Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows

Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows

I felt really good about this recipe until I told my sister I made marshmallows. She responded by asking if I made them into anything. Ignoring what could only be trap, I asked what exactly she meant. She explained she had seen homemade marshmallows that resembled mushrooms and claims to have seen such a thing in real life, not just on television.

I can offer up little more than simple marshmallow squares.

In her defense, my sister attempted to soften the blow by reassuring me most people do not makes marshmallows at all. My hope is to change that. I assure you, homemade marshmallows like this pumpkin spice variety are quite simple and worthwhile to make.

The most challenging part of this recipe, for an impatient person like myself, is the waiting. Prepare to wait for the sugar syrup to reach the correct temperature and then for the mixture to whip up just right and, lastly, for the marshmallows to fully set.

I admit, I have tried my hand at making marshmallows at home before. Delicious, but giant, homemade marshmallows were the result of that first attempt. After my second attempt here, I still have quite a ways to go before I reach perfection, but I tell myself that is part of the fun. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows

 

Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • ¼ cup powdered gelatin
  • 1¼ cups corn syrup
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Instructions
  1. Combine the pumpkin puree, ½ cup of the cold water, and the powdered gelatin in a mixing bowl and mix until well blended.
  2. Meanwhile, pour the remaining ½ cup of cold water into a saucepan along with the corn syrup, sugar, and salt.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Gently brush down the sides of the saucepan from time to time to return any sugar crystals that form back into the mixture.
  4. Upon boiling, place a candy thermometer into the syrup and continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 255 degrees F (hard ball stage).
  5. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
  6. With the mixer running, very slowly and very carefully pour the hot sugar solution into the pumpkin-gelatin mixture.
  7. Gradually increase the mixer speed to high and allow to whip for 10 minutes. It may be necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice if the mixture creeps up to high.
  8. At the beginning of the final minute of whipping (minute 9), sprinkle in the pumpkin pie spice.
  9. Lightly spray a standard baking sheet (I used a jelly roll pan to help contain the mixture) with non-stick cooking spray and rub gently with a paper towel to distribute the spray and remove any excess.
  10. Scrape the mixture into a prepared pan and spread as smooth as possible with an offset spatula or large knife. Be sure to coat the utensil with nonstick cooking spray as well.
  11. Set the marshmallows aside and allow to rest uncovered at room temperature for at least four hours. (Resting overnight is fine).
  12. After this final wait, cut the marshmallows with a lightly oiled knife or pizza cutter, break into individual pieces, and place in a large bowl.
  13. Whisk together the cornstarch and confectioners' sugar and pour over the cut marshmallows.
  14. Toss to coat completely and shake off excess.
  15. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container with the lid slightly ajar for one to three days.
Notes
¼ cup powdered gelatin is equivalent to just more than 1 box, or 4 envelopes, of
Knox gelatin.

In lieu of pumpkin pie spice, the original recipe called for 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves.
 

Dulce de Coco Stuffed Snickerdoodles

Dulce de Coco Stuffed Snickerdoodles

To say the least, I was excited. The third Willow Bird Baking challenge required participants baked a filled cookie. Any cookie. Any filling. Did I mention I was excited?

I love stuffed foods. My favorite donuts, long johns or filled sticks depending on where you live, are stuffed with pastry cream. When I was a kid, I lived for those powdery squares of gum filled with flavored syrup. (To be fair, I think the kid-version of myself  just plain lived for gum.) My favorite pasta is ravioli because, naturally, those little pasta pillows can be stuffed with all sorts of deliciousness.

I did a series on stuffed foods last November, and I am planning to start round two in a couple of weeks. Although one of my stuffed recipes is now effectively down the tubes – pumpkin cheesecake stuffed snickerdoodles – that is okay! I made these cookies right around this time last fall, and they were delicious. I think I had them in the back of my mind when I recently made cream cheese stuffed chocolate cherry lambic cookies.

