Sunday, October 9, 2016

Holiday Soiree: Autumn Celebration

I'm back with a new project! I have been researching holidays around the world and have found a lot to share with you all! I don't have one for every week, so in those weeks, I will work on other food-related things that I haven't had time to work on. I hope to have a similar structure to my previous projects, where I talk about the history of the holiday and/or the food I am preparing. Next week, there is no holiday either, so I will be focusing on Halloween for a couple weeks, but generally, I will only spend one week per holiday. Some weeks might have a single dish, and some weeks might have an entire meal. It just depends on how much time I have to put into it.

Last night, I made two desserts. I had fun picking out the recipes from my seasonal recipe card box. The first recipe is titled "Pumpkin and Walnut Spoon Sweet". I thought it was a fun name, so I had to try it out. I wasn't sure what it was going to be exactly, but it's basically stewed pumpkin. The second recipe is "Best Apple Custard Tart" and it was a pretty complicated recipe that took two recipe cards to write out. I wanted a challenge, so I took it! Luckily, I won!

Pumpkin and Walnut Spoon Sweet
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 (2lb.) pumpkin, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup sugar (I cut this down to about 2 Tbsp. and found it to be perfectly sweet. The full amount of sugar would probably hurt your teeth!)
Zest of one lemon, cut in long strips
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on baking sheet, and bake 5-7 minutes, or until toasted and fragrant. Cool. (If you are confident enough, you can toast them in a frying pan on the stove, but if that sounds too intimidating, just use the above method.)
2.) Combine remaining ingredients plus 2 cups water in a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 1 hour, or until pumpkin is tender. Raise heat to medium-high, and cook 10 minutes more, or until almost all liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat, and cool. Discard zest, cinnamon, and cloves, and serve sprinkled with toasted nuts.
6 servings 184 calories, 6 g fat, 1 g fiber

This smells so good! It really smells like Thanksgiving. I wasn't sure what stewed pumpkin would taste like. The flavor was actually pretty good, but the texture was odd to me. Maybe I'm just not big on squash, but I didn't care for the texture. A couple of tips when you are done cooking this: Remember how many strips of lemon zest you put in, because it will be difficult to find them again. The color is nearly the same as the pumpkin and the zest bunches up and doesn't stay in long strips. You do not want to accidentally bite into one of those! Also, the cloves seem to come apart a bit, so make sure to dig through and pull out all the different bits you find before eating. Again, you don't want a big bite of a whole clove either!

I'm not sure I would make this one again. If you like the texture of pumpkin, then this is a great recipe showcasing it. The smell is amazing. You can't help but be happy. But other than that, I think I'll just eat my pumpkin in pie form...

Best Apple Custard Tart
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1" pieces
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 egg white
1 tsp. lemon zest
3 med. Pink Lady or Fuji apples (I used honeycrisps because that's what I had on hand.)
1 cup apple cider (I used apple juice)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (I used lemon juice)
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar (I used the full amount. Because this is for the custard, you can't really mess with this.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 Tbsp. butter

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line the bottom of a two-piece, 10" springform pan with a circle of parchment or spray it with cooking spray.
2.)Make pastry: Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl, stir with a fork. Cut in the butter with two forks or a pastry cutter until the pieces resemble peas. Add the egg white and the lemon zest and mix until it just comes together. (It will seem really dry at this point. Resist the urge to add water.) Gently knead in the bowl for about a minute, just until the dough comes together and holds it's shape.
3.) On a floured surface, roll the pastry dough into a 10"circle and put in the springform pan. (This dough is actually really wet and crumbly. I found it incredibly hard to work with. I suppose I could have tried adding more flour to it, but I didn't think of that at the time. If yours is wet too, I would recommend rolling it on wax paper and using that to transport it. Mine fell apart and I basically pieced it back together in the pan. This was really hard and frustrating to do, especially for the sides.)
Line the pastry with parchment or foil and fill it with rice or beans. Bake the pastry until the edges are lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Remove the parchment with the rice or beans and bake until the center of the crust is dry and just beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes more.
4.) While the crust is baking and cooling, poach the apples and make the filling. Start by poaching the apples. Peel and core the apples and cut each of them into 1/8ths. If some of them are very big, cut them into uniform pieces to match the smaller ones. Put them in a large saucepan on the stove and pour over the apple cider and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat until the cider is boiling, then reduce heat to low and simmer just until apples are tender, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the apples to a large plate and allow them to cool while making the custard with the poaching liquid.
5.)To make the custard, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, the sugar, and the cornstarch in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Whisk in about half of the simmering cider(this is called tempering and you do it to keep the eggs from curdling when you add it to the hot liquid on the stove), then transfer the tempered egg mixture to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is boiling vigorously. (You will want a large whisk for this. It will get really frothy for a while and look like it's not doing anything. Be patient. Then all of a sudden, it will start to get chunky and you will be worried that you did curdle the eggs after all. This is when you'll want to whisk it as vigorously as you possibly can and remove it from the heat. What is actually happening is the cornstarch blooming all at once. It's kind of scary if you don't know it's supposed to happen, but don't panic. In the end, it will resemble the custard filling in a doughnut.)
Transfer the cooked custard back to the mixing bowl, whisk in the butter, and let it cool for 15 minutes or so. (I was so freaked out from how the custard sort of exploded into custard at the last minute and realizing I hadn't ruined it, that I forgot to add the butter. I have no idea what it would be like with the butter, but I'm sure it would be lovely!)
6.) When the tart shell has cooled completely, fill it with the apple custard and arrange the poached apple slices over the surface.
(I found the color to be a bit monochromatic, so I sprinkled cinnamon on top just for some contrast.)
Serve it at room temperature or chilled
The tart is really sweet, but it's mostly the fruit that makes it sweet. It's very apple-y too. I loved the tart crust. It's lovely with the lemon zest and I have never heard of making it with the egg white like that, but it worked really well. I think I might have cooked the apples a few minutes longer if I had to do it over again, because some of them were a little crisper than I wanted them to be.

This one is complex. I won't lie. It's intimidating and I am probably a moderate when it comes to baking, not a beginner. If you want a challenge, this is a great one to try out. It's really tasty!

If you try out either of these, let me know. I'd love to hear how they turned out for you!
Ok, that's it for me this week, we'll see what I come up with for next week. Until then!


  1. I do like squash in general, so may try the spoon sweet! Welcome back. :-)