Hazelnut Crunch Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

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Guys, cake!

Yesterday was a day that called for cake…even though I didn’t have any left, I wish I did. It was one of those frustrating, frantic, half-assed days where you’re pulled in different directions and nothing gets accomplished. Days like that deserve something sweet. In my case it was a Reese’s pumpkin eaten over the sink with a gulp of cold coffee between ringing doorbells, barking dogs, a startled baby, and a project I just couldn’t seem to get through. But I wanted it to be a piece of this cake with a side of coffee…that was still warm.

This cake is a moist pumpkin and spice number with little bits of hazelnut suspended in the batter, iced with a brown butter + cream cheese concoction, and sprinkled with crunchy hazelnut candy. It’s got it all: tender-spiced cake, a buttery-tangy frosting, and lots of crunchy-sweet texture. It’s a dream boat and a sure-fire cure for one of those kinda days.

I don’t mean to get all complain-y, but some days are better than others and cake days are definitely the best!

[recipe]

Print Recipe

Hazelnut Crunch Pumpkin Cake

Makes 1, double layer, 6 inch round cake OR 1, 9-inch square cake.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teapoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cups finely chopped, toasted hazelnuts

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, browned*

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup bourbon

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease 2 6-inch round cake pans and line with parchment circles (you can also bake this cake in a 9-inch square pan).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and hazelnuts. In another bowl whisk together the browned butter, brown sugar, bourbon, eggs, and pumpkin puree until combined. Fold the butter-pumpkin mixture into the flour and spice mixture until just combined and there are no longer streaks of flour throughout. Divide the cake batter between the two cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks for 15 minutes before turning out the cakes and cooling completely. Cool the cakes completely before frosting—it is even better to wrap the cooled cakes in plastic and place them in the refrigerator to chill before frosting.

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, browned*

4 ounces softened cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Using a mixer, beat the browned butter with the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the salt and beat in the confectioner’s sugar gradually until smooth and spreadable.

Hazelnut Crunch

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

pinch of salt

1 heaping cup toasted hazelnuts

Place a sheet of parchment on a sheet pan and set aside.

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves and becomes a deep golden amber color—don’t stir it, but you can swirl the pan if you need to. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and hazelnuts. Pour the mixture onto the sheet pan and cool completely. Chop the cooled hazelnut crunch coarsely and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To assemble the cake:

Place one of the cooled cake layers on a cake stand, spread a heaping scoop of frosting on top of the layer and spread evenly, then sprinkle with a handful of the hazelnut crunch. Place the other cake layer on top, pressing down lightly to adhere to the first layer. Pile several heaping scoops of frosting on top of the cake and spread evenly to the edges of the cake, spread the excess frosting over the sides of the cake, evenly. Scrape any excess frosting off with an off set spatula for a “naked-cake” effect, or spread thickly for a more traditional look.

*To brown the butter, place it in a skillet or saucepan over medium heat, let it melt. It will bubble and foam. Once it begins to foam, whisk it constantly until deep brown bits begin to appear and the butter smells nutty like toffee. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature before using. [/recipe]

 

 

 

 

Apricot Almond Crunch Frozen Yogurt

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Summer! It’s here for real…I know I’ve been talking summer since the beginning of June, but it’s more than official now and this one is turning out to be more temperate and less hot/sweaty/dank hell…and by temperate I mean, hot and humid with just a smidge of hellishness. Which means more evening walks and weekend bike rides…you know, good stuff. The summers here in Michigan are an explosion of green. Things are growing all over the place and it’s beautiful.

But, harbored in all of that greenery are horrible, voracious mosquitos. Multiple species even, some with hideous, striped-tiger-bodies. UGH…I hate them. Like, HATE. A lot. And no amount of bug spray AKA poison-candy (that stuff smells like candy and death!) really keeps them from biting straight through our clothing. I’ve tried natural stuff and the stuff that makes me feel like I might actually die if I inhale. It seems none of them are really working. What kind of works is riding my bike or walking swiftly…no pauses…and it only works kinda, but better than the poison-candy aerosol. It didn’t so much work when my bike chain came loose a mere 2 miles from the car and Sean had to finagle it back on whilst getting mauled by a swarm of mosquitos. Oh, and we were downwind from the zoo so there was a really fun…aroma. We were SO CLOSE to being mosquito-bite-free, but alas it didn’t work out for us. What did work out was that this froyo was stashed in the freezer for when we got home. So even though I was covered in itchy welts and maybe a little more back-sweat than I am ever comfortable with, frozen treats saved the day. Like they do.

I mean, if you’ve been riding your bike for a few hours in the summer swelter and combatted mosquito attacks like a champ, walking into your cool home, flopping on the couch/floor/wherever with a pint of froyo is totally appropriate. Especially if that froyo is homemade and trashed-up with mix-ins. I live for frozen yogurt + mix-ins. Gimme the stuff from those froyo shops that sell it all by weight any day — Yogurt Beach in Reno, I’m looking at you. But, since I can’t pop into my favorite frozen yogurt place on the daily, I can make some at home. The apricots are roasted here, which makes ripe apricots taste even more apricot-y, and less-than-ripe apricots sing. I could eat the apricot swirl with a spoon. The almond crunch gets a bit melty once layered with the frozen yogurt and apricot swirl, but maintains its crunch giving this yogurt a TON of awesome texture. I cannot resist a good crunch. The flavors just make sense to me — tangy and creamy yogurt, heady and lush apricot, crunchy, caramelized toasted almonds, and a little sweet-floral honey come together to make a super summery combination that is just so, so good.

