October 27, 2005

Welcome Home Bakers and Friends,

It's been a while since my last newsletter (late August to be exact) and I want to wish all of you a Happy Autumn. The weather has cooled down a bit here in northern California, from the "toasty" summer heat, and now we are settling in for a chillier fall season and then before you know it, the winter will be here and for some of you it will be time to start shoveling the snow off your driveways and sidewalks. As I say every year, "where does the time go"? This year seems to have gone especially fast. One day it was Spring and I was sending out cool and refreshing recipe ideas in my newsletters for the warmer weather, and now it's already late October and time to share with you some warm autumn "comfort food and beverage" recipes and a few fun recipes for Halloween. So sit back, get a nice hot cup of coffee or tea, a few cookies or biscuits and enjoy reading the recipes.

In this edition of Diana's Desserts Newsletter the Food Tips and Information section is all about Pumpkins, a winter squash that can be used for both savory and sweet dishes such as Pumpkin Soup or Pumpkin Pie, etc.

Kara, a guest to Diana's Desserts Website has submitted a recipe for "Easy Halloween Cupcakes". They're quick and easy to make and the kids (and adults) will love them. Great to give to "trick or treaters" when they come by this year for a Halloween treat. The kids will sure to be back next year for more of these goodies.

Here are a few recipe ideas for you for the Autumn season, and also some ideas for Halloween treats. Hope you enjoy them......Diana

Guest Submitted Recipe

Easy Halloween Cupcakes

Servings: 24

1 package cupcake or cake mix (flavor of your choice)
1 container ready-made store-bought vanilla frosting
Orange food coloring
1 tube black or dark brown cake decorating gel

Make cupcakes according to instructions on package.

Mix vanilla frosting with a few drops of orange food coloring and frost cupcakes. Decorate cupcakes with decorating gel to make spiders, webs, etc.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Source: Kara

Submitted By: Kara

Date: October 13, 2005

Click here to view recipe and photo of Easy Halloween Cupcakes on Diana's Desserts Website

Autumn "Comfort Food" and Beverage Recipe

Chilly Day Apple Cake

Servings: 8-10

Serve this moist and delicious apple cake on a crisp autumn or winter's day when you just want to have a real "comfort food" on hand for your family or friends to enjoy. This cake tastes very much like apple pie but in cake form. A great recipe for those home baker's who love apple pie but who hate struggling with making pie crusts. Wonderful as a substitute for apple pie to serve for dessert on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Your guests will be very impressed. Also, a very delightful cake to serve at an afternoon tea. This will soon become one of your most requested cakes by family and friends. It's one of my very favorite cakes and the recipe is definitely a "keeper"....Diana

4 medium size Golden Delicious apples (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 tablespoons PLUS 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting cake

Serving suggestion:
Serve each slice of cake with vanilla ice cream, non-dairy whipped topping or whipped cream.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

Mix the apples, 5 tablespoons sugar and ground cinnamon in a large bowl. Combine 2 1/2 cups sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, orange juice, orange peel and vanilla extract in another large bowl; whisk to blend. Stir flour, baking powder and salt into egg mixture. Spoon 1 1/2 cups batter into prepared bundt pan. Top with half of apple mixture. Cover with 1 1/2 cups batter. Top with remaining apples, then with remaining batter.

Bake cake in preheated oven until top is golden brown and tester inserted near center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Run knife around sides of pan and center tube to loosen. Turn cake out onto rack. Cool for 1 hour. Dust cake with confectioners' sugar. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, non-dairy whipped topping or whipped cream. Store any leftover cake covered at room temperature.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodallę 2005

Click here to view recipe and photo of Chilly Day Apple Cake on Diana's Desserts Website

Pumpkin Pie Belgian Waffles

Servings: Makes about 6 (4 1/2 inch square) Belgian waffles

These Belgian waffles may never replace pumpkin pie at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but they'll give tradition a good race. Like pumpkin pie, they are comforting, custardy and filling. They're made with the same spices used for pumpkin pie along with sour cream for smoothness; the dark rum is there for extra flavor and a little mystery.

