Archive | September, 2012

Pumpkin Doughnut Holes

20 Sep

I’ve pretty much decided to become a beekeeper.  Not professionally, but in a volunteer capacity.  The Garfield Park Conservatory offers about five classes, culminating in a volunteer position, apprenticeship, and eventual maintenance of your own hive.  I went with a couple of friends to the Conservator on the Sunday before last to quiz the beekeeper on the practice and bees in general.  And then, a few days ago, I decided I really only needed to eat dry toast for the rest of forever and spent $70 on the class.

This has nothing to do with that, however, and these doughnut holes don’t even have honey in them.  They probably should, now that I’m thinking about it…  But they do not.  They are merely a product of, “Man, we still have so much pumpkin purée left, what do we do?”

Make doughnuts.  Obviously.  These are baked, too, so they’re super easy and well worth what little time is involved in making them.

Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod


  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

These are technically muffins, and are baked in a muffin/cupcake tin, but since they puff up so much, they do end up looking like doughnut holes, and that is how the original recipe is named.  So you’ll need either a mini or a regular cupcake tin, depending on what size you want your doughnuts.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and set aside.

In a larger bowl, whisk the oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until smooth.  Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ones and mix until just combined.


Distribute evenly in cupcake tins.

Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.  If you make larger ones, they may take slightly longer to bake. Ours did take about ten minutes, but I suspect our oven runs rather hot.

Remove the doughnuts from the pan and allow them to cool.  While they’re chilling, melt the butter in one bowl, and combine the sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl.

Once the doughnuts have cooled, roll them around into the bowl of butter (I know, it sounds really gross), and then in the cinnamon-sugar.

Serve warm, with cider, coffee, or whatever fall cliché you desire.



I read, recently, a book of short stories recommended very highly by my roommate.  The author is virtually unknown now, despite receiving much critical acclaim when her stories were published.  I also read one of her novels in one day.  I think it was Sunday. Obviously that day is sort of a blur.

Her name is Jincy Willet, and she will scare the shit out of you.  I’ll quote something I wrote for another blog, because it comes close to capturing my fear and awe:

Jincy Willet doesn’t billet herself as a feminist writer, but she is.  Yes, yes she is.  Her women are terrifying forces of the darkest parts of human nature, and they are completely normal.  They are the people you walk past in the street who are barely hiding mass nebulae of anxiety behind carefully bored faces.  They’re so real, it’s sort of painful to read about them, because they are you and everyone you know, and everyone you’re afraid of.

There’s a lot of fear in my thoughts of Jincy Willet, but it’s the exciting kind.  Very often I’d be halfway through a short story and I’d think, hm, I don’t know about this one.  But they got me every time, like an unfortunate barb to the cheek when you stand too close to someone fishing.

I absolutely recommend her short story collection Jenny and the Jaws of life, which was brutal and stunning and sharply beautiful, but I also recommend the novel I read, The Writing Class.  If you’re less into Literature, you might want to go with The Writing Class, which is a murder mystery, fundamentally, and a study in the insanity of solitude.  It’s a great book, and the mystery is very engaging.  But mostly the characters are wonderful–some of them are caricatures, some are more realistic, all are surprising and grow a realistic amount, and all have something in them you can find to love.

But love is really the last thing that should be drawing you to Jincy Willet.  Fair warning.



Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

1 Sep

Hello, there.

I am a little pie-obsessed lately.  Maybe a lot.  Maybe I spend an unnatural amount of time thinking about pies.  Maybe I sit on the train and stare out the window, imagining the offerings of the farmer’s market on Saturday, contemplating the challenge of a double-crust rhubarb pie.  Maybe I wonder at the feasibility of blackberry-swirled cheesecake as I walk through the library stacks en route to the American politics section.  Maybe I sit atop my bike at stop lights, perched somewhat unsteadily on the toes of one foot, imagining the cool sweetness of an icebox pie and the zest of lemon sticking to my fingers long after the pie is finished.

Can you blame me, though?  Especially with this recipe, although it is technically a cheesecake.  Apparently we are ushering autumn in early at the apartment with the bounty of pumpkin-related desserts we made yesterday.  I’m not complaining, just stating a fact.

