Apparently I’m on a pumpkin spree.
Allow me to grin sheepishly and assure you that pumpkin puree season is almost over, a fact that makes me feel both sad and just a little relieved. For Chris, at least. His pumpkin fatiguée has never run so high. (Although one serving of pumpkin pie should cure him of that.)
And admittedly, even my tolerance is beginning to wane. I tend towards the obsessive in many aspects of my life, and pumpkin is one of these things. As well as listening to the same song/album on repeat, wearing the same shirt for weeks on end, wanting to eat at the same restaurant every time I go out, etc. etc. The inevitable result of such overload is almost criminally tragic: after such sensory gluttony, said objects/activities become warped, twisted. I can never view them the same way again.
That early magic is so transcendent, yet transient. Like the first time I heard the song “Weird Fishes by Radiohead.” God, I was moved. It haunted me. I still love it—and the entire album for that matter—but how I wish I could hear it again for the first time. (You can.)
So seasonality may not be such a bad thing after all. I mean, I wouldn’t mind having access to perfectly ripe peaches the entire year round. But I’d be losing the experience of the anticipation, and the unadulterated captivation of the first bite. Which means more to me than you can know.
With all that being said, it’s almost time to retire pumpkin. Almost. After all, there’s still pumpkin pie to be had.
Traditional Italian biscotti is not the buttery, cake-y creations we have today. They’re supposed to be biscuits after all, and biscuits do not connote dessert. It was made exclusively with flour, sugar, eggs, almonds (not roasted or skinned), and pine nuts. And meant to last a long time. Centuries, if stored carefully, according to Pliny the Elder.
Purists would call the recipe below a bastardization then. At the same time, I didn’t want to make anything too extravagant, too rich, too filling. I didn’t want to dip my biscuits in chocolate, or adorn them knee-deep with toppings, or have them leave behind butter stains on my finger. Rather, I was craving a sensible, no-nonsense, pumpkin-flavored treat to eat alongside my mid-morning coffee.
And that’s how these biscotti came out.
Of course, my few modest additions helped ever so much with the flavor, if I do say so myself. Dried cranberries to make it feel more festive, slivered almonds because they were one of the original ingredients, cinnamon, ground ginger, and cardamom because why the hell not. I dusted the top with black sesame seeds, bird food really, and into the oven my fat little loaf went.
Because that’s how you make biscotti. You bake it twice.
Have you ever had a Noah’s Bagels pumpkin bagel? I think it singlehandedly converted me into a bagel lover. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), it’s seasonal, so it’s only obtainable one fleeting time a year, making it limited edition and therefore that much more desirable (like those mint chocolate Kisses that they sell around Christmas, have you had them?) And after I graduated from college and moved out of my college town, I stopped going to Noah’s altogether. Which is a shame, because pumpkin bagels, you have been sorely missed!
Well, I’ve got news for you. Homemade pumpkin bagels are just as good. Or, nearly as good, because in my case, they turned out rather ugly. Knobby. Imperfect, through and through. But seriously, homemade bagels, where have you been all my life? Just floating around, a vague idea in my head, that I never pulled off because I’d mistakenly thought you were really hard to make.
That’s the thing: these bagels were not difficult to make at all. I know that there are lots of ways to complicate the process, resulting in Bronx-worthy (and better-looking) bagels, but besides the extra step of boiling them, which admittedly was rather tense because I was trying to brush the egg wash on the cooked bagels and top them at the same time, most of the work was performed by my Kitchenaid mixer.
The bagels are so delicious when they come out of the oven. Soft but springy from the extra long bath I gave them, and laced with pumpkin. I also incorporated whole wheat flour into the recipe, resulting in the perfect fall breakfast food alongside a steaming cup of coffee. But make sure to toast them, because we all know that bagels taste best lightly toasted with a thick smear of cream cheese (the sliced tomatoes are optional. And the lox is a splurge!) But please please please don’t eat them with low-fat cream cheese. (We usually avoid low-fat products, but our grocery store had run out of the regular whipped kind.) It’s no substitute.
So, the afternoon before the hurricane struck (sorry, no more talk of hurricanes after this post), I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. I imagined spending a cozy evening nestled on the couch reading by candlelight, drinking tea and nibbling on cookies.
But of course, we ended up not losing our power at all. So there was no need to pull out the candles, we didn’t end up boiling water for tea, and the cookies were ultimately forgotten. (Who forgets about freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, you might be wondering? Not us, usually.)
The next day, I had the bright idea of making ice cream sandwiches from the cookies, which meant the cookies were off-limits until the pumpkin ice cream had been made. And ice cream-making always turns into a multi-day process, what with the making of the custard, and cooling it, and churning it, and finally freezing it.
All the while, the cookies sat on the counter tempting Chris, whose sweet tooth, though not as legendary as his dad’s (the man has been known to douse his Swedish pancakes with powdered sugar so that the pancake all but disappears), is quite acute. Every time he reached for one, I swatted his hand away. “Stay back,” I snarled.
Before you feel too bad for him, remember that I was making pumpkin ice cream sandwiches. He was going to be rewarded for his patience! I didn’t feel too cruel.
Let me tell you a little bit about the cookies, because they’re actually my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe ever (no, not the Cook’s Illustrated version I made earlier this year).
The recipe is actually from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, a book I like very much. The cookies are made completely with whole wheat flour, so their texture is much richer and nuttier than cookies made with all-purpose. They’ve got so much dimensionality and… dare I say it…complexity. I could eat the dough without the chocolate and it would only be slightly less delicious. That’s saying a lot, since chocolate is usually integral to my enjoyment of any dessert. I quickly became hooked on baking with whole grain flours after this cookie (although this pound cake helped, a lot, too).
The pumpkin ice cream recipe, on the other hand, I’m not particularly attached to. It does make a decent-tasting batch however. Not too rich, very pumpkin-y, no complaints at all. But of course, my mind was salivating at the idea of pairing it with the chocolate chip cookies. The two together fulfill some sort of dessert fantasy of mine.
And after the ice cream sandwiches were made, I told Chris to have at them. But of course, he’s barely touched them. I guess his anticipation must’ve soured. Or maybe they’re just too much dessert (he commented that each one was the size of a small burger, haha).