Pumpkin Tea Cake

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

There’s a somberness that comes with the end of summer and beginning of fall. The air is drier, there sun is lower, and the sky feels a little bluer. Maybe it’s because the wind is a little colder.

But with every changing season, I reflect on the past few months — for me, summer was exhilarating. I was jet setting between California and New York and spotted through Europe (can I go back please?). The day job and the freelance clients have all been pretty amazing lately, so it’s safe to say I’m in a good spot.

I spent a couple of hours on Kristen’s floor with Winston last night, drinking wine and catching up after a busy day of work and biking all over DC. I’ve actually had a couple of anxiety filled days, mostly coping with the realization that no one is happy all of the time. It’s painful, to see people you care about struggling. Whether you’ve been in their shoes or not, it hurts. We meowed with Winston, told stories about how we’re too old to be drinking as much as we do, and chatted about the ups and downs, the balancing act of good times and bad times in our circles of friends.

A few of our close friends are going through some rough transitions in life, and I’ve been trying to figure out how the best ways to help them. Most of the time, I just want to rescue the people I love, take a few days off work and sit them down in my living room while I blast music and bake up a storm. Or fly to wherever they are and do the same in their own kitchen. It’s the company that matters; the location is usually meaningless.

Long story short, if you’re reading this, you know who you are. I love you, and this pumpkin tea cake is for you.

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

pumpkin tea cake // sweetsonian

Pumpkin Tea Cake, derived from the Tartine Cookbook

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup + 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan (or three mini loaf pans) with parchment paper, and brush with oil or rub with butter.

In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together. Set aside.

In your stand mixer, beat together the pumpkin puree, oil, sugar, and salt on medium speed, until well-mixed. Add each egg, one at a time, fully incorporating before adding the next. Slowly add the dry ingredients with the mixer on low speed, beating until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and then beat on medium speed for 10 seconds to make a smooth batter.

Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan (or pans) and smooth the surface with your spatula. Bake until the centers are set and a toothpick comes out clean — the time will depend on your oven, but it should take about 1 hour.

Serve the cake at room temperature. It keeps well if wrapped in saran wrap, but it won’t last long.

Autumn in a Jar: Kale Salad with Chickpeas, Cherries, and Pecans

autumn in a jar: kale salad with chickpeas, cherries, and pecans // Sweetsonian

autumn in a jar: kale salad with chickpeas, cherries, and pecans // Sweetsonian

Sooooo… the government shut down. Yeah, that happened.

Luckily for me, my department is still functioning on something called prior year funding, so I’m not furloughed… yet. As you can imagine, all of my furloughed friends are obviously invited over for dinners.

As it is, spent my lunch  break on Capitol Hill, dropping a Greek salad off for Shaeda. Sucks to be a Hill staffer right now.

autumn in a jar: kale salad with chickpeas, cherries, and pecans // Sweetsonian

autumn in a jar: kale salad with chickpeas, cherries, and pecans // Sweetsonian

It’s pretty much your typical, fickle fall in DC right now — we’re bouncing between chilly mornings and warm afternoons. I’m itching for the days when you know you’ll actually need your boots to keep you warm. I’ve been polishing my beloved Frye Taylors, ready to seize the day by all fifty five degrees, my perfect temperature.

You’d never know I was born and raised in California.

Anyway, wherever you are, I hope you’re getting to experience even the slightest change in seasons, because we’re almost at my favorite point in the year. Go apple picking. Snuggle up in a sleeping bag under a meteor shower. Break out the Dutch oven and start braising.

It’s gonna be a chilly fall.

In the meantime, this salad from Sprouted Kitchen is the perfect transition lunch. And, it packs really well in jars. So if you happen to be lucky enough to not be furloughed, go ahead and pack one of these for your government friends. They might be in it for the long haul.

autumn in a jar: kale salad with chickpeas, cherries, and pecans // Sweetsonian

autumn in a jar: kale salad with chickpeas, cherries, and pecans // Sweetsonian

 

Kale Chopped Salad, adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

Parmesan vinaigrette:
1 small shallot, chopped
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
Pinch of salt
1 bunch kale (Sara Forte uses Tuscan, but I just grabbed the normal variety at the grocery store)
1 apple — I used a Fiji apple
1 cup chickpeas
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1/3 cup dried cherries

Combine the shallot, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, and oil in a food processor. Grind until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Use a paring knife to cut away the stems from the kale, and finely chop the leaves with a larger chef’s knife. Set aside in a bowl. Core and dice the apple, and then toss with the chickpeas, pecans, and cherries. Go ahead and toss with half of the dressing, adding more if you desire.

If you plan on jarring the salad for lunch, don’t toss it — just layer the dressing at the bottom and keep the kale at the top. The other details don’t mean too much.

Roasted Vanilla Pears with Espresso Marscapone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Five months. It’s been five months since I moved into my new apartment.

It hardly feels that way.

Only in the past few weeks have I actually begun feeling settled — I guess it’s a result of a summer filled with travels and work and temporary roommates. I’ve learned more about myself as a roommate this summer than I have in the past eight years of living with people who aren’t my parents.

I know I have my quirks. I roller coaster between kitchen nazi and someone who’s so all over the place that I can’t tell left from right. I struggle between pleasing people and being selfish. We all do.

But after a summer of travel in basically every direction that exists, filled with weddings and sailing and rope swings — it’s a rainy Saturday afternoon, and I finally feel settled enough to sit down and write.

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

I just bought a new Apple display screen for my home office, but there’s something comforting about writing my posts from the laptop in bed. It’s how I’ve written almost every sentence for the past eight years. Four of which, as of last Tuesday, have been written in DC. I considered leaving the apartment and being productive when I woke up this morning, but after seeing the forecast and by the time I got to the bottom of my French press, I gave up. I snuggled into bed with a sweater from Bergen and a few episodes of Breaking Bad.

For today, that’s all I need. The weather is cooling down, which makes me just absolutely smitten with this city. And, if you’re on the hunt for a good fall transition food, these pears make an impressive dessert (or breakfast, if you happen to share an apartment with me).

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Vanilla Roasted Pears with Espresso Mascarpone Cream

Roasted Pears with Coffee Marscapone, Serves 3 or 6, depending on how much dessert you want

Roasted pears:
¼ cups light brown sugar
½ vanilla bean
3 Bosc pears, peeled, halved lengthwise and cored (or whatever you can get your hands on)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter
Bourbon or rum to drizzle before serving

Espresso marscapone cream:
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup marsacpone cheese
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Stir espresso powder and water in a large bowl until dissolved. Add cream, mascarpone, and sugar. Beat in a stand mixer until the cream is thick and smooth. Transfer into a jar or serving dish, and store in the freezer while you roast the pears (you can even make this a day or two ahead).

In a small bowl, combine your sugar and vanilla bean seeds — I store my vanilla beans in a jar filled with vodka (vanilla extract at home!) but this makes it extra easy to extract the beans. Just snip off the end of a bean and squeeze out the contents like it’s a stick of honey. Whisk with a fork.

Arrange your pears, core up, in a baking dish (a pie plate would fit them perfectly). Brush the pears with lemon juice, and put a cube of butter in each core. Sprinkle the pears with your sugar, and pour the water into the baking dish.

Serve each pear with a scoop of cream and a drizzle of bourbon or rum.