5 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup pumpkin puree (you can use canned puree)
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. double-acting baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 tbsp. dark rum
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream and/or maple syrup for serving

Preheat a waffle iron. If you want to keep the waffles warm until serving time, preheat your oven to 200 degrees F (93 C).

Melt the butter; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, brown and granulated sugars, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Using a rubber spatula or handheld electric mixer, mix together well. Stir in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. The mixture will be thick and a little lumpy. Don't try to smooth it out; just mix until the ingredients are incorporated.

In another bowl, beat together the milk, sour cream, eggs, rum and vanilla. Add the liquid ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the melted butter.

Whether or not your irons grids are well seasoned or made of a nonstick material, it is best to lightly butter or spray the grids for these waffles because the batter is quite sticky. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick.

Spoon out 2/3 to 3/4 cup of batter for a Belgian waffle iron (or the amount recommended by the manufacturer's instructions) onto the hot iron. Use a metal spatula or wooden spoon to spread the batter evenly over the grids. Close the lid and bake until golden. If the waffle is hard to remove from the iron, peel it off gently and carefully. Serve immediately or keep the waffles, in a single layer, on a rack in the preheated oven while you make the rest.

Serving: Serve these warm and golden, one to a diner, topped with vanilla ice cream and/or maple syrup. They're great with a cup of hot or cold cider.

Makes about 6 (4 1/2-inch square) Belgian waffles.

Source: Adapted from Waffles from Morning to Midnight, by Dorie Greenspan (Weldon Owen, 2001).

Click here to view recipe and photo of Pumpkin Pie Belgian Waffles on Diana's Desserts Website

Sour Cream-Maple Bread

Servings: Makes 1 (8 x 4-inch) loaf

This bread boasts subtle flavors of butter and sour cream with discreet overtones of maple syrup. A hand-held mixer can be used to blend the butter and syrup, but further mixing is easily done by hand. Enjoy this quick bread in the morning with a hot cup of coffee or tea for a tasty breakfast treat.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz/113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease and flour an 8 x 4 x 2.5-inch (20cm x 10cm x 6cm) loaf pan.

In a small bowl, stir and toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth, then slowly add the maple syrup, mixing constantly. By hand, whisk in the sour cream and egg. Stir in the pecans. Add the flour mixture and stir until just blended (do not over mix).

Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes, then turn the loaf out onto the rack to cool completely.

To Store:
When completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil and store at room temperature for up to 3 days, or place quick-bread in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw quick-bread at room temperature in original wrapping. Foil-wrapped quick-breads may be reheated in foil in a 325 degree F (160 C) to 350 degree F (180 C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until hot.

Makes 1 loaf.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Muffins & Quick Breads, by John Phillip Carroll

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodallę 2005

Click here to view recipe and photo of Sour Cream-Maple Bread on Diana's Desserts Website

Hot Chocolate a la "Chocolat"

Servings: 4

If you saw the 2001 film "Chocolat" starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp about a woman and her daughter who open a chocolate shop in a small French village that shakes up the rigid morality of the community, then you'll probably remember the scene where a scrumptious thick hot chocolate is served. The hot chocolate was so thick, it almost looked like a chocolate pudding. Well, here is a recipe for that warm and romantic drink. By the way, the chili pepper is optional, but I believe it's what really makes the hot chocolate so wonderful with just a little "heat" for a chilly day or evening.

2 cups boiling water
1 chili pepper, cut in half with seeds removed (I recommend using sweet ancho chili peppers)* see note below
5 cups light cream or whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1-2 cinnamon sticks
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate or 3 tablets Mexican chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons sugar or honey to taste

1 tablespoon almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra-fine
Whipped cream

1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add chili pepper to boiling water.

2. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove chili pepper; strain water and set aside.

3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge.

4. Reduce heat to low; add chocolate and sugar or honey, whisking occasionally until chocolate is melted and sugar dissolves.

