Pumpkin Butter–Mantequilla de Zapallo

Are you sick of me yet?  I know, right!  When I am I going to get over fall?  But, seriously.  How could you not look at this and think anything negative or ill-willed toward something so lovely.  I found this by accident and thought maybe I would be inventing something when I typed in the words, “pumpkin butter.”  Que sorpresa! It actually exists!

There are some things about having The Handicapped Kitchen in Peru that are an advantage.  One of those things would be that there is pumpkin all year long.  The word for pumpkin in Spanish is calabaza, but calabaza here refers mostly to anything in the squash family (even zucchini which is Italian squash if you translate it literally).  The closest thing that we could find here in Peru that’s verdaderamente pumpkin is something called zapallo.  It’s a really ugly looking thing, but it’s the exact consistency and color of the pumpkin I know in the States.

Regardless what the pumpkin was, this turned out delicioso.  It’s great for toast and I even read a review where it said you could put it on pancakes… I have yet to try that, but it sounds really really good.  I could even tell you that I thought about eating this stuff straight from the spoon, but that would be irrational and would only be getting half the delight by missing out on crunchy toast texture!  A mi me encanta la textura.

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Pumpkin Butter

1 can (29 oz/3 cups) pumpkin puree
1 cup apple juice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 cup sugar

I’ll tell you how easy this was to make.  I woke up and it was the first thing I did… before making myself a cup of coffee.  Yea, it’s that simple.

My handicap was that my pumpkin puree only turned out to be about half of what it should’ve been.  Simple enough, I cut the recipe in half.

Put the pumpkin puree and spices and apple juice all in a pot and bring to a boil.  This is strange because the mixture is rather thick and may not boil like you would picture a rolling boil.  Once it starts to bubble and spit, turn down the heat to let it simmer.  Let it simmer for 30 minutes.  If it starts out looking really thick and want to thin it out just add some more apple juice.  As you simmer, the mixture will turn darker and darker.

When it’s simmered 30 minutes or if it’s cooked down to the consistency you want it (keep in mind it may thicken up even as it cools) remove from the heat and spoon into sterile jars.  Put in the fridge and chill before serving.

Spread this stuff on some toast or some cookies or… whatever you can think of.  Maybe ice-cream?  Does that sound good?  Just don’t put it on Pumpkin Pie… that would be dumb.  What will you put it on?

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Chocolate Dipped Banana Cake Balls (C.D.B.C.B.)

When you fall your supposed to pull yourself up and try again, right?  And the advice goes that even if you fall again you pull yourself up again.  One, I don’t like failing.  Two, if I fail I hate repeating something I feel should’ve worked the first time.  Baking at high altitudes is a great exercise for me in this department. 

A week ago I tried making Carrot Cake Rolls.  M-mmm.  It sounds good, right?  My inspiration was the classic Pumpkin Roll.  So, I found a Carrot Cake recipe and a Pumpkin Roll recipe and combined the two.  What happened?  I got a cookie sheet full of goop that didn’t set until an hour of baking (it should have only been 15 minutes). 

“What did you want to do, Trevor?” you ask.  I wanted to take the cookie sheet and chuck it out the front door hoping to catch a passing taxi in my baking-gone-wrong rage and bust out his window.  But, instead I slopped on the cream cheese frosting (which at this point I was feeling was a waste of good cream cheese) and rolled it up.  Later, everyone told me it wasn’t very pretty but it was the best thing I had made so far.  Can you imagine how upset I was?  Argh!

So, I decided to try it again, except this time instead of using carrot I would do a banana variation.  Mashed banana is similar to pumpkin puree, so I thought it might turn out better… nope.  It was practically identical the result.  This time I even adjusted the amount of flour, sugar, and leavening crap.  It got me nowhere.  So, looking at my kitchen towel with my sad excuse of a Banana Cake Roll with cream cheese oozing out everywhere, instead of getting upset and wishing doom on the 12,000 foot high city of Puno and all it’s residents, I threw it all in a bowl and mashed it together.  This is what it became. 

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I was really happy to have them turn out and actually hand them to somebody feeling proud of what I was giving them.  Cracked and brittle Carrot or Banana Cake Rolls are just not acceptable. 

Banana Ball Base

3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup mashed banana

The Binder

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1 cup powdered sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla extract
———
1/2 cup oatmeal (if needed)

Chocolate … about 175 grams (or 6 oz) of bittersweet chocolate. 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and grease a pan… I think you could use a 9×9 pan just fine.  I used a cookie sheet, but that was when I was making a Banana Cake Roll… now you’re making C.D.B.C.B. 

Make the flour mixture by whisking together in a bowl all the dry ingredients except the sugar.  In your mixing bowl mix the eggs and sugar until thick then beat in the mashed banana.  Then stir in the flour mixture.  It’s fine if it’s still lumpy.  Then, pour into the pre-greased pan and put in the over for 15-20 minutes or until when pressed slightly with your finger the cake springs back. 

While baking prepare the cream cheese frosting.  In a mixing bowl blend together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the vanilla extract and then gradually add the powdered sugar. 

When the cake is cooked turn out, scoop out, or whatever, just get it out of the pan into a bowl and mix it together with the cream cheese frosting and also, at this point, dump in the 1/2 cup oatmeal as a further bonding agent.  If you feel the cake and cream cheese frosting will bind together fine without the oatmeal then leave it out.

