Pull Aparts

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I love holidays. Everything about them. I like to decorate for them. I like to wear silly themed earrings for them. I like to listen to Christmas music on repeat until I annoy everyone around me. I obviously like to bake for them. But more than anything else, I love that they mean I get to spend lots of time with my family.

This weekend, I got a full 4 days with my parents and brother, and it was awesome. As we’ve gotten older, times where we are all together are getting further and further apart. My brother goes to school in Chicago, I live in New Jersey, and my parents live in Massachusetts, so its not exactly easy for us to all get to one place. But I am never happier than when we are. We may bicker occasionally and fight over the TV, but there is no one else I would rather do those things with. My family gets me, and this Thanksgiving, I am most grateful for them.

So, it makes sense that this post is a family tradition that we’ve had for as long as I can remember: Pull Aparts on Thanksgiving morning.

Pull Aparts are the same thing as Monkey Bread, for those of you more familiar with that name, but I think better because the recipe comes from my grandmother and is wonderfully particular about a couple of things, most significantly the emphasis on walnut-sized balls of dough.

First, rinse the bowl of a stand mixer in warm water, and add the 1 3/4 cups warm water to the bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir in the sugar and salt until completely dissolved.

 

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Next, add the egg, butter, and 3 cups of flour. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth using the paddle attachment.

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Add the remaining 3 cups of flour and switch to the dough hook, beating additionally until of desired consistency. It should be together and slightly sticky.

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Brush the top of the dough with melted butter and cover the bowl with a damp towel. Alternatively, you could grease a separate bowl and put the dough in there, covering it with the damp towel.

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Put the bowl in the fridge and allow to rise at least 2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch down and return dough to the fridge to rise overnight.

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The next morning, the dough should have risen a bit more, like this:

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Preheat the oven to 350°F and melt 3/4 stick of butter, putting it in a bowl. Combine cinnamon and sugar “until it’s the right color”. I deferred to my mom on this:

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Then, set up an assembly line. Roll the dough into walnut sized pieces (see walnut in photo for reference), dip in butter, roll in cinnamon sugar, and put into baking pan.

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We have a pull apart pan that we’ve used forever, I think its about a 10 inch round cake pan with high walls, but you can really use anything. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes or “until they look done”. (That’s directly out of the recipe)

Pull apart and enjoy!

IMG_1965 Pull Aparts

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 stick butter, melted, divided
  • cinnamon and sugar for coating

Directions:

  1. Pour warm water into large bowl of electric mixer rinsed in hot water. Sprinkle yeast over water; add sugar and salt and stir until dissolved completely.
  2. Add egg, soft butter, and 3 cups flour with electric mixer at medium speed using the paddle attachment for 2 minutes or until smooth.
  3. Gradually add remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, and beat using a dough hook until dough comes together.
  4. Brush top of dough with melted butter and cover bowl with a damp towel. Allow to rise in fridge for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  5. Punch down and return to fridge overnight.
  6. Melt butter and put in bowl. Mix cinnamon and sugar to make coating and put in separate bowl. Roll dough into walnut-sized pieces, dip in butter, roll in cinnamon sugar, and place in baking dish.
  7. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes or until they look done.
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Cranberry Walnut Chocolate Brickle

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For the eighth year in a row, Yale lost The Game. That is sad.

But want to know what’s not sad? Thanksgiving being in 4 days!

I was actually in Massachusetts this weekend for the game, drove back down to New Jersey today, and will be driving back up again for Thanksgiving on Wednesday. That’s a lot of time driving through the worst state ever (95 in Connecticut is its own special form of torture – you can be cruising along, no problem, only to have to slam on your brakes, take 2 hours to drive 10 miles, and then the road will free up again with absolutely no explanation). With all of this time to think, I decided that I wanted to post a Thanksgiving recipe before Thanksgiving, thus being much more helpful for anyone who actually was browsing my blog for immediate use.

Initially, I wanted to make a Salted Chocolate Pecan Pie, thinking that there was no reason I couldn’t make a pecan pie and keep it in the fridge until Thursday, but the recipe said that it was best served same day, and I’m not one to argue with another’s recommendations. So, sticking with serious eats, I turned to another recipe that I knew would keep better, and which I’ve actually made for Thanksgiving before, though I didn’t post it here yet.

Also, as soon as I logged on to post this, I realized that last week’s recipe was chocolate and cranberry, too. Oh well, it’s a good flavor combination for the season. And next week is going to be a decidedly different combination – get excited.

