Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Thanksgiving/Sweet Potato Bonanza...Part 2

Look at this little booger!  He and a bunch of his turkey friends sat on top of my Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes.  I know it's after Thanksgiving and pretty much too late to make these (unless you are just obsessed with which case, make them- I won't judge), but they are too cute not to share.  They're basically 2 Oreos glued together with icing.  Candy corn for the tail and the little white tip of the candy corn for the beak.  Black sprinkles for the eyes (from my Halloween sprinkle collection).  A heart-shaped sprinkle for the gobble-thingy (from my Valentine's sprinkle collection).  I knew all those holiday sprinkles would come in handy someday.  A Whopper for the head and a Reese's Cup for the body.  How freaking adorable? 

A couple words of caution: I would highly suggest making these when it's NOT 80 degrees and humid as crap outside.  If you happen to live on the freaking Equator in Florida like me, work quickly and throw them in the fridge to set up overnight.  I also suggest that if you're going to put these on top of cupcakes to not put them on the cupcakes I gave you the recipe for.  The marshmallow icing is really...boingy?  It's not soft enough to hold these guys up.  I would use a softer icing- like cream cheese or a butterceam without marshmallow fluff in it.  All the little turkey dudes rose up out of the boingy icing and toppled over.  Anyway- they're really cute little decorations and would be totally fun to make with some kids.  I'm just going to give you the link to Our Best Bites for the instructions.  They explain it a lot better than I would be able to and there are better step-by-step photos. 

Now for part 2 of my ridiculous sweet potato obsession.  First, can I just say that I STILL had some leftover sweet potato casserole (recipe in just a sec) tonight?  I said "ugh, I'm sick of sweet potatoes" and put the rest of it in the pup's bowl to eat.  And then I proceeded to BAKE A SWEET POTATO and eat it for dinner.  There is something wrong with my brain.  

There's a story I've been told a few times by various family members about when I was a baby.  One day, Mom and Dad noticed the bottoms of my feet were orange.  They took me to the doctor and the doctor asked about my diet.  My parents told the doctor that I loved sweet potato baby food and ate a lot of it.  The doctor told them that was the problem.  I ate so many sweet potatoes that I turned ORANGE, people.  I'm afraid that's going to happen again.  Except now maybe it will look like a tan.  Which would be pretty awesome.  (Not sure if that story is true or not. I've been told this story a few times, and I've always believed it.  Now I see how ridiculous it sounds...hmmm.  Whatever.) 

So I was trolling Google Reader for a sweet potato dish before Thanksgiving- and believe me, there was no shortage of recipes for sweet potatoes.  Along with butternut squash, cranberry EVERYTHING (nasty), pumpkin EVERYTHING (yay!) and recipes for about 938039823927387 pies.  In the midst of all of that (and after starring about 938039827386 of those recipes), I found THIS.  I know it says "lightened up."  Please don't let that scare you away.  These were the best sweet potatoes I have ever had in my entire LIFE.  Seriously.  The recipe calls for coconut milk in the actual sweet potatoes.  Don't worry: it does NOT add coconut flavor, just creaminess.  There's also coconut in the topping, which I left out because I have a couple of family members who DESPISE coconut.  But I think it would be really tasty.  If you're allergic/one of those crazy people who pukes at the thought of coconut, you could always use regular milk or even sweetened condensed milk would be awesome. 

This recipe is now my total go-to sweet potato casserole.  I will never bake another one again.  It's that good.

OH.  And it has brown butter in it.  Just saying.
Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Layer
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup canned lite coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Add to a pot with cold water, then bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20-30 minutes, then drain. While sweet potatoes are cooking, add butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisking constantly, cook until little brown bits appear in the pan – about 4-5 minutes. Remove immediately from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl, using a hand mixer), add sweet potatoes. Add all remaining ingredients – sugar, syrup, spices, salt, vanilla extract, coconut milk and brown butter – and mix on low speed until combined about 30 seconds. Mix on medium speed for another 1-2 minutes, until potatoes are whipped. Spread in an oven-safe pan or dish. I used a casserole dish (I have no clue what size!).

