by Beth Brown, Kitchen Store Specialist

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One of my favorite holiday memories from my childhood is baking pies the night before Thanksgiving. I would “help” my mom in the kitchen, staying up later than normal to finish baking the delicious pies for the feast the next day.

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There was always a bit of pie dough leftover, and my mom would cut it up into triangles, shake cinnamon sugar over the top, and bake them up for delicious treat before bed. Piecrust cookies became my favorite part of the pie-baking ritual.

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For this dessert shop recipe, we took piecrust cookies a few steps further to make them even more special and delicious, elevating them into much more than a leftover treat - these are tasty enough to take center stage! Especially when served with a pumpkin cream cheese frosting dip.

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When baking up these tasty leaf-shaped goodies, the KitchenAid food processor was an essential tool, and made the process quick and easy. (Nothing is better for holiday cooking than recipes that look complicated but are actually really simple!)

Beth's No Fail Pie Crust

3 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 1/2 tsp Salt

1 1/2 tsp Sugar

1 1/2 Cups (3 sticks) Unsalted Butter

1/2-3/4 Cup Ice Cold Water

In a food processor, measure the flour, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into cubes and add to flour.

Pulse only enough to create a crumb mixture.

img_8807Slowly add cold water until the mixture begins to stick together when pressed between your fingers.

img_8810Separate into four blocks, refrigerate extra as you work with one. Turn dough out onto a floured Silpat and roll to 1/4 inch thickness. Onto this, sprinkle a portion of the following:

¼ Cup pecans, finely chopped and toasted

¼ cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

1-2 Tbs fresh orange zest

2 tsp sugar (optional)

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You can either cover half the rolled out dough and fold the remaining half over, or apply a second sheet of rolled dough to cover the first.

img_8818Roll a second time to press the two sheets together to reveal the ingredients inside and reach desired thickness.

img_8822Use festive cutters to cut cookie shapes from the dough, or shape for hand pies or to fit your pie plate, depending on desired use for crust.

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Take it to a whole new level by leaving out the optional sugar, adding fresh herbs and using this crust for left-over Turkey & Stuffing hand pies with gravy dip - or as the crust for a next-day turkey pot pie!

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Cookie Press Butter Cookies are a classic at Holiday time, and now with OXO's Fall Disc Collection, they can be made and shared as early as Halloween! Because this dough holds its shape so well through the baking process, Miss Beth suggests adding decorations before baking so that sprinkles and sparkle sugars stick even when packaged. Also, remember to use just a baking sheet without any spray, grease or silicone baking mat so that the pressed cookies will stick slightly to the surface and release from the plate of the press with clean lines and distinct pattern. This chart from OXO shows the finished product created by each disc in the collection.

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Butter Cookies *
Yield: About 12 dozen cookies
Ingredients
• 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
at room temperature • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup sugar • 4 cups all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and salt. Beat until light and
fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time, continuously beating.
3. Gradually add flour, beating until well incorporated.
4. Place dough in cookie press with desired disk. Press dough out onto an ungreased baking sheet.
5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges.
Rotate baking sheet halfway through baking time.

*Recipe provided by longtime OXO friend, Fraya Berg

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Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon Blue Cattle Truck Pure Mexican Vanilla
1 teaspoon Red Velvet Baking Emulsion

Directions:
Prepare a straight sided baking pan with parchment strips that extend up and over the sides of the pan and secure with bulldog clips. Spray with Vegalene baking spray; set aside.

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Combine all ingredients, except vanilla and emulsion, in heavy 4-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes or until butter is melted and mixture comes to a boil.

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Continue cooking without stirring for an additional 25-30 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 244° or firm ball stage. (Your thermometer is a key tool here! We love the Maverick Digital model because it has the candy stages preprogrammed - so there's no guess work, ensuring your caramels won't be too soft, or pull teeth!)

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Remove pan from heat; quickly stir in vanilla and Red Velvet emulsion. Pour into prepared pan without scraping the bottom as caramel can scorch. Cool completely, preferably overnight.

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Once caramel is cooled, lift from pan and use a bench scraper, also sprayed with Vegalene, to cut into even cubes.

IMG_0578The cubes should hold their shape at room temperature to be ready for dipping.
Melt Callebaut white chocolate in the small double boiler insert over boiling water. Remove from water and stir until smooth.