So, first thing you need to do is line a 13 x 9 inch baking sheet with parchment paper. On top of that parchment paper, lay out the graham crackers. I broke them into their little rectangles and used all 16 crackers, figuring there was nothing wrong with a thick base to this, but if you use fewer crackers to make a single layer, you’ll get more of a candy and less of a bar.

 

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In a saucepan, combine the sugar, brown sugar, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter melts and the mixture boils.

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Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes to thicken. I was nervous that I was going to burn it, but you’ll be OK if you stick to the three minutes.

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Pour the caramel over the graham crackers and bake at 350°F for 12 minutes.

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Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot caramel and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Then, using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate evenly over the graham cracker layer.

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Sprinkle the walnuts and craisins evenly over the chocolate. Allow to cool at room temperature for two hours, or put in the fridge to speed up the process.

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Once it’s hardened, you can chop it up as you see fit. I decided on triangles for no reason other than I thought they would be more fun to cut. You can store these for quite awhile in an airtight container layered with parchment paper.

Enjoy!

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Cranberry Walnut Chocolate Brickle

Ingredients:

  • 16 graham crackers
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 10 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup craisins

Directions:

  1. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper. Layer graham crackers on top.
  2. Combine butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until it begins to boil.
  3. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour immediately over graham crackers.
  4. Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the hot caramel.
  5. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before spreading evenly over graham cracker layer using an offset spatula.
  6. Sprinkle with walnuts and craisins. Allow to cool 2 hours at room temperature or in fridge until hardened before chopping.

Chocolate Cranberry Haystacks

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This was the first weekend that really felt like the holiday season. It was cold, curl-up-inside-with-a-book weather, and it took a significant amount of self control not to turn on Christmas music while I was baking (I have a rule with myself – no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving). So, when my aunt Anne texted me a picture of what she was baking, I immediately asked for the recipe.

You see, Anne is the one who introduced me to the gloriously easy, insanely addicting recipe for peanut butter haystacks, which I know a lot of you enjoyed. In a festive twist, this particular recipe uses dark chocolate and cranberries, making it perfect for the upcoming season, and just as addicting.

Also, this recipe is easy. Like, start-keeping-cornflakes-around-just-to-make-it easy. I mean, how can you not make them when this is all you need:

 

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So, without further ado, straight from the kitchen of Ina Garten via Anne Pickett: Chocolate Cranberry Haystacks!

First, melt about 3/4 of the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until just melted.

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Add the remaining quarter of the chocolate, and stir until smooth.

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Combine cornflakes and chocolate in a medium bowl using a rubber spatula.

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Fold in the cranberries, trying not to overly crush the cornflakes (this may seem impossible, but some crushing is fine).

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Drop by the rounded spoonful onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow to harden at room temperature.

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Transfer to a platter and store in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to serve. Yupp, it really is that easy.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Cranberry Haystacks

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 5 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 cups cornflakes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1. Melt 3/4 of the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each addition, until just melted.
  2. Add the remaining 1/4 of the chocolate and stir until smooth.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the cornflakes and chocolate, stirring with a rubber spatula to coat.
  4. Fold in the cranberries.
  5. Drop by the rounded spoonful on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow to harden at room temperature.

Snickerdoodles

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Ahh, November as a teacher in New Jersey. After the mayhem that is the start of the school year, this month feels like a breeze. This past weekend was a long weekend for Teacher’s Convention, which I took advantage of to journey down south to DC and Baltimore to visit some friends from college. It was a short trip, but walking around inner harbor in Baltimore made me very nostalgic for a road trip my family had taken a long time ago.

In my nostalgia, I texted my mom for her snickerdoodle recipe, sure I remembered her making them when I was little. She responded that she didn’t have one, but I think she just didn’t want to dig through boxes to find it. So instead I found one in a cookbook I’ve been dying to use: Milk & Cookies. I’ve had this book for awhile, but because the recipes were all by weight, I hadn’t yet had a chance to try it. With my nifty kitchen scale, though, I was willing to give it a shot.

In the recipe, I’ll include both the weights and traditional measurements, just in case you haven’t jumped on the kitchen scale bandwagon yet, but trust me when I say that baking by weight is infinitely easier.

First, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Look how easy it is to measure 11 1/4 ounces!

 

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Then, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and shortening, starting on low speed and increasing to medium to beat for 3 minutes. It will be light and creamy when you’re ready to move on.

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Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar slowly while continuously beating for an additional two minutes.

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Add the eggs, one at a time, and reduce the speed to low, beating to incorporate after each addition.