  [recipe]

Print Recipe

Apricot Almond Crunch Frozen Yogurt

Yogurt base adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

I roasted the apricots for the swirl, but if you dread turning on the oven in the summer heat, just cook the apricots on the stovetop until they are very soft. The recipes for the apricot swirl and almond crunch make a little extra, perfect for topping! 

For reference, I used this ice cream maker and these containers (I purchased these items myself and am not affiliated with either manufacturer). 

Apricot Swirl:

1 lb apricots

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon honey

Almond Crunch:

2 tablespoons honey

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sliced, toasted almonds

Frozen Yogurt:

1 1/2 cups strained, whole milk yogurt*

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup cream

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

For the Apricot Swirl:

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Rinse the apricots, pat dry, and remove pits. Chop coarsely and toss with sugar and honey. Spread into a baking dish and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the apricots have released their juices, are soft, and become syrupy. Remove from the oven, cool slightly, and scrape into a blender or deep bowl and pulse with an immersion blender (or blend in regular blender, being careful of the steam) until smooth. Set aside to cool completely.

For the Almond Crunch:

Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Set aside.

In a tall-sided saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, combine the honey, sugar, and enough water to moisten the sugar (a few tablespoons). Heat over medium high to dissolve the sugar, continue to cook until mixture boils, becomes golden, and reaches about 300˚F. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the salt and baking soda — warning, the candy will bubble up and expand quite a bit once the soda is added — followed by the almonds, stir to coat. Spread the candied almond mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and allow to cool. Once cooled and brittle, break the almond crunch into pieces with a rolling pin or mallet.

For the Frozen Yogurt:

*As instructed by Jeni, I strained regular yogurt for this. I used a 2 pound container of regular, whole milk yogurt in a cheesecloth-covered mesh sieve set over a bowl in the refrigerator overnight. I’m thinking you could use greek yogurt, though I have not tested it. I think that if you used a lower fat yogurt, the texture of the finished yogurt may be a bit more icy.

In a small bowl whisk together the cornstarch and about 1/4 cup of the milk. Set aside. Place the yogurt into a large, heatproof bowl. Prepare an ice bath in a clean sink basin or large bowl.

Combine the rest of the milk with the cream in a saucepan with the sugar and honey. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook for a few more minutes, whisking or stirring, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk the hot milk mixture into the yogurt to blend. Stir the mixture over the ice bath until cooled — or alternatively, pour the mixture into a gallon freezer bag, zip the top, and place in the ice bath to cool. Once cooled, pour the yogurt base into the basin of an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Once churned, scrape about 1/4 of the yogurt mixture into a freezer container, drizzle however much apricot swirl you want (a few tablespoons), followed by some of the almond crunch. Repeat with the remaining  yogurt/swirl/almond crunch so you have several layers of yogurt, swirl, and crunchy bits. Cover and freeze at least 4 hours or until solid. [/recipe]

Maple-Pumpkin Granola

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Sometimes, when stressed and trying not to eat a whole pizza worth of feelings, I turn to something crunchy. It’s just so dang satisfying and if I’m going to eat my feelings, my jaw should have to work a little for it.

Enter granola. I tend to make it pretty healthful–reaching for honey or maple in place of plain sugar, and filling it with plenty of seeds and nuts for texture and interest. Granola can be as plain-jane as you want it or as crazy as you’d like–it’s versatile that way. This batch is flavored with lots of maple for sweetness and fragrance, olive oil encourages maximum crunchiness, pumpkin makes a subtle earthy appearance, warm spices and toasty nuts + seeds add depth, thick-rolled oats add great chewy-crunchy texture. This granola makes a great pair sprinkled over yogurt or swimming in a bowl of milk. It’s also great, out of hand, for crunching through some stress.

Maple-Pumpkin Granola

Adapted from this recipe. 

I use Bob’s Red Mill Thick Rolled Oats here, which I find at any supermarket in the natural foods section. I like the more substantial chew of these particular oats, but any brand you like works just as well. The pumpkin isn’t front-and-center in this recipe, it’s mostly a background flavor, as the puree softens the oats and works against that crunchy texture so beloved in granola. Also, I added a variety of seeds and nuts–I usually just add whatever is left over from other recipes–feel free to switch them up or omit as desired. 

3 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

3 Tablespoons flax seeds

3 Tablespoons sesame seeds

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 Tablespoons plain pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 325*F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl combine oats, nuts, coconut, seeds, salt, and spices. In a large measuring cup whisk together maple, oil, vanilla, and pumpkin. Pour the maple-pumpkin mixture over the oats mixture and stir to coat well. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet in an even layer and bake 15 minutes, stir, and continue to bake in 10-15 minutes intervals, stirring well between each, until the granola is uniformly golden and no longer moist. The granola will crisp a bit more as it cools. Store completely cooled granola in airtight containers for  1-2 weeks.