Friday, October 30, 2009

RECIPE : pumpkin cupcakes

We are getting in to the spirit of Halloween here, and carved some jack o lanterns which we'll light on Saturday night. We're not sure whether we'll get any trick or treaters since we're in an apartment complex. I'm hoping we do. We have some chocolates ready just in case... (and if not, well, I guess it's all for us. A win-win situation really).

Anyway, with a big bowl full of good pumpkin flesh scraped out, I thought I'd make something tasty, and found this nice recipe. I'm not sure about the canned solid-pack pumpkin... I've not seen this before, and not sure why it even exists. It sounds like something Sandra Lee would use in one of her 'semi-homemade' recipes, even with stacks of pumpkins around like there are now. Yes, we think 'half-baked' is a more accurate description of her 'cooking'. Anyway, I microwaved/steamed the flesh with a little water, and mashed it to use in this.

Recipe adapted from Honey & Jam (which was adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 17-18 cupcakes (I made a half batch, which was enough for about 36 mini cupcakes)

1 stick (approx 115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 cups cake flour*

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger
 (I didn't have any, but grated in a little fresh ginger when adding the pumpkin)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

* I hadn't heard of cake flour before, but looked it up and found a substitute recipe here. The cornflour with plain flour seemed to work out fine.

Two 8-ounce packages (approx 455g) cream cheese, softened

1 stick (approx 115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups pure icing sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

So, for a half batch of the cupcake mix, I made about a quarter batch of this icing. I hardly measure anything when making icing anyway, just throw it all in! Inspired by this Jamie recipe, I decided to add some lemon zest instead of the maple syrup, and a dash of milk.

Make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with liners.
In a stand mixer (or by hand with a wooden spoon like I did!), beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
Add the eggs one at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter in to the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full.
Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.

Make the icing:

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. If you are doing this by hand, I'd recommend beating the cream cheese and butter together first, to soften. Then, sift in the icing sugar bit by bit, to avoid lumps.

Enjoy! They are quite delicious. I'm off to make pumpkin scones and soup for dinner.

Monday, October 19, 2009

it's been a while...

and it feels like there's lots to catch up on. Time is just flying over here, it seems like the weeks are over before you know it, and the weekends come and go so quickly. Hard to believe we left nearly three months ago already.

A couple of weeks ago, we headed down towards the Gulf of Mexico, to a town called Cocodrie. Jon and a couple of others from the lab organised a five-day work trip based at research centre called Lumcon. The trip there took about two and a half hours. We had to drive almost to New Orleans, then down through a place called Houma. Lumcon was about 40 minutes from there. The last part of the drive was most interesting, as we started seeing more and more water, and houses only metres away (gators in the backyard anyone?!). We were amazed at how flat it was – the water met the land at practically the same level, so a little bit of rain would mean a little bit of flooding, but I'm pretty sure they get a LOT of rain... Most houses were on stilts. It was quite a strange place, different from anywhere we've been before.

Not long after we arrived, we went out fishing with two researchers from Lumcon. It was quite a calm, clear day, really nice conditions (but no fish). Jon and the others went out each day over the next few days, and worked in the lab, while I stayed behind and read, or took photos. We went out for dinner one night and spent a few hours one day at Coco Marina getting Red drum samples from charter boats while they were being cleaned up. It was a good trip, but we were also happy to get back to our apartment (and away from the swarming mosquitoes).

Last weekend, we had our first tailgating experience and it was utter madness! The LSU Tigers (no. 4 team) were playing the Florida Gators (no. 1 team). We knew it would be crazy and crowded, but thought if we were going to see what tailgating was like, this was the week to do it! It actually started Friday night (day before the game). We went to campus for a get together at around 6pm and already the cars and RVs had started to arrive. We got to campus at about 11am on the day, and drove around for ages looking for somewhere to park. We ended up about 20 minutes walk from campus because all carparks and nearby streets were absolutely packed. I'm not sure whether I am explaining this very well though. It was much worse than trying to find a park around Christmas time at Chadstone shopping centre – does this help?

After lunch (hot dogs of course), we went for a walk around campus and the 'RV village'. Our idea of tailgating was probably a bit old school compared to what it is. People set up their tents (like mini marquees) and RVs with BBQs and loads of food, seating, flat screen TVs and sound systems. We actually found out that people pay up to $5000 per season to park their RVs on campus near the stadium. Often people don't actually go to the game, they just come to tailgate. We left at about 6pm and got home in time to watch the game (Tigers lost 13-3). It was a fun, but quite exhausting day.

This weekend was pretty quiet, mainly spent grocery shopping. We went for a drive over to Tony's Seafood, where we picked up some fish (for tacos) and prawns for a boil tonight, yum!

I've maxed-out our Flickr recently with heaps of new photos, starting with this one of my groovy bike, and lots from our Lumcon trip. Will post the tailgating photos soon. I've also set up a twitter account. I'm finding I'm not so good at sitting down to write posts (as the date of the last post would show), so we'll be able to upload shorter 'tweets' more often, here.

Y'all take care, until next time :)