May 16, 2012

Spiced Pumpkin Blondies

     With as much cooking as I do, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I love cookbooks.  I like to admire the pictures (and imagine how successful my blog might be if I had access to their photographers,) I like to look for interesting flavor combinations that I can work into other dishes.  I like to do lots of things with cookbooks.  I just don't like to cook with them. 

     That isn't to say that I don't use recipes out of cookbooks--I do.  I just don't like having the book in my kitchen, inviting splatters.  Well--that's a lie as well.  I think splatters on a cookbook makes a cook look accomplished.  My Joy of Cooking has bits of cookie dough on it from over a decade ago, and every time I look at it I get a sense of just how far I have come.  What I dislike is the organization.  Recipes tend to list ingredients, and then explain how to use them, which is fine when you are trying to imagine the dish, but not so handy when you are trying to cook it. 

     What I do, whenever I am working on something that I don't have memorized, is cook from a flow chart.  That way, if I forget an ingredient or a step and I'm in a hurry I don't have to dig through a bunch of filler text to find out exactly what needs to happen next.  I group ingredients and steps together on lined paper, then toss it all away when I am done cooking. 
This helps keep me on track.
     The most recent use of this method was for some Spiced Pumpkin Blondies I made to take to work, or what regular readers of the blog would know as a troll toll--the junk food I allow coworkers to steal from me. 

     After spraying a 9x13 pan with cooking spray, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

     As is typical with a lot of baking, I assembled my wet ingredients in one bowl, and the dry ones in another.  For the wet, use a can of pumpkin (the big one, 15.5 oz.,) 4 eggs, 1 C. vegetable oil, 2 t. vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups each of brown and granulated sugar, then stir it up until it begins to look like pumpkin pie filling. 

     In a second bowl, mix 3 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 t. salt, 1 t. ea. cinnamon and nutmeg, 1/2 t. clove, and 1/4 t. of ginger.  When it came to the spices, I made sure each spoon was heaping.  I wanted to make sure these guys had a lot of flavor, since I'd be eating them for an entire week.  You can keep a lighter touch if you prefer, but even with the added bump, I didn't think mine came out overly spiced.

     Once I had my dry and wet ingredients assembled, it was time to combine them.  I did this by pouring the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture a cup at a time, whisking to completely break up the flour and ensure that the spices would be evenly distributed throughout the batter.  Now, this recipe isn't very different from your standard pumpkin bread recipe, but a key element here is a lack of leavener.  I made a point to omit baking soda/powder from my pumpkin blondies because I wanted them to be as dense as possible. 
    After blending my ingredients, it wass almost time to transfer them to the greased pan, but not quite.  I really wanted these to have something extra to distinguish them from dried out pumpkin bread, something that lent character to both the taste and texture of my dessert.  The answer was sour cream.  Mix in half a cup right before scraping everything into the pan.  That's it, really.  Forty-five minutes was just enough time to leave a knife clean when placed in the center of the blondies, yet allow them to come out perfectly moist.  I really like desserts like this to retain their quality as long as possible, so as soon as they were cool I cut them and transferred them to an air tight container which I refrigerated.  Eating them cold isn't necessary, but it is better.

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