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In a wondrous act of both Yankee thrift and ingenuity, I managed to get three pumpkin recipes from a single 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree:
last week’s pumpkin apple bread
last night’s pumpkin spice caramel budino
and now, these delightful pumpkin harvest CCCs.

Using my usual CCC recipe, I added fall spices and the last bit (1/3 cup) of puree. Oh, and pecans, because they taste like fall. Of course, I threw Maker’s Mark in there, too. It seemed wrong not to.

These cookies are soft and pillowy with the addition of pumpkin–and the spices lend a tasty twist to the classic, all-American cookie. Hope you love them. We did!

PUMPKIN HARVEST CCCs

1 stick butter (salted), softened
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon clove
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon Maker’s Mark
½ cup dark chocolate Valrhona feves
½ cup pecans, chopped

Cream the butter and the sugars until light. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add lightly beaten egg, pumpkin puree, bourbon and vanilla; mix just till egg is incorporated. Scrape down the bowl again.

Sift flour, baking soda, salt and spices into a separate bowl. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients in three passes. Mix only until combined: do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chunks and pecans.

Chill dough for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust racks to lower and upper thirds of the oven. I used an ice cream scoop to make big beauties. Space them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 11-14 minutes (14 in my oven, so that’s 7 minutes up and 7 minutes down). Turn the sheets front to back and switch racks halfway through.

Remove the sheets from the oven to cool a few minutes before moving the cookies to a cooling rack. Makes 22 cookies, but who’s counting?

cookie monster cookies

I hate to speak for the Cookie Monster, but since we share a birthday … I think he’d say these pumpkin harvest CCCs are AHM NOM NOM NOM!!!

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PUMPKIN SPICE CARAMEL BUDINO

It smells like fall in here! Which is a pleasant change, as it sure feels a whole lot like summer outside. But I digress. You can still climb aboard the pumpkin spice train and not heat up the house too much with this tasty budino. It’s easiest to break down in steps, so  here we go.

1. In a small bowl, whisk and set aside:
½ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch

2. In another small bowl, whisk and set aside:
3 egg yolks
Then whisk in:
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon clove
1 cardamom pod, crushed

3. In a small saucepan, combine and heat just to a simmer; then set aside:
½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, scraped

4. Get ready to add at the end:
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons Maker’s Mark

5. In a separate saucepan, stir to combine over medium heat till sugar dissolves:
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup water
Increase heat; cook without stirring for approximately four minutes, then remove from heat.

Now, here’s where we start moving quickly and combining the previous steps.

a. Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into eggs.

b. Whisk milk/eggs into milk/cornstarch.

c. Slowly whisk all the above into saucepan with caramel in it and cook over medium-high heat until it thickens, about 3 minutes.

d. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons Maker’s Mark.

e. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pitcher/mixing bowl (makes it easy to pour).

f. Pour budino into four ramekins.

g. Proceed to lick all whisks, spatulas and spoons using during the cooking process. AHM NOM NOM NOM! Or shall we do it in Italian? AHM GNAM GNAM GNAM!!!

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They say if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. So, after a failed attempt at making salted caramel pudding a few weeks ago–and after eating all the not-quite-thickened portions myself, MOO–I gave it another go this afternoon. These little babies are heading over the river in their own little individual containers for a cookout with my family, so I’m not going to trick them out even further with caramel sauce and whipped cream as directed in the original recipe, but you sure can!

Let’s do this in steps to keep everything straight. I find it easier to follow this way.

BOURBON SALTED CARAMEL BUDINO
inspired by Marcie Turney’s recipe from Barbuzzo (Philadelphia, PA) via Bon Appetit

8 Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers, crush and set in jars (2 per serving)

1. In a small bowl, whisk and set aside:
½ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch

2. In another small bowl, whisk and set aside:
3 egg yolks

3. In a small saucepan, combine and heat just to a simmer; then set aside:
½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, scraped

4. Get ready to add at the end:
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Maker’s Mark

5. In a separate saucepan, stir to combine over medium heat till sugar dissolves:
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup water
Increase heat; cook without stirring for approximately four minutes, then remove from heat. Now, here’s where we start moving quickly and combining the previous steps.

Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into eggs.
Whisk milk/eggs into milk/cornstarch.
Slowly whisk all the above into saucepan with caramel in it and cook over medium-high heat until it thickens, about 3 minutes.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon Maker’s Mark.
Pour through a fine-mesh sieve.
Pour 1/2 cup of budino over each chocolate-cookie lined jar.

Chill. When the east is in the house, ohmygod! Danger! Enjoy! Happy Labor Day, amici!

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Last weekend, I thought it would be fun to make carrot cake in the morning. So I went to the store and didn’t buy carrots. Nice going, Kat.