I made this pumpkin cheesecake-pie hybrid (piebrid?), treating the cheesecake crust like pie crust and using a pie tin because I had no spring-form pan.  If you do this, please be warned, because the recipe makes more cheesecake than can fit in a pie tin.  We will solve this problem by making mini cheesecakes in the cupcake pan tomorrow, but if you just want the one cake, I would go for the 10-inch spring-form.

Adapted from the Magnolia cookbook


For the crust:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin slop purée
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

It’s high time for pie time:

First, you must obliterate some cookies.

Haley and I put them in bags, smashed them into medium-sized chunks, and finished them off in a food processor until they became fine crumbs.

Combine the crumbs with the melted butter in a small bowl.

Press the crumbs into a buttered pie tin or spring-form pan.

Bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees and then allow to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.

Gradually add the sugars…

…and then the eggs, one at a time.

I safe-guarded the eggs while Haley whipped everything together in the mixing bowl.

Mix in the pumpkin purée until just combined.

Gross, right?  But it smells amazing.  Something I don’t understand, though, is why pumpkin purée is sold in such large quantities.  We made this cheesecake, and then we made pumpkin doughnut holes, and there’s still purée left over!  There’s only so much I can do with pumpkin.

Stir in the heavy cream, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Pour the batter into the pie tin/spring-form pan.

Bake for about one hour, or until the edges are set and the center jiggles just a bit when you shake it.  When it’s finished baking, turn the oven off and prop the over door open, allowing the cheesecake to cool for an hour.  Then, remove the cheesecake, cover it with plastic wrap, and transfer it to the fridge for chilling for 12 hours, or overnight.

It looks like a quiche, to me, which sort of weirded me out when I took it out of the fridge today. But it tastes absolutely delicious, and rather like a near-frigid autumn morning that’s so beautiful and idyllic you can’t possibly be put-out that you can’t feel your face.  A perfect day for apple picking, or pumpkin getting, or just walking very, very slowly down your street, scuffling the fallen leaves with a satisfying symphony of crunches and crackles.

The crust really brings this recipe together, providing a bite against the sweetness of the pumpkin and a crunch against the softness of the cheesecake.

For the whipped cream:

Throw all the ingredients together and whip like there’s no tomorrow.

You can, and probably will, use an electric mixer, but I have a new-found fondness for whipping by hand.  I talked about it with the banana cream pie, so I will restrain my odes to Whipping Heavy Cream by Hand.

Throw a bit of that on your slice of cheesecake-pie, and you are golden.

Now, let me tell you about the can of pumpkin purée.  In our infinite wisdom, my roommate and I neglected to get a can opener.  She doesn’t like canned food and I just wasn’t thinking, apparently.  Last year, when we lived in a dorm, our friends would just jab the cans with knives and pry the lid off.  Okay, so we tried that.

But the can started to damage the knives a bit.  So we got out the screwdriver and tried that.  No go.  Also, there was the fear of stabbing ourselves in the process.  Haley thought a hammer might do the trick, while I suggested scissors, so we each, with our implements, took a stab at it.


The hammer was what did the trick.  After much weakening at the hands of the other tools we used, the hammer finally punched through, and Haley used the prongs on the back to pry enough of a hole open that we could let some purée ooze through.

Our kitchen looked like someone had murdered a pumpkin in it quite brutally, with purée splashed onto the toaster, the microwave, dribbled across the counter, sprayed onto the floor and the container of baking powder we had just bought.

But by God, we got it.  Eventually.

The tools we used in the opening of this can.

And for your book recommendation: I’ve been reading a lot of “multi-ethnic lit” for a class I’m taking (Multi-Ethnic Literature), trying to pre-emptively strike down my workload before school starts.  I’ve read Toni Morrison and Amina Gautier, both of whom were amazing and one of whom teaches at my school (not Toni Morrison).  But I’m going to recommend The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri.  It’s a collection of short stores and a Nobel Prize winner, and it’s quite lovely.  The stories are very quiet, and weighty without being burdensome.  They don’t hang down over your head with Deep Meaning and Symbolism, but you can’t simply breeze through them without another thought.  They require contemplation, but no brain-spraining.  In summation, a very good book.