5. Turn off heat, remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.

6. Add chili-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the flavor isn't too strong. If chocolate is too thick, thin with a little more milk.

7. Serve in small cups and offer ground almonds or hazelnuts and whipped cream.

For a hot chocolate with a little more "heat", top with whipped cream and sprinkle a small bit of ground sweet ancho chili pepper over the whipped cream.

Use kitchen gloves when cutting the chile pepper in half and removing seeds.

Makes 4 servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Hot Chocolate a la Chocolat on Diana's Desserts Website

Halloween Treats

Kellogg's Rice Krispies Bars

Servings: Makes approximately 18 to 24 bars

Rice Krispy Bars; an old fashioned treat that kids of all ages love. Make them for Halloween, and if desired, decorate them with little candies.

6 cups Kellogg's Rice Krispies Cereal (you may use any brand of rice krispie cereal)
3 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 (10-oz. size/about 40 marshmallows) bag of marshmallows, or 4 cups miniature marshmallows

In a large saucepan, melt the butter (or margarine, if using) over low heat, add marshmallows, and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add the 6 cups rice krispies cereal to the butter/marshmallow mixture. Mix well until well coated. Using a buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly into 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan or dish coated with cooking spray. When cool, cut into your favorite size pieces; let cool and ENJOY!!

Makes 18 to 24 bars.

Source: Kellogg's

Submitted By: M.Kay James

Date: October 14, 2003

Click here to view recipe and photo of Kellogg's Rice Krispies Bars on Diana's Desserts Website

Ghost Nytter Butters

Servings: As many as you like

These are adorable for a Halloween Party or to make with your kids!

Nutter Butters Cookies
1 container ready-made White Frosting
1 container ready-made Chocolate Frosting (or mini chocolate chips)

Spread each Nutter Butter cookie with white frosting, then make little eyes with the chocolate frosting (or mini chocolate chips, if using) and you have ghosts!

Servings: Make as many as you like.

Source: Kara

Submitted By: Kara

Date: October 1, 2005

Click here to view recipe and photo of Ghost Nytter Butters on Diana's Desserts Website

Big Pumpkin Cookie

Servings: Makes 1 "Big" Cookie, 16 servings

Great for an afternoon in the kitchen with the children. Let them decorate to their heart's content once this giant cookie has cooled down.

"Making this "Big Cookie" is also great when you don't want to carve a pumpkin, but you still want something fun and quick to make with your kids for Halloween".....Diana

1 (18 ounce) package Nestle« Toll House« Refrigerated Sugar Cookie Bar Dough
Decorator candies and icing
Melted chocolate

*Note: Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Dough can be substituted for the Sugar Cookie Bar Dough, or you can use your own sugar cookie or chocolate chip cookie recipe to make this Halloween Treat!

1). Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 C). Grease large baking sheet.

2). Shape the dough into 8-inch-pumpkin shape on prepared baking sheet.

3). Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes; carefully loosen cookie with spatula. Cool completely on baking sheet on wire rack.

4). Decorate with decorator candies and icing, and if desired, melted chocolate.

Makes 1 "Big" Cookie, 16 servings

Source: Nestle USA

Click here to view recipe and photo of Big Pumpkin Cookie on Diana's Desserts Website

Witches Brooms

Servings: 20

These sweet-salty bewitchin' cookies are easy to make and fun to eat! They will even work for an adult Halloween Party. Your guests will love these tasty snacks.

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 pretzel rods, about 8 1/2 inches long, cut crosswise in half
2 teaspoons shortening
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Butterscotch-flavored chips, melted

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Mix brown sugar, butter, water and vanilla in medium bowl. Stir in flour and salt. Shape dough into twenty 1 1/4-inch balls.
2. Place pretzel rod halves on ungreased cookie sheet. Press ball of dough onto cut end of each pretzel rod. Press dough with fork to resemble "bristles" of broom.
3. Bake about 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool completely on wire rack, about 30 minutes.
4. Cover cookie sheet with waxed paper. Place brooms on waxed paper. Heat shortening and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth; remove from heat. Spoon melted chocolate over brooms, leaving about 1 inch at top of pretzel handle and bottom halves of cookie bristles uncovered. Drizzle with melted butterscotch chips. Let stand until chocolate is set.

