Fall is my favorite time of year and these cupcakes are just what I need to get in the mood. The shadows are lengthening and out here in San Francisco, the air is more humid than usual and it’s warmer. When I lived on the East Coast, the arrival of Fall was all about feeling a cold nip in the air. Here in San Francisco where the summers are freezing, it’s quite the opposite. The weather heats up as the leaves are turning brown.
Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line cupcake tray (24) with paper liners.
In a standing mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on high speed until fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix at a medium speed until well blended.
In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to wet, alternating with the milk, until all are incorporated. Add pumpkin puree and mix well.
Fill cupcakes two-thirds full and bake for 18 – 22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let stand for a couple of minutes. Then remove from muffin tin and let cool completely.
To make the frosting:
Let the cream cheese and butter soften before creaming them together on high speed with a mixer. Cream in the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth and light. Chill in the fridge overnight (or at least for a few hours) to let it set.
Spread on cupcakes and garnish with a pinch of cinnamon.
Day 27 of 31 days of pumpkin and I have to say this recipe is a real highlight. How could it not be? I’ve taken a layman’s stab at a recipe in Claire Clark’s stunning book, Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts.
Who is Claire Clark, you ask? Why, she is simply one of the world’s greatest pastry chefs. Back in London after spending 4 years as head pastry chef of The French Laundry in Yountville, CA, she’s currently working on a project of her own which is set to open in the Spring 2010. Indulge is an amazing book, as is the French Laundry Cookbook itself.
The granola on top of the custard is literally one of the best tasting things I’ve ever put in my mouth and I’ve eaten at The French Laundry. Twice. That I can make this at home anytime I want is a true revelation. Now I’m thinking I should do a mega marathon, like cook through her entire book of 100 recipes in a year or something. Oh wait. That’s been done already.
I read in the French Laundry Cookbook that Thomas Keller dictates that a liquid in his kitchen should never pass from one pot to another without first passing through a sieve. Claire Clark’s recipe reminded me of that today and the pumpkin custard passes through a sieve TWICE. I love it. It really makes a difference and is something I want to do more in my everyday cooking life.
Spice Pumpkin Custard with Orange-Infused Granola Serves 6
This is my simplified version of Claire Clark’s recipe. She of course, uses real pumpkin in her version and has you boil it in milk and use some of the reserved milk. Yum. She also reports all of her measurements by weight. I’ve converted many of them here to volume measurements for ease of use, in case you don’t have a kitchen scale (I do and I was so happy to have it today). If you want the real Claire Clark recipe, you’ll have to buy the book.
Ingredients for the Custard
1/2 cup milk
13 oz canned puréed pumpkin
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 medium eggs
2 1/4 oz caster sugar
1 1/4 oz dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Ingredients for the granola
1/2 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 oz dessicated coconut
3 oz pecan nuts, roughly chopped
3 oz slivered almonds
4.5 oz large rolled oats
2 Tbsp canola oil
grated zest of 2 oranges
Method for the Granola
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Put the sugar in a large pan with the honey, maple syrup, butter, and vanilla extract and bring slowly to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. I started out on very low heat, and as everything melted and dissolved, I increased it to medium-low heat.
2. Remove from the heat and add the coconut, pecan nuts, almonds and the oats. Mix well, and then quickly stir in the canola oil and orange zest. Work fast because the sugar starts to harden pretty quickly.
3. Turn out onto a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray (or covered with a nonstick baking mat) and spread out evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown, turning frequently to ensure even coloring. Remove from the oven and, as the granola cools, break it up into pieces. After it cools, store the granola in an airtight container.
Method for the Custard
1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F and bring water to boil in a teakettle. In a large saucepan, whisk together the cream, eggs, and milk. Warm it up over very low heat. While it is warming, add the pumpkin purée by passing the canned pumpkin through a sieve on its way into the mixture. Then add the caster sugar, brown sugar, all of the spices and mix well. Stir over very low heat until sugars are dissolved. You’re only heating it to help the sugars dissolve. Remove from heat and whisk in the melted butter. Pass the mixture through a sieve again.
2. Divide evenly among 6 ramekins and lay them in a roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven and then pour near boiling water into the pan until it reaches about 1/2 of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set. The tops should spring back when you press lightly on them. Remove the dishes from the roasting pan and let cool, then transfer them to the refrigerator where they should chill completely. Serve with the granola sprinkled on top.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 pinch ground cloves
1 generous pinch fresh ground nutmeg
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) melted unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup finely diced apples
1 cup pomegranate arils
1. Mix all of the dry ingredients. Stamp the mixture with a whisk to break apart any brown sugar clumps.
2. Melt the butter by placing it in a microwave-safe ramekin and microwaving it for about 30-40 seconds. Mix the melted butter with the applesauce to cool it down. Beat the eggs and milk together. Beat the applesauce/butter mixture into the egg/milk mixture.