Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Scones and here's to a year!!

Can you believe it?!... No seriously?!... I mean…  when I figured it out, I was like … SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.... a YEAR!?  YUP,  Not Just A Chick is a year old this week!  How time flies!  It all started with A walk in the park , and a “hmmmm” wonder if yours truly can actually, successfully, pull off a blog people will read.  A year later… I’m sipping my coffee that’s got a yummy Pumpkin Spiced Syrup kick, nibbling on a fresh out of the oven, moist, fall apart in your mouth, perfectly spiced - Pumpkin Scone. **sigh** Starbucks who?!?

THANK YOU to everyone who follows this little adventure of mine.  Thank you to my honey and close friends that put up with all the pictures, the ideas, and the trial runs!  If you’re a newbie here…  HIYA!! When I take a look at the analytics… I still am in awe of all the support and visits this blog of mine receives… it is truly a blessing to have such a backing for something that I am enjoying so much.  Don’t be afraid to leave a comment…ask a question... or even just say hi!  I always try and respond as soon as possible!

The first thing that comes to many people’s mind when they hear the word SCONE is “dry”..BUT  it doesn't have to be that way!! Honestly!!  I KNOW there are places out there… major cafes *cough cough* Starbucks *cough cough* that sell a delicious, MOIST pumpkin scone.  That being said… I just plainly can’t afford to go out and buy one every time I get a craving.  (and trust me I get cravings) SO, after searching high and low…fiddling with recipes, I’ve found one that I am proud to say… works.  They are moist.  They fall apart in your mouth at first bite.  They have just the right amount of that famous “pumpkin spice”…. And they are EASY PEASY.  Like so easy you should be making two batches.  One to bake up now, the other to freeze and have on hand for when the craving hits! (or when you want to impress guests with your mad baking skills)…  either way….. go ahead… try em’ I DARE YOU!!
Pumpkin Scones
·         2 cups all-purpose flour
·         ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
·         1 tablespoon baking powder
·         Pink of salt
·         ½ teaspoon cinnamon
·         1 teaspoon “Pumpkin Pie Spice”
·         6 tablespoons of unsalted butter – cut into 1 inch cubes
·         ½ cup pumpkin puree
·         3 tablespoons half & half cream
·         1 large egg
*optional – spiced glaze (icing sugar spiced and half & half cream mixed to desired consistency, spiced with a pinch of pumpkin spice seasoning)*
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper *or* I used a silicone baking matt (Epicure Selections of has great one!)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with your paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.

- Add the butter, and mix on a medium-low speed until the butter is no larger than the size of small peas, and the mixture resembles the texture of cornmeal.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg,  half & half and pumpkin until well combined.

(ps... YES that's a "santa"mr. eggy whisk...don't judge!  He's one of my staple kitchen tools...year round!)
- Carefully fold in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients *it’s important NOT to over mix!! *

- Form the dough into a ball on a lightly floured service.  Try to minimize the actual touching of the dough, the less you work it with your hands the better! 

- Pat the ball into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in freezer for about 30 min to chill.
- Preheat oven to 425F
- Remove disk from freezer, unwrap, and using a large sharp knife, cut dough into wedges

- Place on baking sheet, and bake at 425F for about 15 min, or until light brown in colour.

- Place on a wire rack to cool.
- (if using) Drizzle the spiced glaze over top of the scones… ENJOY!!  These are best served a little warm, but… cold, in the morning as you race out the door for work is darn yummy too!! Just sayin!
**should you wish to FREEZE a batch for baking later - follow steps up until you cut the chilled dough into wedges.  At this point, place on a baking sheet and freeze until solid.  Then wrap each wedge individually, placing in a large freezer bag, and keep in freezer until ready to bake.   When ready to bake, remove from freezer, unwrap, and pop into oven @ 425F just like you would with the fresh dough!  No thawing needed!  They will just need to be in the oven a little longer!  Easy eh?!**

Hmmm, soooooo the whole Halloween “thing” is just less than a week away, guess we should go find us some pumpkins or something to carve…. Let’s go!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Caramel Apple Cheesecake (Gluten Free!!)