Oatmeal Coconut Pecan Crumble
1/2 cup chopped unsalted pecans
1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 cup of mini marshmallows


I forgot to take pictures.  I was too busy licking the saucepan that had the brown butter in it. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Thanksgiving/Sweet Potato Bonanza

I know I've mentioned how much I love pumpkin.  But have I mentioned how much I also love sweet potatoes?  They're pretty much siblings (or really close cousins) flavor-wise.  And if you put them in baked goods they pretty much give off the same delicious, comfort-food, autumn flavor. 

I have a confession.  I can eat pumpkin straight from the can.  Not that I do that.  Often.  I could probably also eat a raw sweet potato.  You think I'm kidding.  I haven't tried it, but I probably will.  And it will probably be weird.  Anyway...

Thanksgiving with my family is usually a 30+ person affair.  I had to work last year on Thanksgiving and spent the evening with friends, so I was pumped for this year's festivities WAY in advance (like in September).  I am so lucky to have a great family and a bazillion friends who are like family to us.  We always just have the most fun, eccentric, crazy, super-fun mishmash of people at our Thanksgivings.  This year though, it was a bit smaller.  Only 8 people (two of whom were British!  I love them!).  My Uncle Pete's parents (who are in their 90's) are snowbirds and are always here for Thanksgiving.  They weren't this year; they stayed in Oregon.  Uncle Pete's mom ALWAYS bakes the pies/desserts.  ALWAYS.  She gets real cranky if someone else does it.  (Hey, at 92, I'd say she's entitled).  Well, since they weren't here this year- guess who was in charge of desserts?!?!?! 

When I found out who the 8 people in attendance would be, it dawned on me that the only people there who really cared about dessert were Aunt Peggy and me.  Hmmph.  So I decided to be a little non-traditional this year and make cupcakes for dessert.  I was afraid just cupcakes wouldn't be enough (since we usually have more pies than PEOPLE at Thanksgiving.  Really, that's happened more than once...), but it was the perfect ending to the best meal of the year.  Our British friends also brought a homemade apple pie with custard cream.  Oh garsh.  I think I ate more of that pie than I did sweet potatoes.  Amazing.  And even better the next morning for breakfast. 

I know I've tooted her horn before, but I have to say one of my favorite blogs is How Sweet It Is.  This girl just gets it.  She's a kindred spirit- one who doesn't think ANYTHING is too rich.  Just like me.  So when I was browing through blogs a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, I found her recipe for Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting.  Now reading the blog, they sounded good, and definitely got a star in my Google Reader.  But it wasn't until I got to the last picture in the post (go to the link and look) that I almost ate my computer screen.  I HAD to make these.  And I did.  And they were fabulous.  I didn't change a thing.  They're super-amazing straight out of the oven.  I baked these on Wednesday.  Aunt Peggy ate one still warm and just got a spoonful of frosting straight out of the bowl and slathered it on.  And then she got up before me on Thursday and decided to have one for breakfast.  But she didn't just unwrap and eat.  Oh no.  She broke the cupcake in half, flipped the top over (so the icing was smooshed in the middle), and microwaved it for 30 seconds.  She's crazy (and this is where I get it from, people).  Holy Jesus.  This is THE way to eat these cupcakes.  I had a couple leftover that I brought home and that's exactly how I ate them.  The frosting melts and drizzles down the sides of the cupcake in sort of a glaze...oh dear heavens.  They're amazing either way.  Make them.
Check out the adorable cupcake wrappers I found at Michael's!

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting
makes 12 cupcakes

Graham Crust
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/3 cups loosely packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
6 oz cooked, mashed sweet potato (about 1 medium sweet potato)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake tin with liners. In a small bowl, mix melted butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs until moist, then press about 1/2-1 tablespoon of crumbs into the bottom of each liner.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk egg and sugar together until combined and no lumps remain. Add in vanilla extract and butter, then whisk in sweet potato. Add in flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, then add in milk and stir until combined and smooth. Drop about 1/4 cup of batter on top of each graham cracker crust. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until cupcakes are set and spring back at the touch. Let cool completely before frosting.

Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff
3 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tsp milk, if needed

Beat butter in the bowl of electric mixer until creamy. Add in fluff and beat for 2-3 minutes, then add in vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, add in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until fully incorporated. Once all the sugar has been added, beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes. If mixture if too runny, add a bit more sugar. If it’s too thick, add a bit of milk one teaspoon at a time.  Frost cupcakes. 

I got a new humongo star-tip for piping icing.  Love it!  And aren't my cupcake photographing skills getting better?? Ali would be proud ;)

Sweet potato bonanza part 2- coming up next.  Sans photos (listen to me, I think I'm French after making that Sans Rival cake).  I was so busy cooking for 2 days that I forgot to take photos of everything else.  Look at Aunt Peggy's poor kitchen.  That's just one countertop.  Disaster.  She always makes fun of me for how messy I am.  But hey: I had a LOT to cook, THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November Daring Bakers Challenge: Sans Rival

Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I definitely did.  In fact, I still have leftovers.  I just ate the last of the turkey, which I stuffed inside a grilled cheese sandwich with goat cheese and cheddar cheese.  Yum.  But onto more important things than leftover turkey: this month's Daring Bakers Challenge!

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers' host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert- the delicious Sans Rival cake!  And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

Okay, I'm all about trying new (and sometimes strange foods), but that second recipe was like a coconut cake (yum) with salted pickled eggs on top.  Uhh, eww.  So I obviously didn't make that.  But it was optional, so I didn't do it and I didn't get kicked out of Daring Bakers.  Phew. 

I did, however, make the Sans Rival cake.  "Sans rival" is French for "without rival." *I don't even speak French and I figured that one out.*  Anyway,  the cake is basically layers of dacquoise (which I had to look up on Wikipedia- "a dessert cake made with layers of almond and hazelnut meringue and whipped cream or buttercream.")- except the traditional Sans Rival cake has ground cashews.  This is all layered with French Buttercream.  Gahhhh! 

I have made French Buttercream before.  Once.  It's a lot of work, but oh my, is it worth it!  My go-to buttercream usually consists of butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and whatever flavoring I want to use.  A French buttercream has egg yolks and syrup, astronomical amounts of butter, and it is so creamy and fluffy and silky that I could dive into the bowl of my Kitchenaid mixer and swim around in it forever. 

Okay.  That's kinda gross.  But you get the point.

This challenge was definitely fun.  And yes, it was a bit challenging...but not as hard as I thought it would be.  Start to finish, this took about 2 hours.  Unlike the last challenge that took all day. 

This recipe used a LOT of eggs.  10 to be exact.  All separated.  Yeek.
I was trying to make my egg yolks pretty and one decided to break on me.  Boo.  

The host said we could choose whichever nuts we liked (I chose walnuts- so yummy with the chocolate!) and we could flavor the cake/icing however we wanted.  I decided to go with chocolate cake and stick with the basic traditional icing. 

I took this into work to share and everyone who tried it absolutely loved it.  The cake is very light, almost chewy/crispy (I know it doesn't make sense.  Trust me.  It's great.) which is a great contrast to the somewhat rich icing.  It's not too rich, though (well, that's what people said anyway- nothing is too rich for me).  One lady I work with really enjoyed it- she is not a sweets person at ALL and only ate a few bites, but she said this could be a wedding cake.  What a compliment!  Apparently this cake is supposed to be served cold, but I feel that the icing has a better consistency when it's room temperature.  I don't typically discriminate when it comes to icing temperature - I eat it frozen - but when this icing is cold it almost feels like eating pure butter.  Which could be a good thing.  Or a bad thing.  I don't know.  Anyway.  Try this, hot or cold, and you decide.  It's really good- and not too horribly difficult.  
(P.S. Like my photo collage up there?  I finally am learning how to use Picasa to do cool things with my photos). 