Makes 20 snacks.

Nutritional Information
1 Serving:
Calories 150 (Calories from Fat 65 ); Total Fat 7 g (Saturated Fat 2 g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 170 mg; Total Carbohydrate 21 g (Dietary Fiber 1 g); Protein 2 g
% Daily Value: Vitamin A 4 %; Vitamin C 0%; Calcium 0%; Iron 4 %
Exchanges: 1 Starch; 1/2 Fruit; 1 Fat

Source: Betty Crocker.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Witches Brooms on Diana's Desserts Website

Food Tips and Information


Why Eat It

A winter squash, the pumpkin is a hard-shelled gourd that is related to watermelons and muskmelons. Low in calories, pumpkins are rich in fiber, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamins C and E. Mild and sweet in flavor, pumpkins offer plenty of nutritional value, and are particularly rich in carotenoid pigments such as alpha-carotene, beta carotene, and lutein. Outstanding amounts of beta carotene are found in pumpkin, with 1 cup of pumpkin providing 7.8 milligrams of this healthful pigment. Carotenoids are thought to protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, and may also ward off age-related vision loss. Pumpkins also supply nutritious seeds and oil.


About 99% of the pumpkins marketed domestically are used as jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween. But these deep orange pumpkins--most of which belong to a variety called Connecticut Field--are too stringy to eat, and often too large. (They can easily grow to 20 pounds, and the very largest can exceed 200 pounds.) For pie filling and other cooking needs, pie pumpkins--a smaller, sweeter variety with close-grained flesh--are much better. There are also several miniature varieties that can be eaten fresh. However, most people prefer canned pumpkin, which tastes as good as fresh (and is just as nutritious). Jack-o'-lanterns: A market term for pumpkins that are grown for their large cavities and thin walls, making them perfect for carving (but not so good for cooking).

Japanese Pumpkins:
Also sold as a type of winter squash called kabocha, this turban-shaped squash has a rough shell with deep green and pale green stripes. It is sweet and tastes a little like sweet potato or pumpkin.

Mini Pumpkins:
Available in creamy-white as well as orange, these tiny versions of the real thing serve as an ornament rather than as an edible vegetable.

Pie Pumpkins:
A number of pumpkins with a very high flesh-to-seed-cavity ratio are used for pies rather than for decorative purposes such as carving. One particularly flavorful pumpkin in this category is called Sugar Pumpkin.


Fresh pumpkins are available only in the fall and early winter. The sweeter varieties suitable for baking usually go straight from the fields to the canning factories. However, canned pumpkin is fine for cooking and has the advantage of being available year round.


When you buy canned pumpkin, be sure to get solid-pack pumpkin puree with no added spices or sweeteners.


Large carving pumpkins will keep, refrigerated, for about a week. Smaller, denser pumpkins, such as kabocha or pie pumpkins, will keep for about 1 month, refrigerated.


Rinse off any dirt before using. To bake a pumpkin whole, cut a lid off the top (as though you were making a jack-o'-lantern), then use a tablespoon to scrape out the seeds and strings. To bake pieces of pumpkin, halve it with a heavy chef's knife or a cleaver: Start by making a shallow cut in the skin to use as a guide to prevent the knife blade from slipping. Then place the blade in the cut and tap the base of the knife (near the handle) with your fist (or, if necessary, with a mallet or rolling pin) until the pumpkin is cut through. Scoop out the seeds and fibers and cut into smaller chunks.

Serve the baked pumpkin as is, or puree it to serve as a side dish. You can also cook the puree down further to use as a pumpkin pie filling.