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Using the chocolate dipping tools, dip each square to coat and set on a silpat lined baking sheet or parchment.

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Before chocolate sets, apply holly berry and snowflake sprinkles to each chocolate along with light sprinklings of Pure Alaska Sea Salt pyramids and/ or edible glitter. Molded chocolate shapes like pine cones or snowflakes also make nice toppings as well as adding other chocolate flavors to the finished candy.

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Once cooled, remove from silpat and package using chocolate paper cups and gift boxes.

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While chocolate is still warm, you can set the caramel on a chocolate transfer sheet. Once it cools the pattern will peel off the sheet with the chocolate, leaving a lovely design on the surface it contacts.

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Using clean cotton gloves to handle finished chocolates keeps them fingerprint free.         IMG_0609            IMG_0621

adapted from Aunt Emily's Soft Caramels recipe

 

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With the help of the digital candy thermometer, and Hazel, our favorite (adorable) nut grinder, a little bit of edible glitter, this toffee was incredibly easy and oh-so-pretty.

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One essential tool to the success of the toffe is a candy thermometer to insure that the toffee has that perfect, melt-in-your mouth crunch, without breaking your teeth!

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We scored our toffee while it was still malleable, which made for a more even break so that we could vary our toppings without crossover.

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The bench scraper was the ideal tool for the task, and we also used it to chop up the toffee into giftable pieces.

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The AK Pure Sitka Flake Sea Salt pyramids were a delicious - an dazzling - addition to one of our toffee flavors.

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And for the finishing touch - cellophane bags and baker’s twine make this an easy, elegant, and delicious holiday gift for friends and neighbors... if you can keep yourself from eating it all!

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Toasted Flake Coconut, Almonds and AK Pure Sea Salt.
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Cranberry and Pistachio

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Toasted Hazelnut and Edible Glitter.

Ingredients:

1 C butter
1 C sugar
2 Tbls water
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Top with:
8oz bittersweet Callebaut Chocolate
and your choice of:
Pistachios, shelled and chopped coarse
Sweetened Dried Cranberries
Hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped
Gold Edible Glitter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toast the whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet until just browned. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Use Hazel Nut Grinder to chop. Repeat with almonds.

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Line a second baking sheet with a silpat mat.
In a sauce pan cook the butter, sugar, water and salt over medium heat until the temperature reaches 305 degrees- or hard crack stage- on your digital candy thermometer. Stir occasionally and when the mixture turns golden brown, immediately remove the pan from heat.

IMG_0472Quickly stir in the vanilla extract and pour the mixture onto the silpat lined baking sheet, beginning in the center and working lengthwise, allowing it to spread evenly to edges.

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Cool at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Temper chocolate in a double boiler. We love this little one because it keeps the chocolate surface area down and with the clip and handle, it sits on any pot.

IMG_4248Spread the chocolate over the cooled toffee and sprinkle with nuts and or other toppings, pressing lightly to set the bits into chocolate layer.

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Let cool for an additional hour, or until the chocolate is set.
Break toffee into pieces and wrap to share.

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Adapted from ghirardelli.com

It's been a while since we pulled out the cake pop pan, so when pondering what cake pops to make for Dessert Shop, we simply couldn’t decide on just one.

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Our two varieties were the perfect choices for fall and got us excited about how easy they can be to put together for two very different, and seasonal selections. Miss Beth shares her tips for success and maximum yield from each method.

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Assembly:

Prepare the cake balls ahead, they can be chilled prior to dipping. To a boxed cake mix add, 2/3 C milk, 1/3 C oil and 4 eggs. Bake in the NordicWare Cake Ball Pan according to instructions. (For Candied Apple we used Spice Cake, and a white cake mix plus Red Velvet Emulsion for the Monsters.)

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The Red Belvet Emulsion adds deep color to any batter, not to mention a touch of the Macabre for our Halloween treats.

Remove from pan and allow to cool.

Candied Apple Pops:
Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat. Insert striped straws into spice cake balls and set in fridge to chill.

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Candied Apple Syrup
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, corn syrup and food coloring. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-high and continue to boil until temperature reaches hard crack stage (between 300-310 degrees) on your digital thermometer, about 20 minutes.