Sans Rival Cake
Serves 12

10 large egg whites, room temp
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (optional, not traditional)
2 cups chopped, toasted cashews (I used walnuts)

1.  Preheat oven to 325.
2.  Line cake pans (I used 2 9" round pans and baked in 2 batches) with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides really well.
I use this stuff.  It's the bee's knees. 

3.  In a large, clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium until foamy (about 2 minutes).  Sprinkle with cream of tartar.  Gradually add sugar, a couple tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat at high speed until stiff shiny peaks form (about 7-10 minutes).  Add in cocoa powder along with sugar if you're using it.

Look at those stiff shiny peaks.  Gorgeous. 

4.  Fold in nuts, reserving enough to use for decoration.
I chopped mine up in my Magic Bullet.  They look like graham cracker crumbs, but they're definitely walnuts.

5.  Divide meringue into 4 equal parts.  Spread into pans, evenly to edges. 

6.  Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly.  Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm. 

Oops.  That layer broke.  I just smooshed it back together- it's getting slathered with icing anyway.

7.  When cool, trim edges so that all layers are uniformly shaped.  Set aside.

French Buttercream

5 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
Optional flavorings (I used 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

P.S.- You need your Kitchenaid for this one.  Unless you want your arm to fall off. 

1.  Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl.  Beat at high speed until the yolks have doubled in volume and are a lemon yellow.
2.  Put the sugar and water in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only, until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches 235 degrees.

3.  With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl, until all has been added.  Be careful and don't burn yourself with the HOT syrup!!!  Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 minutes).  Still on high, beat in the soft butter one tablespoon at a time.  Add flavoring after you beat in the butter.  Refrigerate for at least one hour, then whip smooth just before using it.


Set bottom meringue on a cake board (or in a humongo cake pan if you're like me and seem to have lost all your cake boards and turntable) with a dab of buttercream to hold it in place.  Spread a thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top.  Repeat with thin layers of buttercream, meringue, etc.  Finally, ice the top and sides of cake with the rest of the buttercream.  Decorate with reserved nuts. 

Quite pretty!

Not so much anymore.  Still looks delish. 

You can totally tell I put the broken layer on the bottom.  Did that stop me from eating it?  Heck no.


I'm kind of sad I gave most of this away.  It's sounding mighty delicious right now.  Oh well.  I have plenty of other baked goods on the horizon.  I have a few recipes I made for Thanksgiving that I want to share with you.  Plus, I'm taking a trip to Savannah this coming weekend for my birthday!  I'm so excited.  It's my favorite place in the world and I will definitely come back with lots of pictures and lots of food to talk about. :) 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm Alive!!!

Yes, I've disappeared again.  And yes, I seem to have come down with the Plague again.  Twice in 6 weeks...not so hot.  I'm still coughing like I have Tuberculosis, but otherwise I am back to 100%. 

Some exciting things have happened since I last posted!  I got a new phone (buh-bye Blackberry).  It's a Droid Bionic and it is amazing.  It takes better pictures than my camera, and I can upload the pictures directly to Picasa and then put them on here.  Woo!  I'm sure no one else is as excited as I am about that, but maybe the pictures will turn out better.  All the pictures from this post were taken on my phone, so we'll see what they look like on the big screen!!

I also got a new computer!  My laptop took a crap about a year ago and I used my Blackberry (so slow) to get by for awhile, until my bud Jeff let me borrow a netbook until I could save up for a new computer.  I got so used to the netbook (it was a good little computer!) that when my 15.6" laptop came, it felt like a big screen TV!  It still does, actually.  I looooove it!  It's not the Apple I wanted (it's a Dell), but I've had good experiences with Dells in the past and it was a great price (got a nice discount through work!). 