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Add the vanilla extract and beat until blended.

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Add the flour mixture on low speed in two additions, beating until just mixed together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

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Recipes that involve overnight components catch me by surprise every time. I had told my doorman that I would bring him cookies last night when I started making these. Then I got to the overnight step and realized he would not be getting cookies that evening. Fortunately, he was there this morning when I finally baked them, and determined that they were “off the chain”, which he also clarified meant they were delicious. Brian is my biggest fan.

Anyways, after the dough is sufficiently chilled, mix the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

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Place the balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes or until lightly brown. When you touch the top of the cookie, the indent should remain.

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Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. These cookies are meant to be chewy, so to prevent them from getting too crisp, the airtight container is crucial.

Enjoy!

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Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups (12 ounces) sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  •  2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cream together butter and shortening using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, starting at low speed, and increasing to medium for about 3 minutes or until light and creamy.
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and continue beating for 2 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition.
  5. Beat in vanilla extract until smooth.
  6. Add flour mixture in two additions, beating on low speed until just incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
  7. Combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes or until just golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Brownie Cupcakes

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A day late, but I feel I have a good excuse – yesterday I ran the NYC marathon! So, even though I actually baked these last Friday for Halloween, you can understand that when I got back to my apartment yesterday evening, I crashed pretty hard. Like 7:30 and I was in bed hard. Thus the Monday post this week.

Now, I know that Halloween is over and my cutely decorated cupcakes are no longer relevant in terms of decoration, but the base of these cupcakes in no way loses its relevance with the changing month. In fact, they are probably even better for all of the gluttonous eating coming up.

I also had a mini crisis when trying to identify these, but have decided they belong (relatively) squarely in the brownie category. The dense chocolate part is really the star of the recipe.

First, melt together the butter and chocolate in a microwave in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each interval until smooth.

 

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Stir in the sugar, then the vanilla extract.

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Stir in the eggs, one at a time, making sure the batter is smooth before each new addition. I don’t know what it is about brownie recipes, but I always feel the need to manually mix with a wooden spoon – maybe because that’s how I used to make boxed mixes growing up.

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Add the flour and salt, and stir to combine completely.

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Stir in the chocolate chunks. This really makes the recipe brownie rather than cupcake – when you bite into something and get a chunk, you are out of the realm of cupcakes.

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Spoon the batter evenly into 12 muffin tins lined with cupcake liners. It will look like there’s too much batter – don’t worry, because these are brownies they don’t rise all that much.

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Bake at 325°F for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with wet chunks – you don’t want to overbake brownies and end up with gross dry lumps!

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Allow to cool on a wire rack before decorating with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, depending on your taste.

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Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator – they are especially good chilled!

Look how cute they came out!

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Enjoy!

Brownie Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chunks

Directions:

  1. Melt together chocolate and butter in a microwave at 30 second intervals on 50% power, stirring until smooth.
  2. Stir in sugar, then vanilla extract.
  3. Stir in eggs, one at a time, making sure smooth after each addition.
  4. Stir in flour and salt. Mix in chocolate chunks.
  5. Pour evenly into 12 lined muffin tins and bake at 325°F for 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with wet crumbs. Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies

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“Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies” is possibly one of the most unappetizing names for a cookie I have ever heard. They sound like the dessert that would go with a dinner of liver and onions served with prune juice.  But the name is very deceptive – they should in fact be called creamy butter cookies with a hint of cinnamon sprinkled with colorful sugar. But that also would not be a great name for a cookie. However, they would go wonderfully with just about anything – they are pretty basic in flavor such that they could easily complement a variety of desserts with more powerful elements.

Regardless, when I was roped into a promise to bake cookies for my students (we were playing a game, I said the winner would get a prize, then they decided they should all be winners in my eyes), I had to turn to my trusty cookie press to find a suitable recipe. This cookie press has made an appearance before, when I made chocolate shortbread cookies for my students on Valentine’s Day and butter cookies for Pickett Christmas last year. I love it because the recipes yield TONS of cookies (and when you have 150 students, you need TONS of cookies) and you can easily make something for any occasion, since it comes with all sorts of cool shape options. But enough free advertising for OXO.

I ended up doubling the recipe because I have more students than I did last year, and got about 175-200 cookies out of it (I figured my teacher friends wouldn’t mind some leftovers). But halving it will yield about 8 dozen cookies according to the original.

First, cube the butter and cream it together with the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In case you’re wondering, this is what 4 sticks of butter cubed looks like. I promise there is some cream cheese underneath.

 

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Add the sugar and egg whites and beat until light and fluffy.

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Add the vanilla extract and beat to incorporate. The dough should be pretty smooth at this point.

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In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and salt.

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Add gradually to the butter mixture and beat until well combined.  For me, a considerable amount of flour ended up on the counter instead of in the bowl. Also, I began to fear for my stand mixer because the dough was pretty thick, so you should probably switch to the dough hook at this point instead of the paddle. I switched to a wooden spoon because I’m overprotective of my little yellow mixer.

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Fill the cookie press and press cookies onto ungreased baking sheets and sprinkle with sugar. I used leaves because it was the most Fall shape I had, and red sugar because A&P’s baking decorations are anemic at best, but you could get pretty creative with this step if you felt so inclined.

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Bake at 350°F for about 8 minutes or until edges are golden. Allow to cool on cookie sheet about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool further. Store in an airtight container.

Pro Tip: if you’re making TONS of cookies, like I did, you might find that the cookies don’t stick readily to a cookie sheet that has already been baked on.  I found that if you wipe it down with a paper towel to absorb some of the grease and then waited until the tray was cooled to room temperature, you have better luck. This makes the process take a little longer, but it’s wicked frustrating to try to press a cookie onto a warm baking sheet and not have it release properly, so it’s worth it.

Enjoy!

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Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and cubed butter with the paddle attachment.
  2. Add the sugar and egg yolks, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract to incorporate.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture, using the dough hook to beat until well blended.
  4. Fill cookie press fit with desired disk. Press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet and decorate as desired.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 8 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Pumpkin Roll

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“You haven’t made anything pretty in awhile. You should make something pretty.” That was my mom’s input this weekend when we were discussing what I should bake.  So while she was puzzling over kitchen appliances with different salesmen, I spent some time on Pinterest looking for a pretty fall dessert. There were all sorts of cool shaped cookies, but I’ve done sugar cookies before, and snickerdoodles don’t lend themselves to much more than a circle. Then I found a pumpkin roll, and I was intrigued.

I’ve never made a roll cake before, but I did know that jelly roll pans, which I generally just call cookie sheets, are actually made for this particular kind of cake. In the interest of using bakeware for its intended purpose, I went for it.

So after a pumpkin trifecta breakfast at my favorite bagel shop, Gunther Tooties (pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese and pumpkin coffee), we got to work.

First, beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment at high speed for 5 minutes, or until thick and yellow.

 

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Put the mixer down to medium speed and beat in the pumpkin puree.  Side note: I had no idea there were companies other than Libby’s that made canned pumpkin.  There are. And Foodies (local grocery store) only stocks non-Libby’s, which was a shock.

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Add the flour, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice and beat at low speed until just combined.

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Pour batter and spread evenly over a 15×10 inch jelly roll pan prepared with parchment paper.  Sprinkle evenly with chopped pecans.

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Bake at 375°F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched.  Turn out immediately onto a tea towel sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and roll starting on the short side.

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You want to roll the cake right away so that it is still pliable enough not to crack.  Allow it to cool in the towel for at least an hour, but no more than five.  Meanwhile, prepare the filling by first beating the cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer until fluffy.

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Add the confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat until desired consistency.

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When the cake is sufficiently cool, unroll the towel and spread the cream cheese filling over the entire cake.  Roll it right back up – this shouldn’t be hard since it cooled that way!

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If you’ve done this right, the pecans will be on the outside and you’ll have a good roll when viewed from the end.

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Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for another hour or more before serving.  You can make this ahead of time by a day or two – It will be fine in the fridge.

When you’re ready to serve, just slice it up! Easy AND pretty!

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Also, huge shout out to my parents for hosting me this weekend – I know you always thought Pete was the messy one, but I can do some serious damage in a kitchen. Love you guys!

Enjoy!

 

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Pumpkin Roll

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Beat eggs and sugar together at high speed in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until fluffy and yellow.
  2. Reduce speed to medium and beat in pumpkin puree.
  3. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice until just combined.
  4. Pour into 15×10 inch jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper and spread evenly. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.
  5. Bake at 375°F for 10 to 12 minutes or until cake springs back when touched.  Turn out immediately onto tea towel sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.  Roll from short end and allow to cool 1 to 5 hours.
  6. Beat together the cream cheese and butter in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.  Add confectioner’s sugar and beat until desired consistency.
  7. Unroll cake and spread with icing.  Roll back up, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until serving.