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Using a digital thermometer ensures you reach your intended 'hardness' with the sugar mixture.

IMG_4169Immediately remove from heat. Working quickly, dip cake pop in sugar mixture (careful not to twist) until completely coated.

IMG_4176Let excess drip then transfer to prepared baking sheet with stick upright, allow to cool.

recipe from seasonofsweets.com

Frizzled Monsters

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In ziplock baggies, shake sweetened shredded coconut with food coloring until desired hue is reached. In small double boiler pan, melt colored candy melts until smooth.

IMG_4144Dip tip of stick into melt and insert into cake balls, set in fridge to set.  Once sticks are well anchored, melt additional candy melt in desired colors for dipping. Dip cake balls to coat, reaching up to base of stick.

IMG_4184Immediately roll in colored coconut, pressing to coat.

IMG_4180While coating is still soft, press candy eyeballs into place. Set cake pop onto silpat lined pan, with stick flat & eyes forward, or stick into a Styrofoam block to keep them upright.

IMG_8807Return to fridge to cool.

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Once set, you can share cake pops
OR wrap in gift bag tied with baker’s twine.

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Extra Tips we learned along the way...

  • The cake pop pan is so fun and easy to use!

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  • Don't forget to spray the pan after each batch...
  • Adding the extra ingredients to a cake mix makes a denser, fudgier cake, which holds up better when making cake pops! If the batter is too light, the pops are more delicate and harder to decorate.
  • Use paper straws as the pop sticks for a fun, decorative addition to your pops!
  • The digital candy thermometer was essential in making sure our sugar candy coating got to the perfect stage for a hard, crunchy crackle, without burning.
  • Silpat mats are ideal in working with sticky sugar and caramels! Even the stickiest, gooiest mixtures come off without a problem.

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Using a silicone mat makes clean up simple because even hard set sugars won't stick!

For the Monsters:

This double boiler is the perfect tool for cake pops or truffles.

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The hook and handle combination make it easy to turn any size pot into a double boiler, while the small bowl allows you depth with out volume so you can get the most from your dip.

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Make sure to chill the pops sufficiently after inserting the sticks, so when you dip your pops, the monster head doesn’t pop right off.

We made purple and green monsters, but you could color your coconut any color!

When using candy melts, make sure to work quickly to add your decorations. Candy melts harden quickly.

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The Wilton candy eyes are the essential finishing touch to these little monsters. Switch it up by giving some of your monsters one eye, or even three!

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Both varieties were a big hit! The spice cake was a delicious combo with the crunchy candy shell, and the coconut and red velvet cake monster pops were adorable and delicious.

 

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As a fruity alternative to your daily pumpkin-spiced hot beverage, a nice warm sip of fresh juiced apple cider takes the chill off of any autumn day- especially with a pair of donut holes for dunking!

And before we get to that, we wanted to clear up a common question about the difference between apple juice and apple cider. It turns out that apple cider is essentially unfiltered apple juice- hence the opaque appearance versus the clear apple juice you can buy at the store that has been both filtered and pasteurized to extend shelf life. So, if we're being technical, if you're juicing apples, your getting apple cider - which can be served cold or warmed with spices.

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For our cider, we used our Omega Vert slow juicer (which presses the juice from the apples using an auger and screen process) and a collection of our favorite apple varieties including crisp greens and sweet reds. This can be made up to 24 hours prior to serving if stored in the fridge in a covered vessel.

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Now donut holes are usually just the bite size bonus you get when cutting the center from a traditional raised donut, but using a portion scoop and chilled quick dough gives you a nice sized ball that is just as easily eaten in one or two dunkable bites. We wanted to make sure we had enough to share, so we doubled the batch and used a smaller scoop, and believe me, there were more than plenty to go around! They do puff up a bit in the fryer, so depending on the size you want, plan for some expansion.

If you don't have a fryer, you can use a pan on the stove top, or you could just bite the bullet and get one of these!

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This particular T-fal fryer is our favorite because it's so easy to clean. Once the oil has cooled you just drain it out the bottom into the reservoir and all the sediment stays in the basin where it can be wiped out. Also, the basket and element are removable so that if need be- you can really scrub the unit for storage.

