Jill and the Great Pumpkin (truffles)

In anticipation of Halloween, I decided to do something that terrified me: I was going to attempt to make some candy. It was also my roommate Paige’s birthday, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to avoid the awkward task of picking out a gift for someone you are newly friends with and opt for treats, which—unless you are some sort of mutant—everyone likes.

I searched for something appropriately Halloweeny, but also something that wasn’t cookies shaped like eyeballs, or “mummy” muffins that are only mummy in that they have coconut on them, or candy corn (but that’s mostly because candy corn is disgusting). I decided on pumpkin bread truffles, which is a combination of candy and the most autumny ingredient possible: pumpkin. The gist of the recipe was to mush (or something more poetic than that) crumbled pumpkin bread and cream cheese frosting together, then dip it in white chocolate candy coating, then roll the truffles in cinnamon and sugar. Which is basically the easiest thing ever. However, the recipe suggested making the frosting from scratch, because store-bought can be too sweet. Candy is already sweet, I thought, so I don’t want to overdo it. I decided to up the ante and make the recipe heart-pounding and anxiety-inducing enough for Halloween.

It turns out I did want to overdo it. Instead of buying frosting and pumpkin bread, I decided I was going to make the frosting and the pumpkin bread from scratch. The recipe provided no tips on either of these things, so I found high-rated recipes for both (http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/downeast-maine-pumpkin-bread/Detail.aspx and http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/cream-cheese-frosting-ii-2/Detail.aspx). I suddenly had three different recipes to make one dessert. It was ON.

I felt cool at the grocery store, since I had most of the ingredients on hand already. One thing they don’t tell you, though, about growing up and cooking for yourself and all that: spices are EXPENSIVE. It was over $15 for three jars: nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. And those jars are a more appropriate size for dolls than humans.

I decided in the store that I was going to do a neat healthy trick I’d heard and swap out the oil in the pumpkin bread recipe for plain applesauce. A gutsy move, one I had never attempted, as a part of a recipe I had never attempted either. I also bought Neufchâtel cheese (1/3 less fat than cream cheese, according to the package). I know from a disastrous attempt at homemade alfredo sauce that fat-free cream cheese is NOT a substitute for regular cream cheese. However, I decided I was going to give myself as many opportunities for worry as possible, and went with it.

I donned my apron and put on some loud music. First came the pumpkin bread. After I mixed the wet ingredients together, including the applesauce, I was worried. It was so much liquid. I followed the recipe to the T(-spoon), and stirred the dry ingredients into the wet until just mixed. My anxiety increased. It was more the texture of a milkshake than the dough I was used to baking with. I had no idea how it was to become bread. I resisted the urge to cross myself for luck, and poured the batter into the carefully-floured pans (prepared according to Google), and slid them into the oven.

Cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting

Next, the frosting. I “creamed” (which, according to the internet, is just mixing together with a hand-mixer on a high speed until creamy) together the cream cheese and butter (both pre-softened, as I had so bad-assedly prepared ahead). Even softened, cream cheese and butter are not exactly mixer-friendly. I wrangled the bowl and the mixer to keep the shrapnel from flying. The frosting called for sifted powdered sugar. Sifted? I thought powdered sugar was already sifted enough, being sugar and all. I had already taken enough risks on the recipe, so I started sifting.

At first I shook the powdered sugar awkwardly in the sifter, landing more on the counter than in the bowl. But by the time I sifted the second cup, I had a technique. I tapped the sifter on an angle, and I was done with the second cup in about 15 seconds, where the first had taken me a few minutes. And all of it landed in the bowl.

As I mixed it in with the creamed butter and Neufchâtel, the sugar made the frosting much less like cement and much more smooth. I was feeling pretty damn expert when the timer for the bread went off just as I was finishing the frosting. The kitchen smelled like pumpkin goodness, and I felt like I’d gone Martha Stewart on everyone’s asses. I pulled the bread out of the oven, and both loaves had risen and were golden and delicious-looking. I stuck a knife in the center to check, and it came out LIQUID. The middle was nowhere near done.

Pumpkin bread

Two loaves of pumpkin bread, before I discovered they were far from done.

I think I may have pouted. For the next half an hour, I put the pumpkin bread in for five-minute intervals and sniffed the bread obsessively each time, trying to cook the center without burning the edges. Finally, after an hour and a half of baking, they were done. It was 11 p.m. and I was only halfway done.

What I hadn’t counted on was that the pumpkin bread would have to cool before I could crumble it, otherwise the frosting would melt and they wouldn’t keep their shape. After spending that long in an oven at 350 degrees, cooling doesn’t happen quickly. I did a second load of dishes (I had managed to use a ridiculous amount of mixing bowls and spoons and whisks) and went back to touch the bread every ten seconds. After awhile, I decided to cut the bread into pieces to let it cool faster. I was so anxious to keep on with the recipe that I burned myself. ON THE BREAD. That shows you how hot the bread was, and also how impatient I am. After sneaking more than a few bites, I started to crumble the bread. Because the crust was slightly more well done, the crust peeled off the moist bread like an orange, and I went with it. I decided the peel wouldn’t make a very good truffle texture anyway.

Crumbled bread

Candy coating and crumbled pumpkin bread

At long last, I mixed my frosting (which I’d had to move to the fridge because I had to wait almost another hour for the bread to cool) with the crumbled bread to create a delicious sort of dough. Meanwhile, I melted the white chocolate candy coating, being careful to stir it often and keep it from burning. Then, I got to roll the dough into balls and dip it in the chocolate, probably one of the most pleasing tactile things to do as an adult who doesn’t feel right about buying Play-doh.

Uncoated truffles

Really gross-looking uncoated truffle

I was supposed to wait until the chocolate had hardened slightly, then dip it into the sugar and cinnamon mixture, but it wasn’t hardening fast enough, so I just sprinkled the cinnamon and sugar on top and called it good. I put the finished candies in the fridge to harden completely.

It was 1 o’clock in the morning. I was too exhausted to attempt to wait and taste them. I let my roommate know that they were ready for her in the fridge. On my way home from the gym the next day, I received the following text from Paige: “Holy shit Jill. Epic.” Martha Stewart, I’m watching you.

Postscript: No, I did not use a fresh pumpkin. I used canned pumpkin. I know. Before you scoff, please note that this recipe took me almost 3 and ½ hours to complete. 15 and ½, if you count their overnight stay in the fridge. I did not have the energy to deal with a pumpkin. Maybe next time. With all the spare time I have.

Finished product

Finished product! (Presentation is not my strong suit--you can see my thumbprint in the middle candy where I picked it up before it was quite hardened).

5 Responses to “Jill and the Great Pumpkin (truffles)”
  1. Gavin Craig says:

    Fat-free cream cheese is not only not a substitute for regular cream cheese, it is not a food. That is all.

  2. Saundra says:

    That looks delicious. WANT.

  3. Caitlin says:

    My goodness, that sounds delicious.
    Some stores (like Foods for Living) sell spices in bulk, which is really handy. It’s usually a lot cheaper by the ounce, and you can get as much or as little as you need!

  4. cd says:

    What an accompishment! Now you can no longer call yourself an amateur in the kitchen! What time is dessert served?

  5. Momma to Boston Lindsey says:

    Pumpkin Truffles and Pumpkin Pasties. I sense a theme. Yum!

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