Let’s have a Crunchy Pumpkin Party!

20131121-210751.jpg
When I was in Tokyo, I fell in love with Crunchy Pumpkin Party, a seasonal ice cream flavor. All of the pumpkin flavored things here in the States are super sweet and accompanied by cinnamon and nutmeg. The novelty of the Crunchy Pumpkin Party was that it tasted more like squash than pumpkin pie. It wasn’t overly sweet, and it was laced with cookie pieces and chunks of squash. Yum.

When I got home, I was pretty confident I could replicate it. I dug around and found a good pumpkin ice cream recipe. I substituted acorn squash for the pumpkin purée. I baked the squash. I roughly chopped a third of it and put it in the freezer to keep it chilled, then puréed the rest and used it in the custard. When I prepared the custard, I omitted all of the spices, but kept the vanilla.

While the custard was chilling, I took apart some sandwich cookies (lost the filling!) and crumbled them.

When everything was cool enough, I ran the custard through my cute little ice cream maker for 20 minutes, then added the cookies and squash during the next five minutes, for a total chilling time of 25 minutes.

I grabbed a spoon, crossed my fingers, and took a bite. Victory! Flavor was spot on! I have unlocked the secret to a crunchy pumpkin party!

Apple pie rum and drunken hand pies — using every bit of the apple!

Hooray for apple season!  We are a big fan of an infusion style of apple pie rum, and Fall is a terrific time to make it.

Apple Pie Rum

Ingredients:
Gigantic bottle of silver (not spiced) rum — not high end.  A notch above generic is sufficient
Couple of cinnamon sticks
3 cloves
Honey or maple syrup
A lot of apples.  Bonus points for getting them from your yard, or from friends (those are best!)

Core and half the apples. Do not peel them first. Do not make the pieces any smaller. Drop them in a seal-able bucket.  We got ours from the local brewing supply store. Add spices + sweetener to taste.  Seal it up and store it in a cool dark place for a week or two, shaking once a day.

When you’re happy with it, you can start filtering it.  We have been using my Aero-press, which I use to make my morning coffee, but it turns out it is also a really brilliant way to filter sediment out of rum.  At the end of it, we still had a bunch of apples that had been sitting in rum for a couple of weeks, and it seemed like a shame to just throw them out.  Plus, the apples soaked up a lot of rum, and we wanted to get as much of the liquor out of the apples as possible.

Enter the food processor with the grater blade!  I ran the apples through the food processor, put the resulting product in muslin, then squeezed the liquid out.  Repeat until all of the apples are grated up.

Again, it seemed like a shame to let the apples go to waste!  Then we wondered how it would taste in pie?  I didn’t want to make a huge pie, so inspired by a pork rillete hand pie I recently had at  Olympic Provisions (nom nom nom), I started looking for hand pie recipes — like this one for Salted Caramel Apple.

Only we didn’t have any caramel.  Or brown sugar to make caramel. But we did have a can of sweetened condensed milk! Enter this recipe for microwave dulce de leche.

Notes: I didn’t have any sour cream on hand, so substituted a dessert yogurt.  The dough was phenomenal!  Very easy to work with.  The microwave dulce de leche took longer to make than expected.  I used the grated rum apples mixed with some of the dulce de leche, and about another half cup of sugar to offset the very strong taste of rum. I did not add any additional spices to the mixture, and I put an additional pat of dulce de leche on the apple before sealing it in the pie.  We only salted 6 of them  — and left the others without salt. 3 were sea salt, and 3 were sea salt with a bit of Yakima smoked salt. I cut different vent shapes to indicate the type of pie it was. The recipe made about 26 pies, and I still had a quart of grated apple left.  That was frozen for use in a future pie.

Because they baked in 15 minutes, and it takes about that long to assemble a half-dozen, I baked them in batches of 6.  If you use flat metal cookie sheets, decrease the cooking time to 13 minutes.  Insulated cookie sheets definitely yielded better results. (We own one of each)

Results: WOW!  As Aaron put it, our house smells like the very best holiday candles you can buy.  The crust was perfectly flaky, and they were just sweet enough.  The caramel bubbled up through the vents, and the egg wash made them a lovely golden color. We will definitely be making these again.

Project: Laptop Accessory Bag

Before: Zipper pouch, flexible mouse pad, wireless mouse, phone, and cable

I spend most of my days in meetings, and change conference rooms frequently.  The touch pad on my laptop works, but it lacks the more precise control of a mouse.  My wireless mouse is great, but it needs a mouse pad in order to work effectively. My phone is essential, and I also carry a conversion dongle so I can pr0ject in HDMI when I need to present materials. I’m often also toting a commuter coffee mug, so an accessory bag is necessary in order to balance everything. I have a laptop bag, but it is too bulky to carry with me all day.

Up until now, I’ve folded up the mouse pad and stuffed all of the accessories into a little black zipper pouch. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it did the trick.

This weekend I built a laptop accessory bag to make carrying these things a bit easier. Outside of the fabric, I was able to make this with the hardware and whatnot I already have on hand.  The fabric sample is from SCRAP.

After: Zipper pouch with wrist band

Features:

Bright colored zipper pouch that doubles as a mouse pad

Cute star zipper pull

Detachable wrist strap

Snaps to hold the cable next to the pouch

Plenty of room to hold the wireless mouse and my phone

Ringbinder theme by Themocracy