This time around, I considered an apple cookie stuffed with a caramel and a chocolate-stuffed banana cookie. Then I flipped through a mounting pile of recipes to try, and I found one for Dulce de Coco. Done.

Since I have no problems whatsoever with Snickerdoodles, I opted to keep it simple and bake those. I typically use a recipe from Mrs. Fields Best Cookie Book Ever! , but this time I used the recipe found on Willow Bird Baking. It calls for powdered sugar, which I had never before used in a dough and found very interesting. The cookies bake up soft and light, which I also like.

Dulce de Coco Stuffed Snickerdoodles

Now for a word on the filling portion of this recipe. I noted this in the recipe below, but the Dulce de Coco will not fully freeze. Therefore, it is imperative to take the time to fully chill the dough and filling. This will save you much grief as the chilled cookie dough will hold its shape much better and not end up in a puddly mess on the baking sheet. Regardless, you may end up with a few leaky cookies as I did, and that is okay. They are still delicious.

Because I was not sure how the plain Dulce de Coco filled cookies would turn out, I also mixed some of the filling with cream cheese. That mixture did freeze all the way.

I liked the cookies filled only with Dulce de Coco a bit better, simply because the taste of the filling was more prominent throughout the cookie. The cream cheese and Dulce de Coco mixture made it more obvious the cookie was filled, whereas the Dulce de Coco alone just sort of absorbed throughout the cookies. If stuffing cookies seems like a pain, a thumbprint cookie filled with Dulce de Coco is a delicious option. It did not occur to me to try this until I was literally down to my last ball of dough, so I have no photos to share of that lone cookie.

If you are not a coconut fan, you may want to try homemade dulce de leche instead. The King Arthur Flour blog has a nice post on caramel stuffed snickerdoodles, complete with photos on the stuffing process, that should help get you started. Enjoy!

Dulce de Coco Stuffed Snickerdoodles

Dulce de Coco stuffed Snickerdoodles
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the Dulce de Coco
  • 1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the Snickerdoodles
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • For Coating the Cookies
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. To make the Dulce de Coco filling, combine the coconut milk, brown sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, cover the saucepan, and allow the mixture to continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, uncover, and allow to continue to simmer for 35-40 additional minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. When the mixture is thickened, stir in the vanilla (like when making caramels, this step causes the mixture to bubble up, so exercise caution to avoid burns).
  5. Pour into a glass jar and allow to come to room temperature before securing the lid.
  6. Place in the freezer for use in stuffing cookies.
  7. To make the Snickerdoodles, combine the butter, vegetable oil, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and eggs in a large bowl.
  8. Start the mixer and allow the dough to come together as you prepare the dry ingredients.
  9. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
  10. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture in 3 to 4 additions, mixing until just combined between each.
  11. Place the finished dough in the refrigerator to chill (overnight if possible).
  12. After the cookie dough and the filling is fully chilled, whisk together the ½ cup granulated sugar and one tablespoon cinnamon in a small bowl.
  13. Gather a portion of chilled cookie dough for one cookie (I used an ice cream scoop here), and use your thumb, a teaspoon, or a small melon baller (I used all three here with no preference) to make a hollow in the dough.
  14. Fill the hollow with the Dulce do Coco, then cover with a bit of dough.
  15. Work the dough around the whole ball, being sure to pinch together any cracks.
  16. Roll the dough ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place in the freezer while you prepare the remaining cookies.
  17. Repeat the forming and filling steps until all dough is formed and in the freezer.
  18. Place the frozen dough balls on parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 4 inches between each.
  19. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are slightly browned.
  20. Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Notes
For an alternative filling, simply mix some Dulce de Coco with cream cheese and place in the freezer to harden. When frozen, simply pop a ball of this mixture into each chilled portion of cookie dough and bake. The ratio I used was ¼ cup Dulce de Coco to 5 ounces of cream cheese.