Leave small pumpkins whole, with a lid cut out. For larger pumpkins, halve, scoop out the seeds and strings, and cut into serving-sized pieces. Place the pieces, cut-side down, in a foil-lined baking pan (its sugary juices may burn onto the pan). Pour about 1/4" of water into the pan, cover with foil, and bake in a 350 degrees F (180 C) to 400 degrees F (200 C) oven until tender when pierced with a knife or toothpick. Halfway through baking, the pieces may be turned, cut-side up, brushed with a little melted butter or oil, and sprinkled with brown sugar and spices.

Cooking Times:
Small whole pumpkins, 40 to 45 minutes; for cut-up pumpkin, 40 minutes.

Although this method is faster than steaming, boiling water will dilute the flavor of the pumpkin slightly. Place peeled pumpkin pieces in a small amount of boiling water and cook until tender. Drain well. Cooking times: 8 to 12 minutes.

Place large chunks of pumpkin in a shallow microwavable dish, cover, and cook until tender. Let stand for 5 minutes after cooking. Cooking time: 8 minutes.

Grated or peeled, diced pumpkin can be sautéed in broth, or in a combination of broth and oil. Use a nonstick skillet, if possible. Grated pumpkin is best if it is cooked just to the point where it is still slightly crunchy. Cooking time: 8 to 15 minutes.

Cook peeled chunks or slices of pumpkin in the steamer. Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes.

Nutrition Chart

Pumpkin/ 1/2 cup fresh

Calories: 25
Total fat (g): 0.1
Saturated fat (g): 0.1
Monounsaturated fat (g): 0
Polyunsaturated fat (g): 0
Dietary fiber (g): 1.4
Protein (g): 1
Carbohydrate (g): 6
Cholesterol (mg): 0
Sodium (mg): 1
Beta-carotene (mg): 8

Pumpkin/ 1/2 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

Calories: 42
Total fat (g): 0.3
Saturated fat (g): 0.2
Monounsaturated fat (g): 0.1
Polyunsaturated fat (g): 0
Dietary fiber (g): 3.6
Protein (g): 1
Carbohydrate (g): 10
Cholesterol (mg): 0
Sodium (mg): 6
Beta-carotene (mg): 16

Source: WholeHealth MD:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Servings: Makes 3 dozen cookies

If you like the wonderful flavor of pumpkin combined with chocolate in a soft moist cake-like cookie, then these lovely gems are for you. My husband Kenny and I enjoy them with a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate or for the most "comforting" experience", have them with a big glass of milk.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz/113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup canned 100% pumpkin puree
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger (if using) and salt. Set aside.

3. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla and beat just until blended.

4. Mix in the dry ingredients, and beat until well combined.

5. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate chips or chunks and nuts (if using).

6. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.

7. Bake the cookies for 15 to 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Rotate the sheets halfway through baking to ensure even baking. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from "Too Busy to Cook?", Volume Two.

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodallę 2004

Click here to view recipe and photo of Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Cookies on Diana's Desserts Website

Until Next Time

Well, that's it for this edition of Diana's Desserts Newsletter. I've enjoyed sharing some of my favorite Autumn and Halloween recipes with you and hope you'll try some of them. Please let me know if you liked them and if you'd recommend the recipes to family, friends or fellow workers. I love feedback on the recipes, and as I've always said, it doesn't matter if your feedback is positive or negative, just that you took the time to let me know how you liked the recipes.

I hope to bring you Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Years recipes in the next month or so. I haven't decided yet whether I will be sending out a special edition of Diana's Desserts Newsletter for Thanksgiving or to incorporate all of these special holidays into one large edition. We'll see, but for sure I'll be back before the year's end with some special holiday recipes to share with you.

Have a great month and have a fun Halloween (for those who celebrate this "Bewitching" night of the year). Don't forget to have some "treats" on hand (whether they're homemade or store-bought) for the little ones dropping by on Halloween.

Sincerely, Diana

Diana's Desserts
A Website Dedicated to Home Bakers

E-mail Address: diana@dianasdesserts.com