Smoked Pumpkin Cheesecake & Bourbon Brownies

Are we sitting comfortably? Yes? Good…because here’s another pumpkin recipe. In the spirit of the season, and let’s face it impending CV-19 induced re-lockdown, I’m going to be trying out the wide and various ways of using that seasonal wonder that is pumpkin. You lucky, lucky people! I’ll say right away that they’ll all be sweet bakes – well that’s the plan at the moment, so if you’re holding out for an orgasmic recipe for pumpkin risotto I’m afraid you’re out of luck.

If you follow my blog and recipes you’ll know that brownies are near and dear to my heart. Some people have comfort blankies ala Linus, I have brownies. So it was only right that I should try weave together in kitchen mysticism (it is Halloween season after all!) my love the fudgey (never cakey) traybakes and that bulbous orange cucurbit.

Using pumpkin in the cheesecake element of these brownies instantly renders them fudgey and decadent. I wanted to add another layer there, something to counter thought of sugar-laden PSL. So why not introduce a smokey element- camp-fires, late night and extra complex earthiness working to counter any lingering memories of saccharine heavy beverages.

And why not make them a little more grown up too? These are, after all, brownies for the aficionado. Let’s chuck in some bourbon while we’re at it! For me the flavors of the sweet whiskey go so well with chocolate that it’s too good an opportunity to miss. I’ve also used some chocolate extract here as I really wanted to elevate the chocolate intensity too – like I said these ain’t no five ‘n’ dime brownies. To really bring out the texture of these brownies I find they taste so much better when served straight form the fridge.

So yes- buckle up people…I’ve got 4 weeks of pumpkin recipes left and so far it’s brownies and nanaimo bars down. Any guesses what’s next?

Ingredients

Brownie Batter

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract, eg Nielsen Massey (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp Bourbon
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa, Dutched
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt

Cheesecake Batter

  • 8oz pack full fat cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke

*All ingredients to be at room temperature unless otherwise stated

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees. Spray a 9×9 inch baking pan with cooking oil then line it with parchment paper
  2. In a large bowl, add the cream cheese and beat it until smooth and creamy. Add the rest of the cheesecake batter ingredients mix until well combined and smooth. Set aside until needed later
  3. In a small bowl a bowl set over simmering water, combine the butter and chocolate chips to melt, stirring them together to combine. Once fully melted remove the bowl from the heat and set aside to cool
  4. In a large bowl if a stand mixer, combine the eggs and sugar and whisk at high speed until pale, fluffy and increased in volume
  5. While you eggs are whisking in a bowl combine the AP flour, cocoa and salt
  6. Into the melted chocolate/ butter mixture add the chocolate extract and bourbon. Stir well to combine. Add these wet ingredients into your whisked egg mixture. Gently fold in until fully combined and uniform in appearance
  7. Sift in the dry ingredients and again gently fold in until well combined and uniform in appearance
  8. Pour about 2/3 of the chocolate batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out. Spread the cheesecake batter over the brownie batter. Dollop the remaining brownie batter over cheesecake batter by spoonfuls. Swirl the batters together by running aknife or a skewer back and forth through the pan
  9. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until center is set. Using a cake tester or skewer test the centre of the brownie pan – it should come out with few crumbs or a little mixture still on it. The brownies will continue to cook once removed from the oven
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on wire rack and chill before cutting and serving. I usually cut mine in to 4 x 3 giving me 12 brownies. They’re quite rich so I’ve found this to be the ideal size

Pumpkin Nanaimo Bars

And here we go again. After the summer that wasn’t it’s time to seek solace in all things autumnal. Shades of ochre and ember signaling days dwindling in trade for shaking out cozy TV blankets; warming comfort foods and pumpkin. All things pumpkin! As much as we deride it Pumpkin, or more to the point Pumpkin Spice, has a unique and habitual place in our hearts.

