Never mind that it snowed the other night in Boston, there is a Nor’easter scheduled to happen today, and it isn’t even November yet–my feet are still firmly planted in autumnal cuisine. With the big Halloween weekend looming, here are some of my favorite apple and pumpkin treats both sweet and savory that you must work into your weekend. Clean out the fireplace, break out the autumnal brews, sharpen your pumpkin carving knife (maybe before said brews), get out your snow shovel(?!?) and get into the kitchen!
Farnum Hill apple cider chutney: The chutney pictured above is a new and improved version of another chutney I have made in the past using Farnum Hill Cider. As a Farnum Hill employee, one of the coolest parts of my job is that I get paid to experiment with our ciders in recipes. This time around I used local Roxbury Russet apples and no pear, two shallots instead of onion, a drop of champagne vinegar because I didn’t have any fig, and our amazing reserve Kingston Black cider instead of FH’s Extra Dry Still. Kingston Black is definitely the most complex cider I have ever tasted, with a funky earthiness that is both musky and fruity. I rarely use this special cider in cooking, but boy am I glad I did. Even though this chutney appears as nothing more than a glorified applesauce, even I was surprised by the punch of flavor. I paired with a variety of cheeses, also smearing it on some crusty bread with honey mustard and Berkshire ham.
I make a variation of this squash and pumpkin soup again and again.
Using the linked recipe as a guide, I don’t even measure anything when preparing this soup anymore. I sweat whatever variation of onion, carrot, celery I have around, add in some garlic, one peeled and diced butternut squash and a can of pumpkin purée, enough stock to cover the vegetables, blend with my immersion blender, and finish with any herbs and spices I am in the mood for. This time I added smoked Spanish paprika, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and lots of fresh sage. For a more elegant presentation, fry whole sage leaves to garnish and finish with heavy cream or crème fraîche.
Pumpkin cream cheese: I recently purchased pumpkin cream cheese from Trader Joe’s. I ate it in about two seconds, slathering it on everything from bread to my finger. Then I decided to make my own, combining whipped cream cheese, canned pumpkin, dahes of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, and about a teaspoon of golden syrup.
Chocolate cupcakes with pumpkin buttercream: If you make nothing else here this weekend, you MUST try these cupcakes. Next time I want to try whipping the buttercream into oblivion, because despite tasting incredible, I admit it doesn’t have the smooth, luscious appearance that a buttercream should. These rich cupcakes shocked me with their depth of flavor.
Cupcakes: 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup boiling hot water
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pumpkin Butter Cream:
2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar (more or less)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 16 muffin cups with paper liners. In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling hot water and the cocoa powder. Let cool to room temperature.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.
Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with batter and bake for about 16-20 minutes or until risen and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile, cream butter, pumpkin and spices. Slowly add sugar until the buttercream is no longer separated by the pumpkin. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing.