Happy Thanksgiving….and Goodbye to Summer :-(
I love fall. I love fall like in You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan’s character talks about bouquets of newly sharpened pencils (I want to receive one of those some day) or Stepmom in which Susan Sarandon’s character walks through a red, orange and yellow neighbourhood full of country decorating and cool Halloween costumes. Growing up, fall meant the acrid smell of pickles cooking in our house, the burning of leaves and making candy for Halloween. Everyone knew my family and trusted my mom’s candy-making. We would coat apples with candy, pull taffy, make fudge and pour circles of butterscotch candy. Sadly the days of giving out homemade candy are long gone, but I still remember those days together with my mom fondly. When I went to university she would box up loads of homemade candy and ship it to me to share (or not share, depending on my mood) with my housemates.
This year my reluctance to meet the fall with my usual gusto has me stumped. It could be that the weather has been too fine. It could be that I logged many a kilometre running this summer and I’ll sad to see the easy running weather going. It could be that my shoes are too tight (wait, that’s the Grinch’s problem and a different season). Whatever it is, I’ve been holding on to the last vestiges of summer like it will never come back…and if you were originally from northern New Brunswick like I am, then you might think that too.
As I ran along Ottawa’s famous Rideau Canal tonight, more holding on to summer, considering it was about 8°C and spitting rain, I thought that maybe it is time to fully embrace the fall. In the past few weeks I had tentatively flirted with the season with the harbinger of fall all across the land: Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte. This coffee is 12 ounces of fall heaven in a cup and it inspired me to create a cupcake to go along with it.
I started with the Pumpkin Patch cupcakes from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes book, with a few changes: I added ¾ cup dark cocoa to the dry flour mixture, substituted mostly brown sugar for the white sugar and I removed most of the spices, except for about half of the nutmeg. Then I added a teaspoon of ginger because part of the pumpkin flavour has to be the spice. I love the combination of chocolate and pumpkin, but the chocolate does overwhelm the pumpkin and the spice helps the brain to pick up the pumpkin in the mix. I left out the cinnamon because the combination with chocolate makes my brain think of Mexican mole sauce, which wasn’t quite what I was going for. The cupcakes ended up a wee bit dry and I’m not sure if this was the straight addition of cocoa without an equal subtraction of flour or maybe I should have stopped baking when the cupcakes were still a bit wet. When the cupcakes were done and cooled, I smeared on a layer of semi-sweet chocolate ganache and topped them with a swirl of Swiss Meringue coffee buttercream. Voilà, Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes!
For Thanksgiving dinner with the family, I made a pumpkin cheesecake. I do love the honoured pumpkin pie, but sometimes I crave the tartness of the cream cheese with the pumpkin and spices. I used the basic recipe from Philadelphia Cream Cheese website, but made many changes to make it healthier. All that running can’t be for nothing and I honestly think that when the spices are ramped up and some chocolate is drizzled over, the taste does not suffer. The most notable changes were that I used light cream cheese and substituted half of the sugar with brown and the other half with a sugar/Stevia blend from Domino, which I bought in the US. While I would never use a sweetener product in cupcakes for my clients, I have used it from time to time for my own purposes and I was very surprised to discover that the end product does not have a chemical aftertaste. This cheesecake was moist and delicious. Next year maybe I’ll turn it into a Pumpkin Spice Latte Cheesecake!