24 September 2010


Holy Cow! Work has been cray-cray, thus no updates. The adage "two steps forward, one step back" sums it up nicely. I made the most embarrassing rendition of bread pudding yesterday...and actually served it. Facepalm! On the plus side, the perfect cheesecake made an appearance as did white and dark chocolate mousses. AND my new favorite brownie! Read on!

Fall is here! Well, it was here in Nashville, then the sun decided to get one last punch in. Technically speaking though, the fall equinox has passed, so we are in the fall season. Glorious autumn. When I think of fall, I jump to pumpkin. I love its cheery color, moisture, and versatile flavors. There are a handful of favorites. (You know I couldn't have just one!) Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin cranberry bread. Pumpkin bread pudding. Pumpkin butter. Pumpkin curry soup. Cream of pumpkin. And of course simple roasted pumpkin with butter and nutmeg. When it comes to sweets, sugar and spices are a subtle accent. Pumpkin's natural flavor is really wonderful, and I like to showcase it rather than overpower it.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brownies
These brownies are killer. They scream Halloween with their black, orange, and white swirls, especially if you use a pumpkin cutter. These will definitely be making an appearance at our gathering. Now, I'm not fully satisfied with the brownie base, so use your favorite in a 3/4 batch. If you use a box mix, you can use the remaining 1/4 batch to make brownie cookies or muffins. Or eat it raw like a little piggy. *One of the best tricks I learned from Merridee's is to line brownie pans completely with foil, spray, then flour. Chill or freeze your baked nummies. Pull the whole thing out by the foil, unwrap, and cut into portions with little to no mess.*

1. Spread brownie base into a greased and lined pan.
2. Cream 1# cream cheese (room temperature, folks!), 1/2 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Spread evenly on top of brownies.
3. Mix 1 cup apple jelly and 1 cup pumpkin butter. Stripe over cream cheese and swirl using a knife, toothpick, or your finger (mmm!).
4. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes. Pan should jiggle and cream cheese swirls should spring back with light pressure.

If you'd like to take a stab at pumpkin butter, throw some over medium heat, spice as desired, and stir in a sugar, syrup, or juice (apple works best). Stir often and cook for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how thick you like it.

Alright, kiddies. Some things to look forward to: Root Beer Cake, Apple Cider Muffins, Carrot Cake (my unicorn), and plenty more pumpkin!

03 September 2010

I have just finished my first week as the head of Tennessee State University's bakery department. I am very excited and slightly daunted by this position. It's my first opportunity in management for one. Two, the department is brand new. This is somewhat a double-edged sword. Having no previous expectations gives tremendous freedom, which will take some adjusting. I also think everyone is afraid of too much change. For the past couple years, they have been serving prefabricated products or had random employees bake off their box mixes. A major change was needed. Products were overbaked. Oversweetened. Dry. Tasteless. Very bland. No variety. I think the students and faculty deserve better, and I want to bring it to them. Supplies and tools are still in transit. It will take a few weeks to transition and knock out any bugs in my recipes.In the meantime, I'm trying to make the best of what is available and incorporate small changes that will not explode heads. I think last night's dessert option is a good example of how you can make a box mix great. Kind of like Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee. (I am so jealous of her ever-evolving kitchen, but seriously whose wardrobe matches their decor and table setting?) They have been using a Ghiradelli brownie mix, which is not bad at all on its own. I luckily found a single box of chocolate chips, which became a ganache with the help of a little cream. Before it set I sprinkled the top with chopped pecans and slightly pressed them in. I found a caramel sauce in the coffee shop. A drizzle later, and there you have some rockin' turtle brownies from a box. Booyah.

I'm psyched about this opportunity. It could blow up in my face. It could be the best thing in my professional career. I find the possibilities intimidating, challenging, and exciting. My main goal behind it all is to comfort those students who miss home. I hope to provide a little spark to someone's day. To bring that satisfying "ahh" moment. School is hard; teaching is difficult. I think they deserve a little moment to breathe and send some love to their tummies.