Yes- we role our eyes with derision at the comically esoteric figure of “Becky” swaddled in her fall knitwear, demanding her PSL but we’ll all still be in the coffeeshop line-up with her- upsizing our regular morning caffeine to the mythical spice-laden liquid crack of meme heaven. Aside from the trees, foodie feeds all over social media turn fall shades of red and orange, taken over by recipes and plates of pumpkin inspired/ derived foods and bakes. How do we love pumpkin? Let me count the ways.

You may be thinking I’m lining up for an utterly dismissive and scathing post on pumpkin affairs, but let me say no. I’ve become as much a fan of warmly spice fall bakes as Becky (albeit with less of a penchant for chunky knit cardigans). So here we are at this recipe- my love for the Canuck stalwart that is the Nanaimo Bar embracing the gentle spiced earthiness of pumpkin. The first attempt at this recipe had me overshooting the mark on the addition of the pumpkin puree. The filing layer wasn’t so much the familiar creamy spreadable mixture as it was pourable, in fact pretty much bordering on soup. So- it was back to the recipe board with that one! After some tweaking a more workable result was achieved- creamy, orange-tinted and subtly spiced.

Keep these bars in the fridge to avoid them becoming too soft and undesirably squishy. I personally think the creamy pumpkin layer tastes so much better when chilled too. But that’s just my personal preference and I guess the only way for you to find out is for you to make them yourself- so what are you waiting for?

Makes 18 bars

Ingredients

Base layer

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, natural
  • 1/4 cup fine sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

Middle layer

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp pumpkin purée
  • 2 Tbsp custard powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Top layer

  • 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, broken/ chopped into pieces
  • 1 Tbsp corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Method

To prepare the base layer

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper 
  2. In small saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, cocoa and sugar, stirring occasionally until butter has melted and mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool
  3. Stir in egg, graham cracker crumbs, ground ginger and coconut
  4. Transfer to your prepared pan. Press firmly and level as much as possible
  5. Bake for 10 mins, then remove and leave to cool completely

To prepare the middle layer

  1. In bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together icing sugar, butter, pumpkin, custard powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, vanilla and salt. Spread the mixture evenly over bottom layer; smooth and chill for at least an hour

To prepare the top layer and finish

  1. In a bowl set over barely simmering water, melt chocolate, corn syrup and butter together, stirring occasionally, until smooth and shiny. Pour over the pumpkin layer and smooth
  2. Chill in the refrigerator overnight, or 2 hours minimum. Cut into bars (6 x 3). Keep the cut bars in a covered container either in the refrigerator (3 days) or frozen (3 months)

*To cut the bars, run a sharp knife under hot running water until the blade is hot. Quickly, and carefully, slice down through the bar layers into the number required- here is use 5 x 2 cuts to give 18 bars.

Spiced Chocolate Cake

This cake started out life as something different. In it’s original form it took inspiration from Bejamina Ebuehi’s “Hidden Pear Cake” from her book The New Way To Cake (which I thoroughly recommend). I loved the idea of having the pear fruit cheekily peaking though the ginger cake loaf, inviting you to dig in and explore what lies beneath. In one of my typical left of centre epiphanies I found myself reminiscing about a favorite childhood dessert- Pear Belle Helene. There always seemed to be something so refined and regal about this desert in my mind. Even now it conjures up images of sophistication and elegance- ivory pears poached to sweet, glistening tenderness slick with silky, warm chocolate syrup swirling hypnotically with pear syrup and melting vanilla ice cream.- each bite a sweet, sandy indulgence. So? could I create this in a cake? Well check out my IG feed for more details.

The resulting cake was good enough that I wanted to make it the feature on it’s own- fudgey, rich chocolate cake with a warming spiced undercurrent. For those of you in Ireland and the UK it has more than a passing resemblance to the infamous McVities Jamaica Ginger Cake. Here however the spicy ginger it is pared down a notch so it works in tandem with the rich chocolate flavor of the cake. Allowing this cake to sit for a day allows the texture and flavors to really develop. I would recommend making the cake and let to sit for at least a day in an airtight container at room temperature and bam! you’ll hit that sweet spot.

