For a food lover, there's no better holiday than Thanksgiving. An entire day devoted to the preparation and enjoyment of a bountiful meal with family and friends - now there's something to be thankful for!
Between a tumbling economy and a bumpy recovery, we're all counting our blessings extra carefully this year. And our pennies. In my home, the over-the-top Thanksgiving extravaganza will be a little less, well, extravagant. That doesn't mean there won't be an abundance of good food, just a re-focus on the number of dishes and who prepares them. This year I'm relaxing a bit, and inviting family to share in the preparation. Best of all, the kids are helping, too. My 11-year old daughter Bella and her cousins are making place settings as an arts-and-crafts project, and I can't wait to see what they come up with. She already has ideas on how the tables should be set.
She'll be helping me in the kitchen, as well, which she loves to do - just as long as she thinks it was her idea. Last night we sat down to plan out the desserts, and she opened "her" book to get some ideas. Bella tested all the recipes in my new book (er, our new book), Baking Kids Love, and helped me choose and refine those that were included. There are even tips from her in every recipe, written straight to the kids using the book. So now that she's the "expert," she wanted to plan the baking for Thanksgiving. I gave her the thumbs up and held my breath while she worked on the list.
You see, if Bella had her druthers, there'd be no pumpkin pie. She's unclear on her dislike for it, but there's no way it will pass her lips. However, I - and many others in my large family - love pumpkin pie dearly, and can't imagine Thanksgiving without it. As she worked, I prepared myself for a possible skirmish to keep pumpkin pie on the menu.
I was pleasantly surprised that she took her time making the list, and asked me several questions about the likes and dietary restrictions of various family members. She knows I've long spoiled my parents, 5 brothers and sisters, and all their children with sweets galore on every holiday. I love that she wants to continue that tradition, and is giving thought to what aunts, uncles and cousins might enjoy.
In the end, I was impressed with Bella's list from the book. She focused on fall fruits and recipes that will please all factions of the family. There's a rustic apple pie, chocolate chunk bread pudding, chewy oatmeal cookies, and vanilla cupcakes she intends to top with chocolate ganache frosting and little candy pumpkins (or caramelized nuts for Grandma). She even wants to make corn muffins to accompany the turkey dinner, and says she'll "supervise" some of the other kids and show them how to do it.
At the top of her list is pumpkin gingerbread, a fragrant fall cake she can make all by herself by simply whisking together the liquid ingredients, then blending them into the dry ones. Baked in a classic bundt pan and showered with powdered sugar, it's a beautiful, stress-free centerpiece for the dessert table. Even better, it can be made ahead and stays moist for days. That's my girl! I've included the recipe for you here. We're going to serve it with generous spoonfuls of whipped cream and warm caramel sauce.
And the surprise for mom? There, at the bottom of the list, is "mom's famous pumpkin pie." Sigh. My little girl is growing up. Now if only I could get her to eat it!
From Baking with Kids by Sur La Table and Cindy Mushet, Andrews McMeel (2009).
Makes a big 10-inch bundt cake
Note from Bella: This cake always makes me think of snuggling in front of the fire on a cold night. It's easy to whip up when you get the craving because you just stir everything together in a bowl.
- Large bowl
- Medium bowl
- Silicone spatula
- 10-inch bundt pan, well buttered or sprayed and coated with fine, dry breadcrumbs
- Flat 10 to 12-inch serving plate or cake stand
- 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1/2 cup canola or corn oil
- 1/2 cup light, unsulphured molasses
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting the top
1. Before you begin: Generously butter or spray the bundt pan and dust it with fine, dry breadcrumbs. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Make the cake: Sift the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and salt into the large bowl. Push through any lumps with your fingers. Whisk to blend the mixture evenly.
Place the egg, sugar and pumpkin in the medium bowl and whisk until well mixed. Add the oil, molasses and water and whisk until smooth and blended.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Whisk gently at first, and then, as the mixture blends, whisk faster, until it is a smooth batter and you don't see any more dry patches.
3. Bake the cake: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top feels firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 20 minutes. You need to turn this cake out of the pan while it is warm (but not hot).
4. Unmold and serve the cake: Set the serving plate upside-down on top of the cake pan. Hold the plate and pan together like a sandwich, then flip them over. Be sure to ask your adult for help if this is too tricky. The cake will fall out of the pan onto the plate. Serve warm, or let the cake cool completely.
Just before serving, place the powdered sugar in the sieve and hold it over the cake. Tap the side of the sieve gently as you move it slowly over the top, showering it evenly with sugar.
If you LOVE ginger, you can bump up the flavor by stirring 1/3 cup candied ginger pieces into the batter, or adding a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger after you add the eggs.
About Cindy Mushet
Cindy Mushet has been a pastry chef, instructor and author for over 20 years. Her new book, Baking Kids Love, is a collaboration with Sur La Table, and was released in September. Her previous book, The Art and Soul of Baking, won the IACP cookbook award for best baking book 2009, and was a cookbook club pick for Gourmet Magazine. She is currently a patisserie instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in LosAngeles.
Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.