Three Favorite Seasonal Recipes…

25 Oct

Fall flavors can run the gamut from nuts and dried fruits to spices and seasonal fruits.  And of course, dark chocolate has to be considered a great fall flavor.  If you consider it, 4th quarter desserts tend to be rich, heavy and comforting – to help fatten us up, adding to our winter coat so we stay nice & toasty warm.  And luckily, we have three perfect occasions to pull out our mixers and whip up these treats – Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas.  So, listed below are three of my top seasonal recipes…. one for each holiday.

Pumpkin Cranberry Upside-down Cake

The Pumpkin Cranberry Pecan Upside-down Cake originally appeared in Emily Luchetti’s book A Passion For Desserts, and we’ve been making it here in classes for years.  I’ve done a few tweaks to the recipe, but I’m sure you’ll like the results.  The technique is basically that used to make your classic muffin – dry ingredients sifted together, wet ingredients stirred together, then fold all until homogeneous.

Pumpkin Cranberry Pecan Upside-down Cake

Unsalted butter               6 oz             12 Tbsp
Brown sugar                     1 C
Cranberries                       1 ¼ C
(dried or frozen  or a combination)
Toasted pecans                4 oz             1 C
Eggs                                      2
Pumpkin puree                 1 C
Browned Butter               6 Tbsp
All purpose flour             1 ½ C
Sugar                                    1 C
Baking powder                1 ½ tsp
Cinnamon                          1 tsp
Nutmeg                              ½ tsp
Salt                                      ¼ tsp
Need: Several Stainless Bowls, 9” Round Cake Pan, Parchment Paper, Whisk, Saucepan, Skewer, Offset Spatula

1.    Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line the bottom of a 9” round pan with parchment paper.

2.   Melt the first butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth.  Pour the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

3.    In a medium bowl, combine the cranberries and pecans.  Place them in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.

4.   Melt the second butter over medium heat.  Swirl the pan to ensure the butter cooks evenly.  The butter should brown but not burn.

5.    In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree and browned butter.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture.  Carefully spread the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.

6.   Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35 – 40 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Place a large plate on top of the cake.  Invert the cake and plate together, and then remove the pan.  Carefully peel of the parchment paper.  Let cool completely before serving.


Our next recipe features both savory and sweet ingredients, specifically Goat Cheese, Walnuts & Orange.  These tarts hit the perfect balance.  You can make this recipe in either mini tarts (2 – 3 bites) or individual tarts (4″), depending on what tart pans you have available.  And if you don’t have a tart dough recipe, let me know and I would be glad to send you mine!

Walnut, Orange, Chevre Tarts

Individual Tart Pans (approx. 4")

1 recipe Tart Pastry
11 oz Soft Fresh Goat’s Cheese (chevre)
½ cup full-fat ricotta
Seeds of ½ vanilla bean, hull reserved for another use,
or substitute 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup superfine sugar or evaporated cane juice
2 tsp packed finely grated orange zest
3 large egg yolks
3 tbsp all purpose flour, sifted
¾ cup to 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh walnuts, lightly toasted
6 lightly toasted walnut halves to garnish


1.     Preheat oven to 350°. Line the tart pans with the dough.  Use either 6 – 8  4” pans or 18 – 20 mini tart pans.  Place pastry-lined tart tins on a baking sheet and prick bottoms with a fork. Line with parchment/foil, fill with pie weights. Bake 10 minutes, or until colored. Remove lining and weights, and bake another 3 – 5 minutes, until bottoms of shells are dry and firm. Cool completely. This can be done up to 2 days in advance, stored loosely covered at room temperature, and be sure to leave the dough in the tart pans.

2.    Reduce oven to 325°. Using paddle attachment, cream goat’s cheese and ricotta until partially blended. It helps if the cheeses are closer to room temperature.  Smear in vanilla seeds, if using. Add the sugar and orange zest, and cream until smooth. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition, making sure yolks are thoroughly incorporated. Add vanilla extract if using.

3.    Sift flour over the cheese mixture and stir to blend. The batter should be shiny and smooth. If lumpy, use a wide-wired whisk to stir until smooth. Don’t worry about a few small lumps of cheese, but flour lumps should be broken up.

4. Sprinkle 2 Tbs chopped toasted walnuts onto the bottoms of the tart shells. Spoon cheese mixture over the nuts. Smooth the tops with the back of a spoon and place a walnut half in the center of each tart. Bake at 325° for 12 to 16 minutes, or until the filling is slightly puffed and just firm to the touch. Cool completely before unmolding. Best eaten the day they are made, kept at room temperature until serving. Leftover tarts can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

Gingy Couple

And finally, the recipe that I so associate with Christmas.  You will be surprise to learn that it is nothing fancy or elaborate – just your classic slightly soft Gingerbread Cookie.  During the holiday season, I’m sure that I could eat Gingerbread all year-long, but I think that it’s most special and appropriate if limited to the 4th Quarter.  For Halloween, we’re making Gingerbread Men and decorating them as skeletons with Royal Icing.  Once November comes, we’ll switch to the classic Gingerbread People.  Here’s it is.

Gingerbread People

3 C all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbs ground ginger
1 ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
6 Tbs butter, softened
¾ C packed brown sugar
1 large egg
½ C molasses

2 tsp vanilla

1. Measure all ingredients.  Whisk together the first 6 ingredients thoroughly in a stainless steel bowl.  Set aside.  In a mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar and egg on medium speed, until well blended.

2. Add molasses and vanilla to the mixer bowl and beat until well combined.  Gradually stir the dry ingredients in until well blended and smooth.  Divide the dough in half.  Wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temp. for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours. (The dough can also be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.  Let warm up before rolling.)

3. To bake, preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line two pans with parchment paper.  Place one portion of the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Very lightly sprinkle flour over the surface and dust the rolling pin.  Roll out to ¼” thick.  Lift the dough frequently to ensure that it is not sticking to the table.  Cut out the cookies using a 4” or 5” tall cutter.  With a spatula, transfer the people to the pans.  Roll the dough scraps and continue cutting until all the dough is used.

4. Garnish the people with raisins or currants if desired.  Bake until the edges of the cookies are just barely dark, about 7 to 10 minutes.  Rotate the pan halfway through baking for even browning.  Remove the sheet to a rack and let cool.  Decorate with Royal Icing and allow to dry.


One Response to “Three Favorite Seasonal Recipes…”

  1. Bill October 28, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    Great thoughts and recipes!

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