The other day I was reviewing the Thanksgiving menu with Keith, and Courtney asked what we were having. I got past the requisite turkey, stuffing, etc. to the Spinach Artichoke Au Gratin with Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto. "Jenny, I think the problem with your recipes is that they're designed for a more mature palate." Ha! She's 10! Not a minute later, she was dipping her whole grain garlic toast into her dad's bowl of Creamy Broccoli Soup -- "This tastes a-maz-ing!" I think her palate is maturing, no? Victory!
"A-maz-ing" is really what I want to be about. Not just "good." Or worse, "good....for diet food." GAH! Nope, I want my recipes to taste "a-maz-ing" and I'll keep trying until they do. Trust me, Keith and I have rejected plenty! He knows I have the bar set high and "fine" isn't good enough.
So last week I talked about keeping Thanksgiving under control -- or at least allowing people the option to eat healthfully if they want to. The festivities are at my house this year, and everyone is responsible for a portion of the meal. I'll be baking bread (which isn't even whole wheat, but it's a special holiday treat), some sides, and of course the Spinach Artichoke Au Gratin from last week's post. I love to bake, so I wanted to do the desserts, too. Pumpkin pie is always expected, and I happen to LOVE IT. However, this is more of a cheesecake family. OK, really just Keith -- but if there's no cheesecake, it'll break his heart. All I really want is a cupcake. Any kind, really. Cupcakes are huge right now -- and I mean that both figuratively and literally! The cupcake craze has taken bakeries by storm and even created some that sell only the adorable little cakes.
So my idea was to make pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Pumpkin pie on the bottom and cheesecake on the top! The best of both worlds! Plus, cupcakes have got to be healthier than pie or cheesecake, right? Your standard slice (1/8th of the recipe) of pumpkin pie has about 400 calories (without whipped cream!) and that cheesecake packs a whopping 500 calories per slice. Yikes!
I'm about to break it down further, so if you really don't want to hear any more, skip to the recipe! But seriously, you should listen. Because these innocent little cupcakes are certain diet sabotage. I did a little digging and found out that a red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles -- the original cupcake-only bakery in Beverly Hills, has 497 calories! Ahhh! They also sell the mix, so let's compare apples to apples...er...pumpkins to pumpkins. One pumpkin cupcake has 270 calories...and the cream cheese frosting has 130. That's 400! Might as well eat the pie. The news doesn't get much better. Head to your local grocery store for a cupcake and you'll take in 200-300 overly sweet calories. You're better off heading to the baking aisle, right? Nope. With calories in box mixes ranging from 120 (if you can squeeze 24 out of that box) to 240 and another 75 calories per tablespoon of icing, you might as well hang it up.
So should I try to attempt a lighter pumpkin cream cheese cupcake? Only if it's a-maz-ing. Because "good...for diet food" just won't cut it.
The jury's still out, but I think I might be a genius (hee hee). Somehow, I managed to create a recipe that makes 24 regular-sized cupcakes that only have 100 calories each -- including the frosting! That's a third of the calories of a box mix cupcake and icing and an even smaller fraction of those bakery varieties. AND...here's the kicker....they taste a-maz-ing. If you like pumpkin-flavored things, of course. Which I do. A LOT. I'll still make Keith his cheesecake, but I'll have these to satisfy my sweet tooth. For only 100 calories. Or I could eat 5 for the same number calories in that slice of pie with whipped cream. It's been known to happen!
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 can pure pumpkin puree (15 ounce can)
1 cup skim milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs (separated)
1 cup light cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars, cinnamon, ginger and salt. In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, milk, vanilla and egg yolks only (reserve egg whites in another bowl). Using an electric mixer (I like to use an electric hand mixer for these), mix wet ingredients, then add dry ingredients and mix for about 30 seconds. Rinse beaters and beat egg whites for about 3 minutes or until peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into batter until white streaks disappear.
Line a large cookie sheet with 24 heavy-weight cupcake wrappers (buy the kind that say "muffin pan not needed"). I baked half of this recipe this way, and half in a lined muffin tin. As you can see from the photo, these cupcakes will expand if not constrained by a tin (cupcake on the left). The bigger, the better, right?! Fill each cupcake wrapper 2/3 full and bake for 15 minutes in the middle of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. In the meantime, beat softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Chill until cupcakes are cool, then frost!
The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!