Spiced Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Autumn is here (at long last) and the trees are looking stunning! Even though I live in the Southern Hemisphere and pumpkin flavouring isn’t as prevalent as in the US, when I found myself free on a grey Autumn afternoon I felt the need to make something using pumpkin, cream cheese frosting and my favourite spices.

My Mum, sister and I visited the Hummingbird Bakery while we were in Notting Hill in London and tried one of their whoopie pies. While everything we tried from the bakery was delicious, the whoopie pie was our favourite and so I felt the need to replicate it at home. Luckily for me, the recipe was easily available online (and also in their cookbook Cake Days) and with a bit of tweaking to add in extra spices, it really hit the spot.

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Ingredients (makes 15 whoopie pies)
120ml vegetable oil
180g brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
100ml pumpkin purée
250g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground ginger

85g butter, softened
150g icing sugar
80g cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
A splash of milk (as required)

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Method
Preheat the oven to 170ºC (approx. 150ºC fan-forced) and line two large trays with baking paper.

Using an electric mixer, combine the oil, sugar and vanilla until combined and light in colour. Add the egg and pumpkin purée and mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Sift together the remaining ingredients and add to the liquid mixture in two batches, beating until just combined.

Spoon 30 teaspoons full of the batter on to the prepared trays, leaving a 3cm gap between each. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until they are golden and bounce back when touched. Allow to cool completely before filling.

To make the cream cheese filling, use an electric beater to mix together the butter and the icing sugar on a low speed until smooth. Add the cream cheese, vanilla and spices and continue mixing on a low speed until just combined. Add milk or extra icing sugar as required.

To assemble the whoopie pies, take a sponge, spread approximately 1 tablespoon of filling onto its flat side and then sandwich with another sponge flat-side-down. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Cake Days by the Hummingbird Bakery

Apple Pie

This year, in honour of Pi Day tomorrow (14th March, 3.14 – nerdy I know!), I made my first latticed apple pie. Heading into Autumn, apples are particularly sweet and delicious and they really shine in this pie. I’ve kept flavouring simple and traditional with just a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon to enhance the flavour of the apples. I used red apples because that’s what we had in the house, but it would work well with granny smith apples as well (but you may want to add in a little more sugar). Happy baking!

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Ingredients (serves 8)
Pastry
1⅔ cups plain flour
1 tblspn caster sugar
¼ tspn baking powder
180g cold butter, chopped
⅓ cup iced water
1 tspn vanilla extract

5 apples peeled, cored and chopped
1 ½ tblspns lemon juice
⅓ cup caster sugar
4 tspns cinnamon
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 tblspns almond meal
1 egg, lightly beaten
Caster sugar, extra

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Method
To make the pastry, place the flour, sugar, baking powder and butter in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor still running, add the water and vanilla and process until it comes together and forms a smooth dough. Wrap in Gladwrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While your pastry is chilling, peel, core and chop your apples and grease a 22cm pie tin.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the apple pieces and lemon juice in a large, deep frypan and cook over a medium heat for 8 minutes or until tender. Carefully pour out approximately half of the liquid from the pan and then add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to the remaining mixture. Set aside to cool.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out half of it with a rolling pin until it is 3mm thick. Carefully line the base of the pie tin with the pastry, trimming off any excess. Prick the bottom with a fork, then line with baking paper and top with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove the baking paper and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until pastry is browned lightly.

Allow the pie base to cool slightly (around 5 minutes). Sprinkle the base of the pie with almond meal and then top with the apple mixture. Try to make the top as flat as possible to help with your pastry (you may have some apple mixture left over).

To make a lattice pie lid, roll out the remaining pastry until 3mm thick and cut strips of your desired width (I made 6 thick strips and 4 thin). Place strips evenly spaced on top of the pie, and weave them in a lattice design (see here for instructions). Cut off any excess and press down the edges of each strip so it links to the sides. Alternatively, roll out the remaining pastry into a large 3mm circle and drape it over the pie. Cut slits in the top of the pastry.

Brush your pie lid with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until pastry is golden and crisp. Serve with cream or ice-cream and enjoy!

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Adapted from ‘High-Top Apple and Sultana Pie’ from Donna Hay’s Seasons.

Apple Streusel Muffins

We’ve had an abundance of delicious apples this season and so I wanted a recipe to showcase them, preferably in an easily portable package so we can take them to uni and work for lunches this week. These muffins fitted the bill perfectly, and smelled absolutely divine while baking. I love the crispy streusel topping as a contrast to the soft apple and fine crumb of the muffins.

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Ingredients (makes 12-14)
Streusel Topping
⅓ cup self-raising flour
⅓ cup plain white flour
⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
80g cold butter, chopped coarsely

40g butter
3 large apples, peeled, cut into 1cm pieces
2 cups self-raising flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅔ cup caster sugar
80g butter, melted, extra
¾ cup buttermilk
1 egg

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Method
Make streusel topping by processing flours, sugar and cinnamon. Add butter and process until combined. Roll dough into a ball, wrap in glad-wrap and freeze until required.