After I returned to my senses and the store, I updated a cake from my mom’s recipe files. So what’s my new spin on a classic? Less sugar (half brown, half granulated, please), a mix of oil and butter, toasted walnuts, coconut, some nutmeg, bourbon-soaked golden raisins (HOO-AHHH!) and a drizzle of bourbon over the cake once it’s out of the oven. To top it off, I whipped up my very own bourbon salted caramel frosting. Sound good to you, amici? Let’s make cake!

CARROT PINEAPPLE CAKE

½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup Maker’s Mark
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup corn oil
1/3 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 ¼ cups finely shredded raw carrot (about ½ a a pound bag or four carrots)
½ cup crushed pineapple with juice
¼ cup Baker’s coconut
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted (or try it with pecans, even nicer!)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Soak raisins in Maker’s for at least a couple of hours. Once they’re plumped, reserve the bourbon. Of course, we’ll use it later!

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugars, oil, melted butter and vanilla for 2 minutes at medium speed. Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients in three parts. Add, carrots, pineapple, coconut, raisins and toasted walnuts (or pecans). Mix till all ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into greased 9″ square pan.

Bake at 350 degrees about 35 minutes.

Drizzle some—or all—the bourbon used to soak raisins over hot cake. Not sure you want to use it all? CLINQUE! Cheers to you and your carrot cake! CENT’ANN’!

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With meteorological summer upon us–if I may speak meteorologically with you, my amici–it’s the purr-fect time to cook up some bourbon barbecue sauce. When we make pulled pork, you’ll thank me for suggesting you have your own delicious sauce on hand.

BOURBON BARBECUE SAUCE

1/2 cup bourbon
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (1/2 a teaspoon if you prefer less heat)
½ teaspoon ground chipotle
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup hot water + 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon coarse ground mustard

Chop the onion.

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In a saucepan over medium heat, add oil; sauté garlic, onion, cumin, red pepper, chipotle and salt. Reduce heat as you go, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes till onions are soft. As always, don’t brown the garlic.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Let cool a bit, then blend carefully with a stick blender. Refrigerate and enjoy throughout the grilling season. Don’t have a grill? Me, either, but that’s OK, because I have a crock pot–so tomorrow, we will make pulled pork!

Note Mister SuperKewl in the photo above, by the way. He arrived last week, quite magically and by surprise. I spied him on my counter, in all his colorful glory, among my other cool collectibles. After a bit more thought, I decided he needed a real name. So meet Antonio–named after Poppy’s father.

And here’s the real Antonio, my great-grandfather, who immigrated from Italy and planted our family roots here–both figuratively and literally, as he was a farmer. He would likely wonder why I don’t have an Italian name, either (like my mom, Jane, who he called Giadi) and would call me Speranza. CENT’ANN’!

Antonio
Now that we’ve made introductions, I’m off to pick up 2 pounds of Boston butt to put this sauce to good use tomorrow. If you’d like to crock along, you’ll want to grab your butt (!) along with a beer, a sweet onion and a shallot! See you soon!

I was busy Sunday morning.

BAKING! BAKING! You thought I drank all that?!

Quite honestly, I’m not sure where all my bourbon went. I think little elves get into my supply when I’m not looking. A full cup went into this bourbon-licious cake I baked.

It sure did smell amazing here yesterday–a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and a bourbon distillery. THAT scent, amici, would be one helluva Yankee Candle! But let’s get back to the recipe.

If you’ve ever seen the Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake recipe from the New York Times, this recipe is pretty much it. And I say “pretty much” because I’m guessing the original recipe, on which it must surely be based, is baking maven Maida Heatter’s 86-Proof Chocolate Cake. Maida’s instructions are both detailed and logical, so I’ve incorporated some of them here in this melding of the minds: Maida, Melissa and me!

I’ve also included a neato tip from Cook’s Illustrated–cake release for chocolate cakes. So, take your whiskey home and let’s get baking!

BOURBON-SOAKED DARK CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE
adapted from Maida Heatter, Melissa Clark and Cook’s Illustrated

Chocolate cake release (for the pan):
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (have I told you lately I very much like Kate’s?)
2 cups all-purpose flour
5 ounces dark chocolate (I used Valrhona 70% Guanaja feves)
1/4 cup instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup bourbon (you can use any other whiskey, but what is not to love about BOURBON?!)–more for sprinkling over the cake
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda

Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional). Whipped cream is a nice option, too.

First, combine 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon cocoa to make the cake release. Use a pastry brush to coat a 10-cup capacity Bundt pan.

Adjust rack 1/3 up from bottom of oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.

Sift together the flour and baking soda. Kosher salt, of course, won’t sift so just combine it with the flour and soda and set aside.

Melt chocolate (I use the defrost setting on the microwave; you can use a double-boiler); set aside.

Add espresso and cocoa powders to a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to reach the 1-cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Add whiskey; set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat 1 cup butter until fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla, beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth.

