You know what’s crazy?
This is the first year I’ve had a Christmas tree since 2004.
And this is the first time in my life I’ve had a REAL Christmas tree.
Growing up, we always had a fake tree. I didn’t really mind. I enjoyed the challenge of climbing onto the washer and dryer in the garage while no one was home, and nearly killing myself as I hoisted down the boxes of “tree” and decorations. There was fun in putting it all together; assembling the metal trunk, attaching the branches like some home improvement project. Snow globes, the nativity scene, stockings, the wreath… I would listen to Dad’s Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis Christmas records (on a real record player, by the way!).
This year my tree, with the exception of the lights, is all natural.
For decoration, I used dried flowers, and leaves from up north, courtesy of Henry’s aunt :)
I was hellbent on a blue blanket. A la Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.
You know what else I’ve been hellbent on?
Okay, it’s more specific than pumpkin blondies. CHEWY pumpkin blondies. See, when it comes to pumpkin cookies and bars, the water content of the beloved squash tends to keep these treats from being dense, chewy, fudgey, that kind of thing… Rather, it makes them fluffy. Moist, sure. Soft, yep. But does it produce that same sinfully satisfying bite of a rich brownie or brown-sugary snickerdoodle cookie? NO!
And I like my blondies to be dense!
(No pun intended)
And I figured it out!
(I’m such a genius.)
1) STRAINING the pumpkin!
You’d be surprised how much liquid you can get from pumpkin puree.
2) Bread flour. It. Just. Makes. Sense.
I recalled an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown, in which he demonstrated various types of chocolate chip cookies. My favorite– the chewy– included bread flour. Why? Because bread flour is higher in protein and has more gluten. Gluten and protein give elasticity and chew. Like when you tear off a piece of French baguette, or rip into a bagel. Mmmmm. So adding it to certain sweets will give them that wonderfully intense texture, a bite that says, “Oh. YEAH.”
Chewy Pumpkin Blondies
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) butter, non-hydrogenated margarine, shortening, etc.
3 cups sugar (white, brown, a combination, whatever. But brown will yield more fudginess)
3 Tbsp flaxseed meal
a few pinches of salt
vanilla or almond extract, up to 1 tsp
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup bread flour
optional: nuts, chocolate chunks,
baby teeth, etc.
also optional: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves… y’know, holiday spices.
1) Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 9×13 inch pan. Strain the pumpkin puree by using a cheesecloth, muslin fabric, or a large coffee filter set over a colander. You want to get as much liquid out as possible. I went to a fabric store, bought muslin cloth for just a couple dollars, and squeezed out a ton of pumpkin juice. ( Use it for soup stock.)
2) Melt your butter/ “butter”. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flaxmeal, and salt. Add butter and whisk whisk whisk. Add the strained pumpkin and whisk whisk whisk.
3) In a small bowl, combine the flours, and spices if using. Fold into the wet mixture, along with any add-ins you desire. Spread batter into your pan. Fingers may be necessary. Bake around 30-40 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting.
Now THAT is a blondie.
And as an honorary Jew, Happy Chanukah!
P.S. To my faaavorite people (whoever you are)… Hopefully you’re reading this…
Beetwood Fleetwood Mac is touring next summer…
Tickets go on sale soon… Just sayin’… ::coughcoughChristmaspresentcoughcough::