So after reading tons of blogs about DIY-ing, I finally decided to give it a go and re-stain a piece of furniture I have.  The top of it got ruined (more on that later) and I just wanted to find a matching stain and get it looking good again.  Well, I went to Home Depot and bought everything I needed.  Then I decided that since the day before, I got a memory foam topper for my bed (sigh. heaven.) I needed new sheets and bedding.  So I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and got new sheets.  Then I decided I was sick of the ugly blinds in my house (I'm sorry- blinds are hideous to me) and that I wanted to sew some curtains.  So I went to JoAnn's and got some fabric to make some adorable living room curtains.  I couldn't find any fabric that I liked for bedroom curtains, and I needed curtain rods, so off to Target I went.  Found some curtains at Target for my bedroom, got them hung, and made up my new bed.  By that time, it was dark and the furniture did not get stained. 

This morning I woke up (in my fab new fluffy bed with silky new sheets) with new inspiration.  I was going to get my living room curtains made and stain that damn piece of furniture if it killed me.  So I pulled out Aunt Peggy's sewing machine (which is on indefinite loan to me).  Mind you, this sewing machine and all the goodies that go with it have been sitting in my house for 3 months.  And it has not been used.  Over the summer, my Aunt Sis taught me to sew.  What I didn't realize is that Aunt Sis has the newest, coolest, push-a-button-and-it-practically-sews-itself sewing machine.  I pulled out Aunt Peggy's, knowing it's old, but thinking it can't be much different.  Uh I was wrong.  After Googling instructions on how to load the bobbin and thread the machine (and after typing in the particular model number for this machine), I was informed that Aunt Peggy's sewing machine is so old, that it is, in fact, VINTAGE.  Wow.  Well, I was having problems.  I had a breakdown.  I called Aunt Peggy 394304983094830948 gazillion times to help.  Finally after about 2 hours and 3 breakdowns we got the damn thing working.  And I was on a roll.  I got my living room curtains done, and it only took me....what?  6 hours?!?!?!  Time sure flies when you're sewing.  After the initial frustration, I actually found myself getting lost in it and relaxing.  And I made my own curtains from scratch.  Cute?  I think so!
(Haven't figured the flash out on the phone yet...)

Don't mind all the cat supplies on the floor.  Sorry. 

Well, since the time changed, there are far fewer daylight hours (it doesn't seem to get light all that much earlier, does it?).  And thus, my day was spent making curtains and I still didn't get to my poor little piece of furniture.  Which is still sitting in its little corner giving me sad eyes.  I'll get to it soon.  When I have daylight.  I am NOT using paint stripper in my house and fumigating myself. 

Since it gets dark at about 4:30pm now, I decided it was going to be dinner and then an early night.  I starred this recipe for Chicken Enchilada Spaghetti from How Sweet It Is a couple of weeks ago.  If you haven't read her blog, go now (well, after you finish reading this).  This girl kills me.  And she has yummy recipes. 

This recipe seemed pretty easy (I wasn't in the mood for some long, drawn-out gourmet meal), relatively healthy, and yummy.  I subbed the cheese for fat-free (which, when melted, is just fine) and instead of using half a red and half a green pepper, I just used a whole green pepper.  And no herbs that taste like dishsoap cilantro.  This was SO yummy and came together in about 20 minutes (plus another 20 to bake the chicken, but if you have leftovers or a rotisserie chicken, that would be even quicker!).

Chicken Enchilada Spaghetti
serves 2-4

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt

pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/2 lb dry whole wheat spaghetti (this is a little much...I used maybe 1/4 lb and had PLENTY of pasta)
1 10 ounce can of red enchilada sauce
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
cilantro (OPTIONAL!)

Boil water for pasta and cook according to directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add onions, peppers, salt, and pepper and let cook until veggies are soft, about 5-6 minutes.

Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes, then stir in chicken, cumin, cayenne, paprika, and chili powder, along with the can of enchilada sauce.

Reduce heat to low, drain cooked pasta, and add pasta to skillet.  Fold in cheese and mix thoroughly until melted throughout. 
(I also added a fresh chopped tomato at the end...just because I had it and didn't want it to go bad!)

Enjoy while watching old re-runs of Beverly Hills 90210.  Or not.  :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My First Daring Bakers Challenge

I know this is a few days late, but I've worked so much overtime the past couple of weeks I can barely function.  But I did manage to fit in my very first Daring Bakers Challenge...and it turned out AMAZING. 