Then, on low speed, alternate adding the sifted dry ingredients (in three additions) with the whiskey mixture (in two additions). Add the whiskey mixture very slowly to avoid splashing; scrape the bowl with a spatula after each addition and beat until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for one hour and 10 to 15 minutes (1:10-1:15). Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and dry.

Cool cake in the pan for about 15 minutes.

Then cover with a rack and invert. Remove the pan, sprinkle the cake with more bourbon. Two tablespoons sounded like the right amount of MORE to me.

See that? Not just one heap of happiness, but twoTWO HEAPS because I want you to be TWICE AS HAPPY! Two heaps of happiness in the form of bourbon! WOOHOO!

Leave the cake on a rack to cool.

Before serving, you can sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over the top with a fine-mesh strainer. I skipped the confectioners’ sugar. Whipped cream, lightly sweetened with a touch of almond extract is even nicer, if you like. And I like A LOT!

Wishing you two heaps of happiness and a lasting supply of bourbon in your bottles!

CENT’ANNI! CLINQUE! CHEERS! ♥ you!
Katty
>>^..^<<


Everywhere I turn, seems there’s salted caramel something going on–salted caramel apple pie, fleur de sel caramels and so on. The right combination of salty and sweet is so appealing. I wanted to see what it was all about, but never made caramels before, nevermind salted ones. Could making them at home really be as simple as it looks? Well, not completely! But it was a great learning experience, culminating in the tastiest turtles I ever tried, so all was not lost.

I adapted a tried and true recipe from the online community. Aunt Emily, whoever you are, I thank you for teaching me to make these tasty treats–even tho’ I don’t think I got it quite right the first time. I used the best butter I know, some Australian flake salt for good measure and bourbon–BOOYAH!

KATTY’S SOFT SALTED BOURBON CARAMEL FOR TURTLES
Adapted from Aunt Emily’s Soft Caramels

8 oz. Vermont Creamery cultured butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup whole milk (here in the Land of Steady Habits, I ♥ The Farmer’s Cow)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Karo light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon bourbon (how ’bout some Maker’s Mark?)
3/4 teaspoon Australian flake salt

Have you tried Vermont Creamery cultured butter? I’m not sure I ever had a better butter. Locally, you can find it in Stop & Shop in the cheese section near the deli counter.


First things first: butter a 13 x 9″ baking dish and set aside.

Next place all the ingredients–EXCEPT the vanilla, bourbon and salt–in a large pot like this:


Set the pan on medium heat and set a timer for 15 minutes.


Stir occasionally till the butter melts and the mixture begins to boil. We hit the boiling point here in Katty’s Kitchen around the 14-minute mark.


The caramel needs to reach 244 degrees F (a.k.a. the “firm ball” stage) before we’re done. You’ll feel like you’re stuck at 220 degrees F for the longest time (well, I did!), so here’s where using a timer can be a huge help. Once the caramel begins to boil, set a timer for 25 minutes. 25 to 30 minutes is about how long it will take to get to that magic number. Wait for it. Don’t give up. I know it will feel like the thermometer will never rise above 220, but trust me, it will happen. Be patient. It’s a good lesson for both caramel-making and life in general. 😉

Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon Maker’s Mark, 1/2 teaspoon Australian flake salt. Pour into buttered pan. Sprinkle with additional 1/4 teaspoon flake salt, crumbled between your fingers. Let cool, then cut and store in the fridge.

My mom loved the caramels in their original state. I thought they’d be softer, however delicious. After they were in your mouth a bit, they’d soften, but not before your jaw would make that annoying popping noise. How was I gonna make these into turtles? That’s really why I wanted to make my own caramel in the first place. Hmm.

Undaunted, I melted down the caramels with more cream in hopes of creating a caramel sauce. This was just the ticket to getting the consistency I needed to give me turtle power. A l’il more Maker’s might have made its way into the mix, too–how else are we gonna make ninja turtles?! Once the caramel sauce is cooled, it’s just right for scooping and making turtles. Don’t forget to store the sauce in the fridge!

I melted a tablespoon or so of butter and tumbled pecans to coat them, then roasted them over medium/medium-high heat on the stovetop. On a sheet of parchment paper, I formed clusters of four to give the turtles legs. In fact, for those who don’t like pecans, you can give the turtles alternate legs. I made “Italian” turtles with almond legs, too.

Once the caramel sauce cooled, I used my small cookie scoop, half-filled, to grab a gob of caramel to press onto the nut clusters, then topped each one with two Valrhona dark chocolate feves. Can you say turtle-icious?!

Last but not least, “The Italian Jobs!”


You might think they’re just too cute to eat. You’ll get over it once you have a bite, though.

Important lesson learned:
You really CAN do anything you set your mind to doing, even if it (literally) does not take shape the first time. Keep trying!
Here’s to a delicious 2012!