The Dulce de Coco by itself will not fully freeze. It will be soft and caramel-like at best.

When baking stuffed cookies, I cannot stress enough the importance of working with fully chilled dough and fillings.
 

Pear and Feta Pastry Braid

Honey Pear & Feta Braid

The second Willow Bird Baking Challenge required bakers fill a pastry braid with any filling that met their heart’s desire. I had been thinking about whipping up some baked pears like those I made in the past, so I figured, why not just put them into a braid?

There is something about a fruit and cheese combination – in this case pears and Feta – that to me never seems to get old. Another of my favorites is apple and cheddar. Tart Granny Smith apples, creamy brie cheese, and sweet cherry preserves are another favorite combo, and I think either would make an equally delicious braid.

I thought of so many filling possibilities I wanted to try in this challenge that I felt a bit like a cop-out trying something I knew would work based on past experience. I initially thought of making some sort of banoffe pie concoction. I also considered adding some cocoa power to the dough to create a chocolate braid, filing it with bananas and marshmallows.

Thinking of chocolate dough led me down the path of wanting use cherry pie filling. After that, I naturally began to wonder if pudding would not make for a delicious filling as well. What I am trying to communicate is there are seemingly infinite possibilities for this braid. When a recipe is as flexible as its fillings, what’s not to like?

If this is your first time baking a braid, as it was mine, the step-by-step pictures in the original recipe post show how to cut and fold the dough. The assembled braid can be refrigerated and baked the next day, so it is great to pull together the night before a brunch. Keep in mind the dough does not make an overly large pastry –  the 8 x 12 dimensions are just slightly larger than a sheet of notebook paper – so you may want to bake two braids if you expect a crowd.

See all of the wonderful concoctions baking challenge participants created here. The savory options bakers came up with were amazing! The sweet recipes looked pretty good too. Enjoy!

Honey Pear & Feta Braid
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the Dough
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (additional may be needed)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup milk, minus ½ teaspoon
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • For the Filling
  • ½ medium-sized pear, sliced very thin
  • 2 tablespoons honey, plus additional for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 2 tablespoons feta cheese, plus additional for topping
  • For the Icing
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add the butter and cream cheese into the flour mixture and pulse to cut the butter into the flour.
  3. Add the milk and the lemon extract and blend into a loose dough.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead VERY LIGHTLY for 4-5 strokes. Add flour as needed to make sure the dough is not too sticky to roll out. The goal is to simply gather the dough together. It does not need to be smooth, and likely will look a bit rough.That is okay.
  5. Between two sheets of waxed paper, roll the dough out to an 8- by 12-inch rectangle. Next, turn the dough out onto a lightly greased baking sheet and remove the waxed paper.
  6. Measure and mark the dough lengthwise into thirds.
  7. In a clean bowl, mix together the honey, lemon juice, cinnamon, and ginger.
  8. Toss the sliced pears in this mixture until well coated.
  9. Lay the pear slices down the middle third of the dough, keeping them about ½ inch from the mark on both sides.
  10. Sprinkle the feta over the pears once layered across the dough.
  11. Make 2¾-inch slight diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each the long sides. Do not cut into the pear-and-cheese-filled center area.
  12. Fold strips, first one from one side and then one from the other side, in a rotating fashion over the filling.
  13. The dough should now resemble a braid.
  14. Bake in a 425° F oven for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and the top is lightly browned. About a minute before taking the pastry out of the oven, sprinkle additional feta over the top if desired and return to the oven.
  15. When the braid comes out of the oven, drizzle with honey.
  16. While the braid cools, combine the powered sugar, milk, and lemon extract.
  17. Drizzle over the top of the braid and enjoy. Best when served warm.
Notes
Note from Julie at Willow Bird Baking: To prepare this braid in advance, complete all steps and assemble the braid but do not bake. Cover the braid on its parchment-lined baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Set out in the morning as you preheat the oven and then bake as usual.