Now I’m somewhat of a puritan when it comes to eating cake. Not for me the silky adornment of cream or the smooth chilly sensations of ice cream- I like mine sliced pure & simple and this cake is a treat as such. However I do know that it tastes just as awesome when gently heated adjacent to a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or tenderly enrobed in smooth custard. The choice is yours.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsps ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup Canola oil
  • 1/2 cup fancy molasses
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp chocolate extract
  • 1/4 cup whole milk

Method

  • In a bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and spices. Whisk to combine and set aside until needed
  • Combine the oil, molasses, juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Set it on low heat and stir till the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes
  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8″ x 8″ square cake pan with oil or line it with baking parchment and allow the edges to overhang for easy removal
  • Transfer the cooled molasses mixture to a large mixing bowl and add in the eggs, vanilla and milk. Whisk well until smooth and well combined
  • Fold in the flour mixture gradually into the liquid until incorporated. Make sure the there are no pockets of dried flour mixture. The final batter may look a little lumpy- this is okay
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tin, level the top and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top is darkening quickly, cover the tin loosely with foil and continue baking
  • Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. Store in an airtight tin for about 3-4 days at room temperature, or refrigerate, tightly wrapped, for a week

Rum Chocolate Banana Pudding

I wish I could say this was inspired by some long-lost childhood memory or fortuitous epiphany but sadly no. The truth of the matter is that this Rum Chocolate Banana Pudding found it’s way in to my kitchen for no other reason than indulgence.

Since moving here to Canada I’ve succumbed to the North America love of “pudding”- that smooth, creamy, slippery dairy concoction of comforting goo. Yes I’m aware it has it’s nay-sayers who believe it should be kept to the confines of school lunchrooms and toddler snack times but… I LOVE it! Banana pudding hailing from the Deep South’s Hall of Comfort Food Fame, is one of Life’s simple pleasures and it’s easy to see why this layered dessert has made it’s way into the repertoire of home cooks on a national scale.

Personally I find it a reassuringly less pompous affair than it’s cousin- the English Trifle. Neat lines of composition are neither desired nor required here; and keep anything resembling jello to yourself! This dish is less about show and more about bringing sublime joy to the eater’s face- making them grin from ear to ear whilst filling their belly. Think of this as the oral equivalent of sliding into the comfiest armchair, wrapped in the fluffiest duvet, in the dusky porch twilight. Each spoonful a testament to the pudding’s sinfully indulgent, creamy cocoa laden, booze-tinged delights. Yes- I think it’s that good!

When you do try it feel free to disagree- all the more for me!

Ingredients

Pudding

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped in pieces
  • 1/2 cup fine sugar
  • 6 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3 Tbspn cornstarch
  • 2-3 tspns dark rum , dependent on personal taste (if you prefer an alcohol-free version use artificial rum extract)
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 320g (1 box) vanilla wafers eg Nilla
  • 6 large bananas, peeled and sliced apx 1/4″ slices

Topping

  • 2 3/4 cups whipping cream, whipped
  • 1/4 cup graham crumbs
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbspn light corn syrup
  • 3 Tbspn butter
  • I tspn Vanilla extract

Method

  1. Place milk and cream in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the chocolate pieces and heat until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add in 1/4 cup of the chocolate/ milk mixture and whisk to combine. Add in another 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture and again whisk until fully combined
  3. Pour the warmed egg/ chocolate/ milk mixture back in to the saucepan with the other part of the chocolate/ milk mixture. Whisk to combine and heat over medium-high heat and continuously whisk until thickened
  4. Remove from the heat, stir in 1 tspn vanilla extract, and transfer to a clean bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the pastry cream and let cool to room temperature
  5. When cooled, spread about 1 cup of the chocolate pastry cream into an 11 by 11-inch glass dish. Layer the wafers, bananas, and pastry cream in the bowl, ending a layer of wafers. Cover tightly and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight
  6. Just before serving, spread or pipe the top of the pudding with whipped cream and return to the fridge while you make the chocolate drizzle
  7. In a double-boiler combine the chocolate chips, corn syrup and butter. Stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside to cool until slightly warm
  8. Remove the pudding from the fridge and drizzle over the chocolate sauce to personal taste and serve
  9. The finished pudding will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. When storing cover lightly with cling-wrap

Elvis Banana Bread

Elvis. The very name conjures up images of sweaty excess, sexy rhythms and snake-hipped gyrations. I have to admit to not being a fan of the man himself but there’s one thing that I can’t deny and that’s his impact on the world.

