Sunday, October 18, 2009


Marshmallows are fun to make. I have never even thought I could make them at home. Then one day I found a recipe, give it a try and ta da! I was hooked! And so are many of the people that tried them. Its hard to think tasty fluffy marshmallow when the only reference you have are those tasteless ones found at the grocery store. The homemade one are very fluffy, tasty and they melt in your mouth. The array of flavors combination is limited only to one's creativity and boldness.
I have tried many flavors and so many more to test, some are a staple in my collection, like the Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel, Raspberry Chambord, Mint, Pumpkin Pie (fall flavor), Brandy Cinnamon and few more. They are all made with fresh ingredients like raspberry or pumpkin puree', fresh organic vanilla beans and high quality liquors.
I recently play with the idea of a Peanut Butter and Jelly Marshmallow. So the other night, since I couldn't sleep anyway because baby boy is not a good sleeper, I decided to give it a try and made them.
My husband commented, after trying a piece, that it tasted like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread! The white bread thing is because its pretty much banned from our kitchen, unless I bake Italian or peasant bread, and even then I always add a good amount of whole wheat flour and flax seed meal.
They really taste like a Pb&J sandwich, soft melt-in-your-mouth little pillows of tastiness! I cut some as lollipops and the left over in little pieces rolled in corn starch and confectionery sugar. I served them with tonight dinner, along with the Pumpkin Cake and an Italian Cappuccino (Oh Yummy! Need to remember to make it more often).
The challenge is that the marshmallows are so soft and tender that it's hard to hold them into the lollipop sticks, I use the long clear plastic ones, which are very slick . Well there might be room for improvement but the taste needs to stay exactly the same, and I added them to my collection.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's Baking Time; Pumpkin Cake.

Ok, so couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend retirement birthday party. The dinner was held at a the Ollin Farm here in Longmont. Under a heated tent the guests were seated in round tables of about eight people each. Live music featured by a very talented guitar player. The food was prepared on site by a Chef and his team, using many of the fresh produce from the farm, which was wonderful and right there with the idea to always use local whenever possible.
The food was outstanding! I don't remember when was the last time I had such a wonderful meal, but I am pretty sure was in my parents kitchen back in Italy! The vegetables were cooked perfectly, the meat was to die for. And of course after all the good food and the laughter, the desserts were served. Oh my oh my! Among pastries and hot coffee there were two three layers round cakes. One was a chocolate and I think toffee crunch of some sort, the other was a Pumpkin cake. I shamelessly asked for both! I couldn't resist, I needed to taste them and see if I could get some new idea.
The chocolate cake was very good, moist, tender and the frosting light and flavorful, but the pumpkin one really amazed me. I was expecting a good cake and it was one of the best cake in its category, I have had. It was moist and light and at the same time dense, just the right amount of spices, the frosting was real buttercream, not too sweet, real butter buttery and light. It reminded me of a Buttercream I use for a sour cream chocolate cake, that I discovered few years ago, while I was on a mission to find the best chocolate cake.
I have been obsessed with that cake since then. I never made a pumpkin cake so I researched little bit on the net to see if any of the many recipes would caught my attention. I found one on the Libbys web site. Its a sour cream pumpkin cake, the original recipe is for a bundt pan, but I baked it into a three nine inches round pans. The cake itself baked very nicely, and is tender and light. Unfortunately I made the mistake of overbeating the batter after I added the dry ingredients, and the cake had tunnels, you know holes all over the baked cake that happen when the mix is overworked etc. I wanted my son to have some fun, he was feeling lonely and bored because none of his friends were available to play with him that day. He helped measuring all the dry ingredients, in which he is really good at, but I did get distracted in the process and oops! Anyway the cake turned out tasty and suitable for the next step: Frosting it. I made the Buttercream I have been making for the past three years, from the Baking Illustrated book, called "Rich Vanilla Buttercream Frosting". I also made different variations like caramel or coffee, it is very versatile. To the original formula I added about a cup of fresh pumpkin puree' and lots of pumpkin spices.
The final product was tasty and satisfactory, not at all sweet and rich in taste and texture. There are few things that I will change next time, like making sure I finish the batter by hand instead the stand mixer, bake the layers in 2 round pans but cut each of the layer in half, I liked the fact that the layer of the original cake were thinner, more like a torte. I am happy with the overall result, but I will keep baking until I bake the perfect pumpkin cake, same as I did for the chocolate one, I will need lots of tasters! Do I see hands in the air??

Sunday, October 4, 2009

In Love with all things squash!

So I have decided that this fall I am going to enjoy Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash and all of those nice fall/winter goodies. I think I am definitely in love with the Butternut squash.
I have made Risotto, Creamy Soup, Chocolates and Marshmallows! The creamy soup was a winner, my little boy enjoyed it as much as I did and so did my beloved neighbor, that came that night to help me with my newsletter editing :-).
The recipe goes little bit like this, as usual I never write down my formulas:
Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Creamy Soup
6 cups of cubed sugar pumpkin and butternut squash, seeded and peeled.
1/2 small white onion chopped
3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of evaporated milk (not condensed)
2 to 3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
2 Tbsp of butter (optional)
2-3 Tbsp of Amaretto liquor
Salt and white pepper to taste

Saute' the onion with the olive oil. Add the cubed pumpkin/butternut squash. Let it cook for about 5 minuets on medium heat, add the Amaretto liquor, let it evaporate. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour the vegetable or chicken stock and let it cook covered until tender. Add the butter and the evaporated milk, puree' with an immersion blender, or into a food processor, until creamy and smooth. Let it cook for about 5 more minutes. Enjoy hot or warm. Croutons would be good for some crunch. Keep in mind that I made this recipe as I went so you might need to add some extra liquid to obtain the consistency you like. This is a very easy way to create a nice elegant creamy soup (vellutata) with a different variety of vegetable. Cauliflowers make a wonderful soup as well.

As for the sweet version, those truffles came out pretty yummy. I have to admit I am not a big fan of Pumpkin Pie, but i do love the pumpkin flavor with fresh spices in chocolates, marshmallows or pumpkin bread! I was so impressed when I saw how the puree' turned out after I barbecued the Butternut squash, that I make sure I always have some in the kitchen now. Microwave would be the next best way to cook it, but barbecued or roasted would be better, the flavor is incredible. That's how I did mine; cut in half the pumpkin or butternut squash (or any other type you like) , take the seeds out, cover in aluminium foil and grill on the barbecue until tender. Then just spoon the fleshy orange pulp and puree it in a food processor until nice and smooth. Its perfect for baby food, my 9 months old son loves it, is naturally sweet and creamy. It can be stored in the freezer, in containers or freezer bags in small amount, for easy use. I will dig out my pumpkin bread recipe and post it next time, is the same as my banana bread and uses whole wheat flour and raisins, I love it.