To temporarily suspend our belief that the first signs of nippy air and falling leaves heralds the imminent doom of winter, we take every opportunity to savour summer’s fleeting memories. Besides the visual display of multicoloured grandeur around us, autumn also blesses us with a bounty of sumptuous and hearty vegetables which bless our daily cooking with glorious flavours. The Pumpkin Spice Latte has recently risen to the title of “Autumn’s Quintessential Beverage”. While most coffee shops offer variations of this delectable beverage, most fail to actually include the core ingredient that this drink is based on: pumpkin. Here is a PSL that proudly elevates the pumpkin and takes your espresso to the next level.
5 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
1 ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (see recipe below*)
Finely ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 shot espresso
Frothed milk or whipped cream
Mixer, whisk, or hand blender, to whip cream
Espresso maker or coffee maker
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, use a wooden spoon to stir the pumpkin puree with the pumpkin pie spice and a dash of ground black pepper for about 2 minutes or until it heats up and changes to a darker colour.
- Add the brown sugar and continue stirring until the mixture starts bubbling and turns into a syrup.
- Add the milk and vanilla extract and turn the heat to medium low so that the mixture warms up but doesn’t boil. Stir for 5-8 minutes, or until the mixture has completely warmed up.
- Brew the Lavica espresso of your choice in a regular sized mug. Add ¼ cup of the pumpkin spice mixture and stir. Using the Lavica milk frother, froth some milk as a topping or, for a more decadent drink, top off the drink with whipped cream. Sprinkle some cinnamon over the frothed milk or whipped cream topping. Enjoy!
Note: If coarser ground spices were used, or for a less “rustic” beverage, strain the mixture before portioning into the espresso. The remaining mixture can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a week and warmed up as needed.
*Pumpkin Pie Spice Recipe
Mix 4 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, 4 teaspoons of ground nutmeg, 4 teaspoons of ground ginger, 3 teaspoons of ground allspice and 2 teaspoons of ground cloves. Store in an airtight container to use in all pumpkin-related recipes.
“Oh, I dunno, just make me something.”
Frustrations! As an art student, this request was a whole lot easier to grant, with unlimited access to fully-equipped studio space, art supplies and surrounded by inspiring peers. Today, living in a two-bedroom 1,200 square foot condo (with the second room acting as the office/odds & ends and musical instrument storage), creating something gift-worthy (besides a simple card) is next to impossible. Especially for a
picky, umm, particular sister who’s a vegetarian, freegan (check it up, yikes!) and will single-handedly bring back the barter system. While we don’t see eye to eye on most subjects, I still love her dearly and make it a point to rack my brain around Christmastime and her summer birthday to come up with a suitable gift.
This time, I decided to make something that didn’t require a darkroom exposure unit, spray booth or acid (for intaglio copper plate etching of course, what were you thinking, gosh). As you’ve probably read in my previous posts, I enjoy baking, so creating a little jar of lemon curd seemed to be best solution to the gift conundrum, to be paired with her homemade bread. Lemon curd + toast = divine! I also heard from a secret source (thanks mom!) that she lost her bike lock, so I broke the no-purchase rule and bought a “Montreal bike thief-resistant” U-bar. Thankfully, bike-related gifts are exempt from said rule.
Thirty minutes later, the curd was cooling, and my freshly-designed label was ready for printing. My next endeavour will be to learn proper canning techniques for future delectable gifts.
I realize that I should probably get out of the kitchen and look for sources of inspiration elsewhere, as this baking hobby of mine is turning my blog into a foodie diary and is quite literally expanding my thighs. I’m finding the latter quite problematic, so all jokes aside, I will dedicate my future post to the gym; the fluorescent and sterile lair where machines stand impatiently at attention, their pixelated screens beckoning, waiting to prey on excess calories.
Until then, on with the subject at hand. Let it be known that I only bake for events, well… occasionally for no reason at all but to quell a sweet tooth craving, but I try to resist those urges to avoid over-indulgence (see expanding thigh reasoning above). Whether it be for potlucks, birthdays or holidays, I enjoy trying out new recipes. It’s an adrenaline rush of sorts with the potential of failure and a limited deadline with no time to resort to a plan B. Thankfully most of these culinary adventures turn out well, and worst case, a little extra sugar can thankfully solve most mishaps.
I honestly can’t post the recipe for this amazing strawberry coulis as it was the result of “little bit of this, little bit of that”. Toss it all into the blender and taste after each new ingredient addition and adjust accordingly. One tip is that while heating the concoction on the stove to thicken it a little, adding a few basil leaves (fresh, not dried flakes, and straining them later of course), adds a lovely flavour harmony to the sweet strawberry mixture. There you have it, my secret ingredient: basil.
One of my most rewarding hobbies (quite literally) is baking. Who wouldn’t want to eat their success, to savour the fruits (or in this case, cakes) of their labour, or to smell the sweet aroma of a job well done?!
