Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread & Chocolate Butter

Oh my god. Chocolate butter. It’s the only phrase I can think of to describe tonight’s concoction of about six ounces of heavy whipping cream with Godiva hot cocoa mix stirred into it. Because, you know, Godiva is a brand of chocolate, and–you’ll remember–butter is just cream all whipped up. It was Husband’s fault. I was pretty pissed at him originally because he wastes what I consider a lot of sugar fats trying to cobble together obnoxious and disgusting desserts right before dinner (like pouring brandy over ice cream) but when I saw this…

When I saw this…

I didn’t realize, however, that he’d made it with a few tablespoons stirred into mostly the cocoa powder; I wasn’t watching him. I went the opposite way. I saw that there just wasn’t that much cream left in the carton, so I poured it into a juice glass. It filled the juice glass higher than I was expecting, but I had to add a lot of cocoa to it and maxed it out. I moved the whole thing to a water glass (dirtying two glasses, which happened again later in the evening) and just kept adding and stirring until it had all the richness of dark chocolate and butter and the consistency of a creamy mousse. This is evil. Three heaping teaspoonfuls made me sick to my stomach. Little Fella got a few tablespoons for dessert in Nested Bowl #2 of 10 (see below). There is still half the glass sitting in the refrigerator, waiting for my stomach to stop roiling and my teeth to stop hurting so I can have a few more spoonfuls. You know that dessert where you spread the tub frosting on a graham cracker and add sprinkles? This was better (although it lacked the colors and textures of my old college staple). I’m already wishing I had some kind of brioche for breakfast to spread this on. Best of all it’s trans-fat free!

Ten Sizes for All Your Tempered Glass Needs

Ten Sizes for All Your Tempered Glass Needs

You may wonder now why I had heavy whipping cream in the house, and only six ounces left of it at that. We do not churn our own butter, if you are wondering. I’d bought it a few days ago for a creme brulee mix that I’d picked up at the grocery store because the picture showed the dessert served in ramekins. I love ramekins!

It’s an adorable name for a dish that contains such yummy things, and who doesn’t love a dish that can go from the oven to the microwave to the dishwasher? I’d bought four at Target for $2 (I should have bought eight) and they’d been staring at me from my cupboard. So Dr. Oetker Classic Creme Brulee (A Product of Canada) found its way into my shopping cart.

For a dessert that you just add milk and cream to, and boil for a few minutes before letting it sit, and then popping under the broiler in cheap but elegant ramekins, I can recommend nothing better. Nothing. I prepared it sloppily, however. I failed to stir constantly (it wasn’t my fault–BFF and Husband were standing in the kitchen and we were all gabbing and drinking), and I served them too hot. You’re supposed to sprinkle this sugar crystal stuff over the top to get the shell, and it worked well enough, but although I had the broiler setting on I’d failed to raise the oven rack (again, the gabbing and drinking), so the custards were heating up but the sugar wasn’t melting. I had the bright idea I’d just move the rack and attendant ramekins up while the oven was on, and that went OK, but then the sugar got too hot (having been pre-heated) and scorched. Too bad. A better chef than me would have had on hand a personal blow torch, but the box said broiler so broiler it is. Give me credit for the ramekins, people. Those are specialty items, too.

So now I know better. I found this product in the instant pudding aisle (where the cake mixes and frosting tubs are, too) on the very top shelf. There were a couple different brands of instant flan that I saw, including one by the same manufacturer, but I haven’t made those yet. The box makes eight servings, and I just don’t have the entertaining scheduled to make it worth it.

So this brings us to the main part of our program–the entree, as it were, of tonight’s events. Not the pork loins that I bought pre-marinated because they were close to the expiration date and on sale two packs for one. Those I just put in a baking pan and baked for 45 minutes. I didn’t do any fancy pre-searing with the omelet pan (yep! still skilletless!) and then pop the whole contraption into the oven. This time, I just risked it. The recipe I used as a guide (just for cooking times) said thirty minutes per side, but I have learned my lesson. Thirty minutes in, check with a meat thermometer, fifteen minutes more, check again, stop one degree short of the target, and let them finish stewing in their own juices out of the oven. You know what? They tasted really good. I didn’t dry them out at all! This is a huge milestone for me and I can’t even really write about it because they came seasoned and it was no effort at all. I even served it with frozen green beans. How lazy is that? I did steam them first.

So after dinner I start thinking about how were carving our pumpkin tomorrow and how it would be nice to serve something sweet with it, and how there are two giant cans of pumpkin squish in the cupboard taking up a lot of space that actually expire in a few months (I’ve been meaning to make pumpkin soup out of them for a good year or more now), so I went looking for a pumpkin bread recipe that used canned pumpkin and not fresh (because I am not in the mood this lifetime to cook down my own pumpkins, especially when the cans of pumpkins don’t have any salt, sugar, or preservatives added). This Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread recipe listed on AllRecipes.com by Laurie Bennett was the first hit. I checked it out. 1,900 reviews and a five-star rating. Dude. Those numbers are good. With a pool that big, do you realize how many hundreds of people have to give it a five-star rating to keep that fifth star from turning halfsie? I was quite excited.