I love fall! – Especially the fall that happens BEFORE the rainy season sets in.  Those couple precious weeks when the leaves vibrantly change colours, the lake settles and turquoise blues and emerald green hues glisten.  Crisp. Fresh. Spicey.  What’s not to love?!? Caramel Apples to me screams fall.  The ooey-gooey caramel, the crisp apples, even better when seasoned with a hint of cinnamon and brown sugar. Mmmmmmmmm.

We were headed over to a friend’s place for dinner…first time. I ask my typical, what can I bring (asides from WINE) … any allergies… the basics… and was given the no-gluten for most of the household… for me, that’s a YIPPEE!  I love changing and adapting recipes.  Now I could of gone with the basic Pavlova (as if you’ve followed me for a bit, you know I’m addicted.) however, that’s too easy – besides what if not EVERYONE’s as addicted as me?! *GASP*  SO – I went for something a little more “fall-ish”.  Then adapted the crust to suit the household – sans-gluten!  YUM YUM.  It’s decadent.  It’s layered with all things yum. From the comments of some of my new favorite kids….I’m thinking it’s friggin’ awesome!

Maybe because it’s been a year since we’ve seen it, maybe it was the timing… however that past few weeks driving to the lake, then around the lake and home have really showcased the autumn colours.  They leaves seemed just that much brighter… the air, that much crisper.

At the same time… the wind is becoming to have a little bite to it… the evenings a little cooler… all signs Jack Frost is starting to stir…  until then… get outside.. enjoy a hot apple cider.. or 2.  Campfires seem all that much warmer on a cool Fall night…  annnnd maybe a slice or 2 of this Caramel Apple Cheesecake will get ya through the evening chill…. Just sayin’….
Caramel Apple Cheesecake
Crust Layer:
·         2 cups pecan pieces
·         1 package of Gluten-Free Pecan Shortbread cookies
·         5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
·         1 tsp cinnamon
Caramel Layer:
·         2 cups of caramels
·         1 can sweetened condensed milk
·         ½  cup chopped pecan pieces
Apple Filling:
·         4 tablespoons unsalted butter
·         ½ cup brown sugar
·         ¼ teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon cinnamon
·         5 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and sliced or chopped thinly
Cheesecake layer:
·         8oz package of cream cheese
·         ¼ cup sugar
·         1 tsp vanilla extract
·         1 large egg
·         1 tablespoon lemon juice
Top Layer:
·         1 cup whipping cream
·         4 tablespoon icing sugar
·         ¼ cup caramel (you should have left over from the caramel layer, heat up slowly if required to soften)
To make the crust:
-         preheat the oven to 375° F.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper.
-          In a Food Processor, place pecan pieces and pulse on low until finely processed.

-         Add shortbread cookies (I used Gluten free shortbread cookies)

-  Pulse until finely processed, and when pinched between 2 fingers, starts to stick together.

-  Place mixture in medium mixing bowl, add melted butter, cinnamon

-  Toss with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened and the ingredients are evenly mixed. Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan and press the crumbs in an even layer over the pan bottom and about half to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan

-         Bake for 6-8 minutes,  or until golden in color.  Let cool for about 10 minutes.  
To make Caramel Layer:
-         Place caramels into a medium sized sauce pan, add sweetened condensed milk.

-         Over medium-high heat, and stirring frequently, melt caramels and milk together until mixture is completely smooth.  

-         Pour a layer of caramel into the bottom of the crust and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pecans.  Refrigerate the crust while you prepare the filling.

To make the apple filling:
-          Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Mix in the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon, apple slices and toss well to coat.  

-         Cook over medium to medium-high heat until tender and most of the liquid has been reduced, about 15-20 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes and pour on top of  the prepared crust & caramel .  Set aside.