Back in elementary school, I used to strive to collect as many “gold stars” or stickers on outstanding assignments; they brought me a lot of joy and reinforced my aptitude and exceptional talent. I guess that today, hearing the accolades of people enjoying my baking is my modern day theoretical gold star and affirmation of culinary success.
All this to say, that simply executing a delicious recipe is not enough, but one must share such exploits with others. Although I cannot bake for all of you out there in cyberspace, I thought I would pass on the recipe for you all to enjoy.
I originally found the Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes with Rosewater Meringue Buttercream Frosting recipe through the following link*, but after recreating it last night, I tweaked it ever so slightly. The original only resulted in 8 cupcakes, and after all that effort, I prefer having more to indulge in and share. Unless of course you’re living alone… in which case, make your cake and enjoy it too (in smaller quantities)!
Without further ado, here’s the Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes with Rosewater Meringue Buttercream Frosting recipe:
**I used margarine instead of butter and lactose-free milk as I am surrounded by lactose intolerants, but feel free to use regular milk and butter (in lieu of margarine)**
Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes
3/4 cup shelled raw pistachios
2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (use half of this if using freshly ground cardamom)
3/4 cup margarine or unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1. Heat your oven to 350 F and place a rack in the middle. Line muffin trays with papers and set aside.
2. Put the pistachios in a mini food processor (I used my coffee grinder) and pulse until very finely ground. Be careful not to turn it into a paste! Any extras can be used as garnish after the cupcakes are frosted, so set 2 tablespoons worth aside.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom into a medium bowl and set aside.
4. Add the margarine and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds.
6. Add half of the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined.
7. Add the milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract and mix on medium-low speed until incorporated, about 15 seconds.
8. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining flour mixture. Mix on low speed until barely combined.
9. Add the ground pistachios (except for the 2 tablespoons reserved for garnish) and mix on low speed to combine.
10. Divide the batter among the lined muffin cups, about 3/4 full. Bake until the tops spring back lightly when pressed and a toothpick comes out clean, about 16-20 minutes.
11. Cool the cupcakes in the pan set on a rack for a few minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool completely.
(Makes about 26 cupcakes)
Rosewater Meringue Buttercream Frosting
6 large egg whites
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups margarine (or unsalted butter) slightly cooler than room temperature
2 teaspoons rose water (NOT rose syrup!)
2 drops pink (or red) food coloring (optional)
4 tbsp icing sugar (if desired to stiffen icing, if using margarine instead of butter for the recipe)
pink rosebuds to garnish
1. Bring 2″ of water to a simmer in a saucepan that is wide enough for the bowl of your mixer to sit on top of it (but not so big that the bowl falls in). I used a large stock pot and lowered my Kitchenaid bowl into it so that the bottom of the bowl came in contact with the simmering water.
2. Add the egg whites and sugar to the mixer bowl. Whisk well to combine, then place over the pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is opaque and thick, about 4-5 minutes.
3. Transfer the bowl to the mixer and attach the whisk attachment. Start on low speed and over the course of 30 seconds, bring the speed up to high. Whip on high speed until the whites are thick and glossy and the bowl is cool to the touch, about 7-10 minutes.
4. While the whites are whipping, scoop the margarine into smaller portions (1/4 cup segments is fine). It’s important that it is not too warm. (If using butter, going with tablespoon increments is better. 1 1/2 cups of butter = 24 tbsp).
5. When the whites are cool, scrape down the sides of the bowl and lower the speed of the mixer. Add 1/4 cup of the margarine at a time and whip until combined, about 10 seconds. Continue with the remaining margarine, waiting 10 seconds between each addition.
6. When all the margarine has been added, turn the speed to high and whip until the mixture comes together to form a thick frosting. This may take some time.
7. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the rosewater and pink food coloring (if using) and whip on high speed for 10 seconds to combine.
8. Add about 4 tablespoons of icing sugar if the icing’s consistency isn’t stiff enough for piping (due to the use of margarine), but if using butter, this step is not necessary. If the icing is still not stiff enough to pipe, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
9. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.
10. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes once they are completely cooled and top each one with a sprinkling of ground pistachios and a rosebud (if desired).
I love fresh snow on the ground because it gives me an excuse to heat up some maple syrup for the traditional Québeçois treat “tire sur la neige”.
To prepare: in a small saucepan, boil the maple syrup to a max of 115C or 239F (a candy thermometer would be necessary). Depending on the quantity of syrup in the saucepan, you can test to see if the “tire” is ready before it reaches the 239F mark by spooning some out and dropping it in a cold glass of water. If it congeals into a droplet (and doesn’t disperse into the water), then it’s ready. Remove from heat and pour over fresh snow. Use a popsicle stick, chopstick, or utensil to twist it up into a ball before it hardens. Enjoy!