Pumpkin Donut Holes with Cinnamon & Sugar

recipe adapted from everydaydishes.com

Ingredients:
1 ¼ C flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ C granulated sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large egg
¼ C buttermilk
½ C pumpkin puree
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
oil for frying
coating:

1 tsp cinnamon
¾ sugar

In a medium bowl, stir together dry ingredients less the sugar. Set aside. In the bowl of a KitchenAid Mixer, cream sugar & butter until smooth. Add egg and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed and stir in buttermilk, pumpkin and vanilla just until combined. Gradually add dry ingredients until a smooth batter forms - do not over mix! Cover batter and refrigerate 1 hour until firm.

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Heat T-fal fryer to 350 degrees.

Using a medium to small portion scoop, carefully drop batter into oil. Do not overcrowd. Allow balls to fry about 1 min or until dough begins to brown, roll each one over to equally brown other side.

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Carefully remove finished balls from oil with a spider and place on a paper towel lined plate for excess oil to drain off. Put cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and toss to combine. Add warm donut holes and roll to coat.

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Skewer 2-3 donut holes and use to garnish fresh juiced apple cider.

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Apple Cider:
Juice of 3 apples, any variety
Warm in a small pan on the cooktop to just below a boil with a cinnamon stick and whole cloves.

 

Fall is here - in fact, it's almost gone. It's getting cooler outside and the desire to 'treat' ourselves to something warm and delicious is palpable. It's time for baking sweets, for passing along treasured recipes and for trying new ones. Time to turn on the oven and share something special, something made by you in your own kitchen. It's time for what we call our Dessert Shop Demos and we've officially kicked off this treat season with our first Dessert Shop recipe: Cinnamon Pumpkin Pull Apart Bunt.

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Because it's now mid-October, we feel compelled to start eating all things pumpkin, so we swapped the traditional filling of our favorite cinnamon roll recipe for Petersen's Family Pantry Pumpkin Butter sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Then to make the presentation extra special - something you'd want to bring to your holiday table to share with guests - we opted to bake it in a bundt topped with rich melty cream cheese frosting. The result is a stunning loaf that could be casually pulled apart and dunked in a frosting pool, or delicately sliced and served as an after dinner companion to warm cider or hot cocoa. Anyway you decide to share it, it's an ooey-gooey treat that is definitely worth trying!

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Get the printable recipe here: Pumpkin Pull Apart Bundt

Ingredients: For the Dough
1 1/2 C water
2 Tbs yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 eggs
1/3 C oil
1/3 C honey
2 tsp salt
4-5 C flour
For Filling:
¼ C Petersen Pantry Pumpkin Butter
3 Tbs brown sugar (or more depending on how gooey you like your rolls)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

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Proof yeast with 1 1/2 C warm water and 1 tsp sugar.

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In the bowl of your KitchenAid mixer with dough hook attached, stir together egg, oil, honey and salt.

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(Tip: Measure oil first, and then the honey so they honey doesn't stick to your measuring cup)

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Stir in yeast mixture. Slowly add flour, one cup at a time until all is incorporated and dough forms a ball in the bowl.

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Let rise, covered, until double in size (about 1 hour).

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Roll dough into a rectangular shape.

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Spread pumpkin butter evenly over the dough.

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Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over the pumpkin butter.

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Roll lengthwise, cut into one inch sections and arrange in a well greased bundt pan. We used Nordic Ware's Anniversary Pan which has plenty of room and just enough shape for the dough to fill into as it rises.

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Let raise untill double in size (about 30-45 minutes). Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

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Top with Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 cubes butter, softened
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 8 oz block cream cheese, room temp.
1 tsp Blue Cattle Truck Pure Mexican Vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice

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Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add powdered sugar and beat for 12 minutes. Add liquid flavors and beat for another 1-2 minutes. Spread over warm bundt and serve on a cake plate.

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You'll notice two different loaves pictured here, one from our Anchorage Store, (where we used extra brown sugar) and the second from our Wasilla Store, which rose quite a bit fuller and lent itself to an easier 'pull apart' than the first that we chose to serve sliced, revealing the lovely layers of pumpkin and cinnamon marbeling. We love being able to see those delicious swirls!

Join us each Friday through Christmas for another sweet recipe from the 'Dessert Shop'.

