hostess’s mother’s stuffing
  • Whipped potatoes
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Bourbon Praline Pecan topping (my Southern mother’s recipe)
  • Lemon French green beans
  • Homemade cranberry bread
  • Pumpkin-seed-studded corn bread (made by yours truly Winking smile )

To finish…

  • Sour Cherry Pie
  • Pumpkin Tiramisu (mine as well)

6 people. 1 meal. Let’s do this.

What’s on your menu tomorrow?

1st prosecco

Blog’s First Thanksgiving

*knockknockknock*
Did you hear that?
*KNOCKknockKNOCK*
What is that????

Why, it’s Lulu, begging me to use the photos of Thanksgiving she still has in a blog post!
Sheesh. Even my camera gives me grief.
My blog’s 1st Thanksgiving – this calls for celebration!
And hors d’ouvres, of course.
We had a very small gathering, which was really really nice – made for a very fun and relaxed holiday.
They brought crostini (in my honor :), which is just good toasted bread with a topping.
They made an herbed ricotta to go with!
 It had scallions, dill, and other herby goodness. I had to remind myself not to eat to much before the main event – but it was hard!
 They also brought these amazing spiced nuts – recipe to come! I know there was orange juice and maple syrup involved. They totally had that sweet-salty-crunchy thing going on. I was very happy to see these leftover the next day.
While the master carver was at his station…
with the ever-faithful turkey lurker never far from the action…
*must. get. turkey.*
…we brought out the side dishes.
 Some holiday greenery, simply steamed.
 Mom’s spoonbread.
It’s basically a cornbread souffle, and tasted like….um, cornbread! I really liked it, and Mom hadn’t made it for Thanksgiving before. A welcome addition!
You know that dish that is so darn good that you wait all year long for, but know better than to request it earlier in the year because then it would lose some specialness? That is my mother’s sweet potatoes for me. I don’t remember a single year I haven’t had them and loved every buttery, brown-sugary bite. She always makes one section without nuts for my brother and I – but in the last few years, I’ve come around to the bourbon-praline-pecan topping too. 
It’s even better than it sounds.
[There were also mashed potatoes that apparently went unphotographed. The sweet potatoes usually distract me. You understand.]
  
And finally, the bird was ready.
And so was my stomach! 
 The evening was capped off with a classic:
Pumpkin pie, made from scratch. Oh yes, I was one happy foodie.
I’m all for going all out and making crazy experimental dishes, but there is something to be said for sticking to tradition. And sweet potatoes. Man, those things are good.
I will return soon to celebrate vacation, sleep, the end of my ridiculous semester…and food, of course.
 In the spirit of this post, I wish you all happy holidays…and good digestion!
~Namaste!