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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Give thanks for Pumpkin Spice

'Tis the Season everyone! The season for what? Well, pumpkin spice of course! Now, aren't you just sick to death of all of the pumpkin spice? I mean, what -- it starts out on September 30th at 11:59 pm and then it's everywhere!  In your coffee -- check.  In your bread -- check.  In your Oreos?? Yup, there too.  Jeez, don't you think it's overkill??


ME NEITHER!!!! 😁😁😁

Hahahaha, what can I say, I love pumpkin spice -- which interestingly isn't even really a pumpkin flavor, but more of a cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, amalgamation of amazingness.

So for those of you, like me, who aim to cram this ubiquitous spice into everything possible, here's one of my favorite creations.

Pumpkin cake? Pshaw.

Pumpkin bread? Amateur hour.

Pumpkin Pie?  Come on -- think outside the box!! We're going to do a pumpkin cream puffs  -- in a wreath to make it even better -- and just in time for Thanksgiving.  Check it out -- and then try it out!

The most important thing about this dish is TIME.  It needs to be constructed in stages.  I can almost see some of you rolling your eyes already.  But wait -- this is a GOOD thing.  Because, for the most part, you can leave the oven alone on Thanksgiving day itself.  You know, to dedicate its efforts to the star of the night -- the turkey.  (Okay, come on, who am I kidding -- obviously this is going to be the star of the night.)  The first time I did this, I tried to do everything on one day.  I've been blessed with a double oven, which tends to give me a false impression of invincibility.  And that always gets me in the end.

So from then on, I split this recipe into 4 stages.  Marzipan fruit MUST be made in advance.  Again, I tried to do this the day of the first time, and wow -- what  a mistake.  Marzipan is a sticky dough, and after decorating with food color it becomes straight out wet.  Suffice it to say, the first time involved a lot of stress, down-right panic, a blow-dryer, and that God-sent double oven, and the paste still didn't dry properly.  Holidays are stressful enough -- make this at least a day, but preferably a weekend, in advance.

If you give yourself enough time, this is actually a lot of fun.  Kroger sells Marzipan in little 4 oz containers.  One is plenty for what you need to do.  Just like working with fondant, this really brings out your inner child.  (Flash-backs to play-doh, anyone?)

First make the shapes -- we're going to do a fruit wreath, so let's plan on mini- apples, pears, and pumpkins/squash.

To make the apples, roll out a small ball of dough and then softly "square" the sides with  your thumb and index finger. For the pumpkins, apply more pressure to the tops and bottoms, so they look more like a squashed ball (kind of like a pumpkin.) Using the flat end of a toothpick, carve lines from the top to the bottom.  Not too sharp, more like embossing onto the dough. For the pears, pinch the top of the ball and smooth so you have an elongated teardrop shape.  Push the ball of a clove into the top of each fruit so the stick is sticking out.

Set out four prep bowls.  Using a tablespoon of water or so as a base in each bowl, drop green color into the first bowl, red into the second,  yellow into the third, and a 3/1 mix of yellow to red in the fourth to make orange.  If you like bolder colors, lessen the water, and increase the food color. (Make sure you're using water based food coloring.)

Paint the fruit.  I don't think I need to spell this out, but green for the apples, yellow for the pears, orange for the pumpkins.  Then -- paint the apples again with some yellow and dab a little bit of red onto the side of all of the fruit to give them a little more depth.  Dry on parchment paper until no longer sticky, at least 24 hours. These can be stored for 2 weeks at room temp or frozen for up to 3 months.

Making the cream puff choux pastry and almond cookies is the flexible stage.  It can be done whenever you want, starting from a month in advance, all the way up to the morning before Thanksgiving.  (I advise making it waaaaayyy in advance -- as long as you're not tempted to eat the cream puffs before the holiday -- it can be tempting, I warn you.)

Puffs should be baked the night before Thanksgiving.  It will take no more than an hour, tops -- and most of that time is in the oven, so you're free to do whatever else needs done.  If you're like me -- this involves frantically searching for a place open late to buy more linen napkins.  (Because where do those go?? It's like my sock monster decided to develop more expensive taste for the holidays and attack the serving linens.) Now, I've published so many posts based off of cream puffs, that I'm going to skip all of the stuff about actually making the puffs. If you want a step by step tutorial, check out my Facebook video.

Slice a small hole at the bottom of each puff and set aside until a couple of hours before you're expecting guests.  Then fill with your lovely pumpkin spice pastry filling. What is that? Well, I'm so glad you asked -- because this is my fail-proof, go-to cream puff filling. Ready?

Whip 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 tsp vanilla extract until stiff.  While that's going, make 2 packets of vanilla Jello Instant Pudding (with whole milk.)  Fold the two together.  And to make it pumpkin spice perfection, just add 2 tsp of pumpkin spice seasoning into the heavy cream while whipping. 

For our purposes, you will need 24 baked and filled puffs.  Make sure you have a platter that's large enough.  I used a __ in round white porcelain and it worked beautifully.

Arrange the puffs in a ring, two deep.  Melt chocolate in a pastry bag and then drop into another pastry bag prepped with a small star tip. Pipe large irregular continuous circles around the top of the puffs so it looks like intertwined grapevine.  Then cluster the fruit along one corner of the wreath.  You can adhere the fruit to the wreath with melted chocolate, or melted sugar -- your choice.

And there you go -- so much better than that tired old pumpkin pie, right??