How to make your own pumpkin patch for dessert

October 21, 2013 

Last week, I mentioned that a Baltimore Sun reader from Belleville was looking for a cookie he described as white and pillowy and very hard.

I spent a couple hours with Fran Davitz, of Freeburg, last Thursday and she had clipped the article and had it sitting on her kitchen table when I came to visit. She was making springerle cookies (look for the complete story with recipe Sunday in our BND Magazine) and mentioned that the reader may have been talking about a springerle type of cookie that doesn't use anise. (In fact, while her cookies call for the licorce flavoring, it isn't required.)

And, as anybody who's ever eaten a too-long-in-the-oven springerle cookie knows, they can get very hard and require serious dunking to digest. Not Fran's, though. Hers were delicious!

I was scouting around for a way to make good use of the delicious brushetta I get from Don Harwerth at 10th Street Baking in Belleville. At a dollar a bag, I always take home a couple and freeze them for later use.

The crunchy garlicy bread would hold up well with this saucy recipe.

In case you don't get any of the bakery's brushetta, try the recipe for Parmesan Bread here as well.

Baked Mozzarella and Tomato-Basil

2 cups pasta sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

8 ounces fresh bocconcini mozzarella or mozzarella cheese, cut in cubes

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Parmesan-Toasted Baguette, (recipe below)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In four 12- to 16-ounce dishes, or one 1 1/2-quart shallow ovenproof dish, layer pasta sauce, garlic and mozzarella.

Bake 20 minutes, or until mozzarella is melted. Remove from oven; drizzle olive oil. Top with basil. Serve with bread or Parmesan Toasted Baguette slices. Makes 4 servings.

Parmesan Toast

8 1/2-inch slices baguette-style French bread

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat broiler. Lightly brush one side of bread slices with oil. Place bread slices, oil sides up, on a baking sheet. Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat about 15 seconds or until toasted (watch carefully to avoid burning). Sprinkle with cheese. Broil about 15 seconds more or until cheese is melted.

Serves 4, each with 405 calories, 17 grams fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 41 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 19 grams protein, 929 sodium.

I couldn't resist including this Halloween and autumn recipe from Betty Crocker.

Pumpkin Patch Cake

1 box devil's food cake mix

Water, oil and eggs called for on cake mix box

1 container (12 ounces) whipped cream cheese frosting

Red food color

Yellow food color

Orange sanding sugar, optional

5 pretzel sticks

Green food color

8 chocolate wafers, crushed

Green sanding sugar, optional

4 fresh mint sprigs or spearmint leaf-shaped jelly candy (like gumdrops)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for dark or nonstick pans). Place a paper baking liner in each of a 9 mini-muffin pan. (Use dark liners if you can find them.)

Grease a 9-inch square pan with shortening; lightly flour.

2. Make cake mix as directed on box, using water, oil and eggs. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Pour remaining batter into square pan.

3. Bake cupcakes 12 to 15 minutes; bake square cake 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

4. Place one-third of frosting in small bowl. Add a few drops of each red and yellow food colors until light orange color is achieved.

Frost mini cupcakes with orange frosting.

Cover frosting completely with orange sanding sugar, if using.

Break pretzel sticks in half; press half pretzel into center of each cupcake as stems.

Press vertical lines into sides of each cupcake with toothpick to make ribs of pumpkin.

5. Tint remaining frosting with green food color. Place square cake on serving plate or tray. Frost cake with green frosting.

Designate 1 corner of cake as the back of the pumpkin patch; cover corner with crushed chocolate wafers. Sprinkle wafers over center of cake, leaving some of green frosting showing at other edges of cake.

6. Arrange mini cupcake pumpkins on top of crushed chocolate wafers. Sprinkle green edge of cake with green sanding sugar, if using.

Press small candy leaves onto pumpkin cupcakes near pretzel "stem." Arrange remaining sprigs between pumpkins to create appearance of vines. Store cake loosely covered.

Tips: If you can't find plain chocolate wafers, use creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies with the cream center removed.

Use dark brown or black paper baking cups so they'll blend in with the chocolate wafer crumbs.

Here's how to reach me: Phone, 239-2664; e-mail, sboyle@bnd.com; or write, Suzanne Boyle, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

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