Aside from his groundbreaking impact on the world of music and movies, Elvis’s impact even stretched as far as the food world. Yes it may not be fancy but the grassroots ingredients of peanut and banana have become synonymous with the Graceland god. Google “The Elvis” and you will find a plethora of entries on the unnervingly mouth-watering combination of peanut butter, banana and bacon- usually in sandwich form. Is this actually a combination so off the wall it works? The answer is actually- yes. The unctuous smoothness of the peanut butter and banana spiked by the salty bites of bacon crispiness stopping it becoming overwhelming and bland.

It was within a week of watching cookery competition shows and Netflix culinary food-show binging that I noticed a bizarrely serendipitous trend- the theme of PB&J and Elvis appeared to crop up rather a lot. We’re talking epiphany-like levels folks. The universe was speaking to me and it was saying, “Elvis”. But how to incorporate this make-up into something unexpected? The answer was literally right under my nose- I pondered the question whilst munching on a slice of last week’s banana loaf.

Now whilst I love banana bread, a certain Covid-quarantine ennui had settled on my taste buds in regards to it. I had become a lockdown Lancelot in a quest to revamp the moist. rich loaf- as my recipe for Buttermilk & Cardamom Banana Bread bares testament to. And this Memphis-kissed combination provided another excuse for kitchen experimentation.

The peanut/ banana combination was an obvious treatment for the loaf itself, and pockets of flavored jelly would of course provide surprising nuggets of sweet, sticky joy in the dough. But where to work in the final signature ingredient of the King? I didn’t want anything as obvious as just a couple of bacon slices on top. My other concern was that mixing bacon pieces into the batter would cause them to become chewy and soft gribene-esque morsels in the batter. So how better to avoid them becoming gummy crumbs than to put them outside the batter…on top…in a topping…a STREUSEL topping!

Et viola! Elvis Banana Bread…enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 large bananas
  • 4 Tbspn Peanut butter (smooth or crunchy to you taste)
  • 1/2 cup Canola oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tspn Vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cup AP flour
  • 3/4 cup Dark brown sugar
  • 2 tspn Baking powder
  • 1 tspn cinnamon
  • 1/4 tspn Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup Grape jelly (feel free to sub with whatever flavour you like)

Streusel Topping

  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and crispy
  • 1/4 cup Dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fine sugar
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tspn cinnamon
  • 2 Tbspn Butter, cold and diced
  • Pinch Kosher salt

Method

To make the streusel topping

  1. In a bowl combine both the sugars, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter pieces. Rub the mixture together with your fingertips until a pea-sized sand texture is achieved and a crumble is formed. Crumble in the crispy bacon slices, mix through and set aside until needed later. *This makes more than enough streusel topping with plenty left over for additional uses. It’ll keep in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight jar

To make the banana bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan and line the bottom & with parchment paper (this will help to lift the baked loaf out)
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the peanut butter, oil, milk and vanilla, whisk well to combine and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt
  3. Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and fold together until just combined and there are no spots of dry floury residue
  4. Pour 1 /2 of the batter into the loaf pan. Using a piping bag or spoon, place dollops of the jelly along the top of the loaf batter leavings about 1 inch border around. Once you’ve got the jelly piped in how you’d like,  pour the remaining loaf  batter over to cover the jelly and roughly level the top. Generously sprinkle over the streusel topping to an amount of your liking
  5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until well risen and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
  6. Remove the baked loaf from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes in the loaf pan before lifting out using the parchment paper, and leave to cool completely on a rack before slicing