Melt butter in a large frying pan; cook apple, stirring about 5mins or until lightly browned. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring for an additional 5mins or until the mixture thickens.

Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with patty pans.

Sift flour, spices and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the combined, extra butter, buttermilk and egg. Do not overmix. Stir in half the apple mixture.

Divide mixture among patty pans. Top with remaining apple mixture. Coarsely grate streusel topping over muffin mixture. Bake ~20mins.

Stand muffins in tray for 5mins before turning out, top-side up, onto wire racks to cool. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Little Pies and Cakes’ cookbook.

Warm Cinnamon & Rhubarb Muffins

It’s that time of the year again: swot-vac. While I always have good intentions, designing elaborate study timetables and carefully planning my time,  I often find myself procrastinating in one way or another and procrastibaking is my specialty. Fortunately, I work well with a rewards-based system where I treat myself to a baked item after doing a certain number of hours of study, and so baking is useful in that it provides me with much-needed study motivation (or so I tell myself).

Coincidence? I think not...
Coincidence? I think not…

These cinnamon & rhubarb muffins are perfect for this because they are heavenly, especially when fresh out of the oven or warmed in the microwave, just the thing to reward yourself after working hard. They’re so good in fact that I had to stop myself from inhaling them all right away. So go on… treat yourself to a batch of these perfectly seasonal study treats – I can assure you, you won’t regret it!

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Ingredients
For the rhubarb mixture
1 cup bunch rhubarb, washed, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar

For the muffins
1 cup rhubarb mixture
1 ¼ cups plain flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup olive oil
1 egg

For the sugar-cinnamon crust
⅓ cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

How good is rhubarb?! Image credit: pipmagazine.com.au
How good is rhubarb?! Image credit: pipmagazine.com.au

Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced. Line 2 muffin tins with 16 muffin cases.

Chop rhubarb into small, even pieces and cook with water and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat until the rhubarb is tender and the sugar has dissolved. Stand for 5 minutes to cool.

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Add flour, sugar and baking powder into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Carefully pour in the buttermilk, olive oil and egg and gently stir to combine. Mix in the cooked rhubarb, being careful not to over-stir (note: the mixture is supposed to be very wet, don’t worry!)

Spoon mixture evenly into muffin cases & top with mixed sugar and cinnamon.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Enjoy!

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Recipe from Grandma (from Sue Lowry)

Cinnamon Rolls

Inspired by the movie The Proposal which features some divine looking homemade cinnamon rolls, I decided to give making them from scratch a go. I did lots of research & eventually found a recipe on Pinterest which promised me a quick and easy bake using everyday ingredients. I was a little sceptical that they could possibly be considered ‘easy’, but they worked perfectly. The rolls are light, fluffy and packed full of sweet cinnamon flavour. They also fill your home with the most heavenly aroma and are especially amazing eaten fresh from the oven while still warm.

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Ingredients (Makes 12)
1 cup milk
55g butter, chopped
3 ¼ – 3 ½ cups flour
1x 35g package instant yeast
¼ cup white sugar
1 egg

Filling
1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
½ cup butter, softened

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 ½ cups icing sugar
¾ tablespoon cream cheese
1 ½  teaspoons vanilla
1-2 tablespoons of milk

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Method
Heat milk & butter in the microwave (about 1 and a half minutes) or until the butter is at least partially melted. Stir using a small whisk, and set aside.

In the large bowl of your stand mixer (using the paddle attachment), mix together 2 cups of the flour, the yeast and the white sugar. When the milk mixture is warm but not hot, add it to the flour mixture along with the egg and beat for about 1 minute, or until well combined. Switch to the dough hook attachment and add remaining flour until the dough barely leaves the sides of the bowl (it should be very soft and slightly sticky). Continue with the dough kneading for another 5 minutes. Turn dough onto a floured surface and let rest while you make the filling.

To make the filling, ensure butter is soft and mix in the brown sugar and cinnamon until you have a paste.

To assemble, roll the dough into a large rectangle (around 30cm x 35cm) and spread brown sugar mixture evenly over the surface. Roll up from the longer side of the rectangle and punch the edges to close. Score the roll into 12 equal pieces and then cut into rolls (dental floss can work well here!!).

Place into a 23cm by 33cm (or similar) pan that has been sprayed with cooking oil, cover with a clean tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for half an hour. Set oven to 180°C.

When the rolls have finished rising, bake for 15-20minutes or until light golden brown.

Make the icing by beating all ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle rolls with icing while still warm. Enjoy!

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Adapted from the ‘Everyday Cinnamon Rolls’ recipe on ourbestbites.com

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Notes:
– These rolls can be frozen at almost any point (before rising, after rising or when finished) and keep well in the freezer when covered in cling wrap and foil – then you have a delicious treat in a heart beat!
– If you don’t have a free standing mixer, use handheld beaters to combine the dough initially and then knead the dough by hand for around 7 minutes.