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By Beth Brown, Kitchen Store Specialist

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Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and if you’re like me, Thanksgiving is all about the pie.

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Sure, turkey is great, but as a baking enthusiast, pie is the real reason I’m excited for Turkey Day.

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For our Dessert Shop Demo, we made a little twist to the traditional pies, and I do mean little!

Using the USA Pan Crown Muffin pan made the process of creating these tiny single serving pies much easier.

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Not only did the extra edge provide the perfect way to make flare and pinch the crust tops on the mini pies, but the silicone non-stick coating with a spritz of Vegalene spray made it easier to get the pies out when they were done!

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This tried and true pie crust recipe was flaky and crisp, and really easy to work with:

Ingredients:

21⁄2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup (two sticks) chilled unsalted butter cut into small pieces

1/4 to 1⁄2 cup ice water

Preparation:

Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.

Add the butter pieces. Pulse 12 to 15 times, holding each pulse for one second. The

mixture should resemble coarse meal with some pea-size butter lumps.

IMG_0021Add 1/4 cup of ice water in a slow steady stream through feed tube and pulse 2 to 3 times. Pinch a small amount of the dough with your fingers to see that it holds together. If the dough does not hold together, add more water, 1⁄2 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until incorporated; then test the mixture again. Turn the dough out onto a silicone mat, and divide into two equal portions. Place half of the dough mixture on a large square of plastic wrap, with the heels of your hands press the mixture together until the dough forms one piece.

IMG_0022Flatten into a disk and wrap well in plastic wrap; repeat with the remaining dough. Refrigerate the dough disks until firm, at least 1 hour. Can be kept in the freezer up to 3 months. Before rolling out, remove the disks from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes to soften.

 

We used round scalloped cookie cutters, as well as leaf-shaped cutters, which would also be a showstopper for full size pie crust embellishment!

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We got creative topping our wee pies, with scallops, lattice, and cutouts!

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For mass production, it would go quicker to stick with one design, but when baking for fun or with kids, getting creative with the designs is what it’s all about.

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A pastry wheel helps in cutting the lattice pieces, and the trusty Fletcher’s Mill wooden rolling pin and silicone pastry mats were the perfect tools for rolling out the crust.

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(TIP: First, keep your ingredients cold. This is the secret to keeping the crust flaky, so we suggest you cut all the bottom disks, and leave the second disk of dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the tops. Also, take care not to roll the crust too thin, or the pies will break when taking them out of the muffin tin! It is best to let them cool a bit in the pan , then use a small offset spreading spatula to gently lift them out and onto a cooling rack to complete the cooling process so that the bottoms don't get soggy.)

Try these pies at home, and tell us about it in the comments!

 

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When these tiny cocottes arrived from Staub, we immediately began compiling a list of what could be adorably baked and served in perfectly personalized servings. On the top of the list was a recipe provided by Zwilling, made specifically for these vessels, and titled "All Chocolate Cocottes". Yes, please!

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It starts and ends with smooth melted chocolate, with a lovely crust and a touch of cake-y-ness in there for texture. The only way it could be any sweeter would be to bake them in the heart shaped ceramic Staub vessels like this recipe, also from Zwilling:

https://www.staub-online.com/uk/en/recipes/mini-cocotte-recipes/ceramic-

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All Chocolate Cocottes

for 4 to 6 cocottes

Preparation time: 20 MInutes

3 eggs

4.5 oz butter + 2 oz to coat the the cocottes

4.5 oz sugar

7 oz semi sweet Callebaut Chocolate Callets

2 oz flour

.5 oz corn starch

.75 oz Powdered sugar

Cut the butter into small pieces and melt with callets in a double boiler.

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Allow 2 oz of butter to soften for coating the cocottes.

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In a bowl, mix the flour, starch and cocoa. Add the sugar to the melted chocolate and then the whole egg and beat well with a whisk.

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Incorporate the flour/ cocoa mixture into the chocolate until the batter is completely uniform. With a brush, generously butter the inside of the cocottes with the reserved butter.

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Divide the batter between the cocottes and refrigerate for atleast 30 minutes. It is even better to prepare them a day in advance.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the cocottes, unlidded for 7-8 minutes.

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Eat immediately! (yes, that is part of the recipe) Also delicious served a la mode.