-     Reduce the heat of the oven to 350° F.
To make the cheesecake layer:
-         Combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  

-         Mix in the vanilla, egg and lemon juice until fully incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes. 
-         Spread the cheesecake filling into an even layer over the top of the cooked apples in the crust.  

-         Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (about 30 minutes)  Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.

-         Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Top Layer and to serve:

-          Carefully remove the sides of the spring-form pan and place on serving plate

-         In your mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and icing sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. 

-         Spread gently over the top of the chilled cheesecake layer.  

-         Top with dollops of remaining caramel sauce (again heating slightly if needed to soften up a bit) and swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect.

-         Slice and serve!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pumpkin Ale Bread, Spooktacular Wreath and all things spice

With the season of all things pumpkin, apple, cinnamon and spice upon us I just had to jump on the bandwagon...and I may as well do it with a bang!  Double Whammy! A wicked Fall recipe, AND a quick-n-easy Fall craft! (I love whammies!) haha  Some of my favorite flavours are the above... pure addicting really.  These days just about anything comes in "pumpkin" during the fall season.  Including craft beers - YUM YUM.  I think last year.. we had tried at least 4 different varieties, and by far, our favorite was - and still is - St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale.  SOOOO one night, when my honey happened to be working late in the shop... with the Pumpkin Ale just BEGGING to be opened...what the heck..why not play a little in the kitchen! Pumpkin Ale Bread was the result. (and of course...with the recipe calling for only a cup.. the remaining was enjoyed...thoroughly... by Yours Truly. *teehee*

Think PUMPKIN, Think SPICE, think that refreshing - albeit slightly bitter beer flavour packed into a dense and moist bread - drizzled with cinnamon spiced glazed.  YUP.  went along quite well with the Pumpkin Ale.... OH and with a coffee the next morning.... pretty much, it's just plain old Autumn Harvest in a sweet slice of bread. It's easy too! Of course, I couldn't just stop there, I like to jump right into the Season's...and after what I thought was a "cute find" on Pinterest, I had to try one for myself. If you are someone like me, who has a collection of scrap novelty fabric tucked away in every nook and cranny.... it's cheap! (If not, head on over to your local fabric store...this time of year, there's always bound to be some Halloween Fabric themed fabric on sale!  Here's the end result:

Let's start with the wreath.  Full instructions can be found here.  I may be a little dorky, but even I'm impressed witht the end results.  It's already hanging above our fireplace!  Gotta love Pinterest finds!  Here's my cliff notes on how to make a SPOOKTACULAR Wreath!:

 Wire wreath forms, I found at our local craft store...  about 2 yards of Halloween Fabric cut into 1 inch strips about 6 inches long. Working your way along each wire along the wreath, tire the fabric (I double knotted) until you've got the wreath covered and looking full.  Foam Ghost, and pre-painted letters from the craft store hot glued onto the wreath finished it off!!  SEEE!!! Simple!

ANNNND for the Fall recipe - again, another easy peasy find.
Pumpkin Ale Bread

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin ale
  • *optional - 1/2 cup pecans or dark chocolate chips if you'd like!
  • Glaze - icing sugar/milk seasoned with cinnamon to taste, and desired thickness

- Preheat oven to 350F, grease a 9" loaf pan.
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt in a large bowl
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat, stir in pumpkin, brown sugar. Mix well.
- Stir in eggs and then pumpkin ale.

- Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. If adding *optional* ingredients, fold in now. (pecans, chocolate chips etc)

- Pour batter to the greased loaf pan, and bake @ 350F for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. 

- Let cool slightly, and then drizzle glaze over top of loaf.  Slice and serve!!

So, between the Pumpkin Ale... Pumpkin Ale Bread ANNNNNDDDD Spooktacular Wreath... its been a pretty creative start to October in my household!  I like it!  hmmm...  next up... I'm thinking apples...spice...ooey-gooey something.....  Stay tuned!  We've got a whole month of Autumn Harvest to play with!!