Long Story Short: Awesome. Easy, tasty, fragrant, beautiful color. Oh my god, this was good.

Long Story Longer: So I only had giant cans of pumpkins and not the fifteen-ounce can called for. No problem, right? I’ll double the recipe. I actually had like 18 eggs in the house, so using eight at once has hardly made a dent in the tray. Seven cups of flour was a little cumbersome, but I planned ahead and chose Nested Bowl #10 of 10 (see above). It got very full, but I was careful, so stirring in the spices to the big pile of sifted flour that towered above the rim was merely an exercise in patience and not an episode for the dustbuster. I was going to use my eight-cup Tupperware pitcher/measuring thing with the spout, and went so far as to empty thirty ounces of pumpkin mix into it, but when I saw how much flour I had I knew there was no way I was going to be able to add it to the liquids in that container. So I reluctantly got my big silver mixing bowl that I really try only to use for popcorn. I scraped the pumpkin into it, and then added eight eggs, and then two cups of oil, and then a cup and a third of water, and then six cups of sugar, and filled the damn thing to the brim. Once again, I was able to carefully mix it (with an electric mixer) without spilling it, but I had to find yet another container to pour it in so I could add the flour. I ended up using my tall, twelve-quart, HEAVY stew pot. Such a pain. I can hardly see into it when it is on my countertop, and my forearms got all sticky trying to stir the flour in, and it was a bitch to get the batter out and into the pans. I ended up getting a cereal bowl.

Another slight hitch: The recipe calls for three 7×3 loaf pans. I have two 9×5 loaf pans and a third slightly smaller. I read some of the comments and reviews for the recipe and some people made do with the 9x5s so I went for it, expecting to fill all three and still have muffins. I filled two pans and had only enough batter for six muffins. Now I started questioning my ability to do math, but now my arms are far too sticky to allow mental computations and I decided to ignore the mismatch. Turns out I way overfilled the loaf pans. By way overfilled I mean WAY. In hindsight it seems perfectly obvious that four eggs and a teaspoon of baking soda per pan would puff this mofos up, but culinary foresight is not something I have yet.

On the Muffins: I put the muffins in those Reynolds Free Standing Baking Cups or whatever the fuck they’re called (I’ve linked to them twice now and I’ll be damned if I go try to find it) but I know how to use them correctly. Wax paper in the aluminum, bake, fine. The muffins cooked to perfection in thirty minutes. Amazing. They are so pretty in the silver cups with the rounded tops, just slightly breaking apart like bread does.

The loaves took more than an hour to cook, perhaps an hour and a half. I’m not really sure; after the first 50 minutes were up I kept setting the timer for ten minutes at a time. Obviously, the larger pans were a factor, but so was the height of the loaf. At 50 minutes the tops had risen so high that they were getting burned. I moved the rack down to the lowest setting, but then I cut the burnt tops off the loaves and put them back in. The middle of the bread was still quite gooey in both pans, and rose high again as they baked. You might think it’s odd that the top edges of these loaves are pretty dark while the center is golden, but the shape looks almost like normal bread. You certainly wouldn’t guess that I had detated the capas.

On the Ingredients: Each recipe reviewer made some remark about an alteration to the recipe, so I was inspired to change it myself. I added two teaspoons of vanilla to the doubled recipe, and instead of six cups of white sugar I used four cups of white and two cups of brown (because I didn’t want to use up all the white sugar I had in the house). The bread’s spices include two that aren’t my favorite: nutmeg and cloves, and I thought the batter was a little smelly for it. But they bake together wonderfully, and my big fear that it would taste like a spice cake was unfounded. It’s actually very vaguely on the spicy side. It almost hits you after you swallow it. (I ate some of the loaf tops that I’d cut off.) I think that’s the ginger–there’s not enought cinnamon, I don’t think, to be spicy. I really like the combination and it’s one I never, ever would have used on my own.

On the Wine: Well, yeah, I was drinking this whole time. It was a Woodbridge (By Robert Mondavi) Merlot, 2006 and it’s kind of grape juicy. Yeah, yeah, I know wines are made from grapes, but this was too light or two sweet or something. I choked down two glasses of it but i wouldn’t buy it again. I’d drink it again if it were served to me because, well, the antioxidants, but it’s one to skip (says my unrefined palate).

Highlights:

Grinding whole cloves in the coffee grinder because I don’t have a little mortar and pestle or a jar of pre-ground cloves. The smell was nice and the clove explosion exciting. Plus it’s always fun to use a gadget.

Watching Nesting Bowl #7 of 10 slide off the dish rack, bounce of the tile counter, and clatter to the tile floor, and then picking it up, rinsing it off, and rearranging the dish rack so it doesn’t fall off again. It scared the crap out of the cat, and I don’t want to wake up to it in the even deader of night (why am I still up?). Nary a ding or chip. God Bless Tempered Glass!

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