A seemingly simple sweet to make for someone special, and the best part is that you don't have to share!

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recipe by Zwilling http://www.staubusa.com/#!recipes/coyy

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There's just something special about this dessert. Maybe it's the crack of the sugar when your spoon breaks through to all the creamy smoothness (it feels so decadent, like eating lobster or crab), or the crunch in opposition to the light vanilla infused cream. Maybe it's the magic of watching the sugar crystals bubble up and meld together, the love's labor of all those eggs and dairy, the fact that you get your own serving and can decide how you want to eat, no cutting or sharing- just the decision of  "Do I eat a little crust with each bite, scoop under and get all the creamy goodness and leave the shell for last, or quickly crunch down the top layer and slowly savor the smooth yumminess one small spoonful at a time...?" Whatever the particular draw, there's no denying it's deliciousness!

As we searched for some great vessels to serve our sample sized custards at this week's demo (glass yogurt cups, stainless steel spoons?),

we decided on the cutest little cup that the autumn season has to offer- the mini pumpkin, but only because acorn sized brulees would just be a tease. Through our trial and tests we did discover that some of the pumpkin acidity seeps into the creme, so we are using brown sugar to amp up the sweetness, not to mention the added depth of seasonal flavor. Also, we found that it's best to approach the pumpkin with the torch from above, that way there is less chance that your vessel will perish in flames, and will minimize too much smokiness or burnt edges. Our creme brulee was made with vanilla paste in place of a bean- because it eliminates the 20 minute infusion wait time, and the sugar we chose is Demerara Sugar from India Tree for its light carmely flavor and large crystal size.

For torching, it's best to keep the flame low, approach from the top and slowly bring the flame down over the sugar, moving in small circular motions. Once you see the crystals start to melt, ease off and increase the radius of your circle. The ideal melting scenario is for the entire top to be bubbling in unison- that way no one spot gets too hot and you get a nice smooth uniform crust. You want to be sure that all the crystals liquify and get a little toasty without burning. My first attempt I went in hard and fast- with my torch at full flame. Needless to say, that one became 'mine' because it was definitely burnt on top, with crystals underneath... yikes.

Start low and slow, but don't be afraid of a nice golden color, that's where the flavor kicks in! Also, if using glass, ceramic or stainless vessels, be sure to allow cool down time before trying to serve... again a lesson learned the hard way.

Ingredients:
1 medium vanilla bean or ½ tsp vanilla paste
1 C whole milk
1 pinch salt
4 egg yolks
½ cup of fresh pumpkin puree
¼ C brown sugar
1 C heavy cream
¼ C Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

If using a bean: Slice vanilla bean in two, lengthwise and run blade of knife down both open halves, scraping seeds from vanilla bean.
Combine milk, vanilla bean seeds, scraped bean, and salt in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat until the milk is just below boiling. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10-20 minutes to allow the flavor of the bean to infuse. Strain the mixture through a coarse sieve back into saucepan. Discard the bean. Place the pan over medium heat, and return the mixture to a low simmer, remove from heat. If using paste: combine with milk and salt in small saucepan. Heat to a near boil on medium.

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar. Pour a small amount of hot milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper the eggs, whisking gently. Stir in the remaining milk mixture, skimming off any bubbles that may form. When slightly cooled, stir in the cream.

Wash and carefully cut tops from 8 small pumpkins. Use a spoon to hollow out cavity, scraping walls to less than half an inch. Place pumpkins in a baking dish and slowly pour the custard into each one, filling almost to the top. Set the baking dish in the center of the oven, then carefully pour in enough simmering water to reach halfway up the sides of the pumpkins. Be careful not to splash the custards. Bake 30-40 mins until centers appear nearly set when gently shaken. Carefully transfer pumpkins from the bath to a cooling rack, let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. You may refrigerate up to 4 hours prior to serving. Gently blot the surface of the custards with a paper towel to remove any condensation. Sprinkle a very fine, even layer of sugar over each custard. Torch the sugar until lightly browned. Allow the sugar to harden, sprinkle a second thin layer of sugar over the first- paying attention to the edges- torch again and allow the final layer to harden. Serve with pumpkin ‘lid’.

We decided just one bite wasn't enough, but if the whole plate was a serving, then that could be fun.