Melt the 6 oz of chocolate over simmering water.  Here’s a link that can give you further advice on how to melt your chocolate correctly.  Melting Chocolate.     

Once your chocolate is ready spoon out some of the “dough” you now have and roll it into a ball with your hands.  Stick it on the end of a fork and dip it into the chocolate only covering the bottom part… if you want to cover the whole thing with chocolate you’ll just need more chocolate.  Then place on a baking sheet covered with plastic wrap.  Once you’ve got your pan full place in the freezer for a couple hours and voila!  You’ve got my mistake made delicious.

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Moravian Sugar Cake… but it’s really bread

When I moved out into my own apartment, the very first opportunity I got, I went to the Humane Society and adopted a cat.  He was perfect.  He was black and white, the classic tuxedo kitty look.  I named him Chopin after my favorite piano genius.  And I loved him very much.

All you apartment renters out there know that pets+apartments don’t always mix.  There are extra fees and papers to sign and I’m thinking, I just want a friend!  So, I decided to hide him from my apartment manager.

At the Humane Society I had to fill out paper work… a ton of it.  I understand why, but at the same time I was looking around the small place and thinking, you have cats hanging off your ceiling fan is this really humane.  The paperwork asked for my apartment’s contact number and I faked it.  The lady behind the counter asked me if I had written permission from my apartment to have a cat.  “Yup,” I said, “The manager is really relaxed and told me he really didn’t care.”  Then, horror of horrors, she looked at my paperwork and saw the contact number and asked if she could call it.  I didn’t know who she was going to call or if she was going to get a hold of anybody!

My friend, Jordan, was there with me and when the lady turned her back she started freaking out.  She called the number and it rang and she left a message saying something like, “This is Sheryl from the K*** County Humane Society and I have Trevor here who wants to adopt a cat.  If you have any questions please call us back, bla bla bla.”  Then, she hung up and turned to me and said, “I’ll let you go with the cat, but if I find out anything funny about this, I’m coming for the cat.”

Out in the car Jordan and I busted up laughing thinking about the sap who would get to listen to that message!  Who’s Trevor and why do I care that he’s adopting a cat?!

*Sigh* I just love pets.  They are such great companions.  And I’m excited to say after much bloodshed and violent warfare the family has somewhat reluctantly agree to get a dog!  Have we gotten one yet?  Nope, but we’ve got our eyes peeled.

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This is a bread that my mom used to make when we were kids.  I asked her for the recipe about four months ago, but I never got a response.  Finally, with a death threat, I got her to respond concerning the bread to find out 1.) she doesn’t have the recipe for it anymore and 2.) it’s called a cake not a bread.  Fine, it’s a cake.  But, I still think of it as a bread.

I love this cake/bread because it’s made with potatoes.  Seriously.  It makes it a very moist cake/bread, which is ballin’.  It’s also moist because evaporated milk is poured over it before putting it in the oven.  M-mm.  This is a great dessert to eat with a cup of coffee.

Moravian Sugar Cake/Bread

The Dough
1 russet baking potatoe (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp warm water
1 packet or 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour

The Topping
6 tbsp unsalted butter (cut into bits)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
A bit of evaporated milk

Making the Dough

Peel and cut up the potato into small 1 inch cubes and boil in a small pot with enough water to cover about an inch over the potatoes.  Boil that for about 10-15 minutes or until very tender.  Drain and mash those babies stirring in the 2 teaspoons of water.

In a separate small bowl proof the yeast in the 1/2 cups of water.  Let stand 5 minutes or until foamy.  In a large bowl combine the yeast mixture with the potatoes and then the butter, sugar, egg, salt, and 2 1/2 cups flour until well combined.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes adding the extra cup of flour to the dough as needed.  You will want the dough to come to a generally bread dough-ish texture, though it might still be sticky.  If you add too much flour you will have a dense cake/bread.

NOTE: I´ll tell you where I botched up, but the recipe still turned out fine!  The recipe I was reading from said 3/4 a stick of butter… which I (reading quickly) read as 3/4 cup!  I put in too much butter, but since I was at high elevation more liquid in a recipe is not a bad thing.  I had to add quite a bit more than just a 1/2 cup flour to get it to a bread dough-ish texture. So, I let it go and it was perfectly fine.  So, for your sake I changed that silliness and have plainly and easily to understand 6 tablespoons in the recipe.

Put the dough into a pre-greased bowl and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  When doubled it´s size punch down and transfer it into a pre-greased 9/13 inch pan pressing it into all the corners with greased fingers so the dough doesn´t stick to you.  Once the dough is spread evenly cover and let rise another 30 minutes.

Then, use your finger or the handle of a wooden spoon (greased) to poke holes in the dough.  Push down to the bottom of the pan and wiggle your finger or spoon handle so the hole goes all the way through.  Place the butter bits all across the bread.  In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon an sprinkle evenly over the dough.  Then, pour the evaporated milk into each of the holes you poked in the dough until each hole is fuuuuuuuull.  That´s practically one of the most magical parts of this recipe.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until it is dark brown and cooked through.  When pressed the top crust will be very firm and crunchy, but the inside will give like a soft sponge.  Just check the bottom of the pan and if it is a medium brown it´s done.

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