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

So Povitica (pronounced poh-vuh-TEET-sa) is bascially a yeast bread filled with some type of filling (the traditional is a walnut filling).  It reminded me almost of a danish, but with more of a yeasty flavor from the bread.  Amazing.  Seriously.  I had to give most of it away before I ate a whole loaf.  Or 2.

To me, there is no better way to start a day than with a cup of coffee, in the kitchen baking something.  Especially if that something is bread.  The smell of yeast and bread dough rising just relaxes me right into a trance.  A productive trance, that is.  It focuses me and I can handle the toughest of recipes (a la povitica).  The instructions for this recipe were 10 pages and 35 steps long.  It definitely took some focus, but the taste of this amazing bread was worth it in the end. 

The recipe provided made 4 loaves.  Way too much.  I halved it and made 2.  We were required to make one loaf with the traditional walnut filling (yum!), and we could have creative license on the rest.  My other loaf had a pumpkin-butter-cream-cheese filling.  Ohhhhhmigod.  I want to bathe in that stuff.  I couldn't find a recipe anywhere for a pumpkin cream cheese filling (not one that I liked at least) so I made up my own.  I'm not going to include the recipe on here, because it's simply too long and would take all day to type, but if anyone wants the recipe, leave a comment and I will gladly e-mail it to you! 

So here's how I did....

All of my inredients and equipment.  Can you tell how tiny  my kitchen is?  That's just about my only counter space.

Activating the yeast.  Looks gross, but it's one of the best smells to me.  Weird...I know.

Scalding the milk to add into the dough.  Not sure why I had to do this, but the recipe says it makes the bread tender.  Guess it worked.

All of the ingredients for the bread dough.  I didn't use my handy dandy KitchenAid mixer on this one.  The instructions say you can easily mix it by hand.  It actually wasn't too bad.

The dough looks a bit gloppy, but it comes together pretty quickly.

Plop out the dough onto the countertop and split it into two rounds (or 4 if you're making 4 loaves).

Supposed to put each round into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel to let rise.  I'm a dummy and ran out of plastic wrap (what kind of baker am I???) so I cut a ziploc bag in half.  Worked just fine!

While the bread dough rises (oh the SMELL!), make the fillings.  This deliciousness is for the walnut filling. 

I would totally eat that by itself if not for the raw egg.  Basically this is walnuts, milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon.  Gah!

The not-so-secret ingredient in the pumpkin-butter-cream-cheese filling.  I got this stuff at Williams Sonoma a couple weeks ago.  Yes, this little jar is $11.  But holy crap.  It is fabulous.  I think I'm going to go stock up on a few jars before the season is over.  Anyway, I added a couple of tablespoons to some softened cream cheese and sugar, and I got this:

Heaven in a bowl.  I just want to dive in and swim around.  And eat a bunch of it.  I really had to restrain myself so I would have enough filling for the bread.

WTF, you ask?  Well, my friends.  The recipe says to use a floured sheet (yes, a bedsheet) to help roll up the dough.  I thought it sounded crazy, but I wanted to get the full experience of the challenge.  Unfortunately, my countertop is WAY too small to fit a sheet, so I used a pillowcase instead, and it was actually the perfect size.  So I floured my (clean) pillowcase and got to work.

The dough has to be rolled out super-thin, so you can almost see through it.  I know my edges are a little thicker, but I did the best I could.  (See Granny's marble rolling pin over there?  Love that thing!)

Rocky really wants a sample.

Spread with walnut filling and roll up.  Here's where the sheet/pillowcase comes in handy.  You have to flour the sheet really well, and then just pull the edges up and it sort of rolls itself.  Like a jelly roll.

This looks small, but weighs about 2 lbs. 

The dough gets coiled around itself and brushed with a topping of cold coffee, sugar and melted butter.  (It looks a little creepy right now, but wait until it bakes!)

Repeat with pumpkin filling.

I ran to the store and bought plastic wrap.  Cover and let rest 15 mins.

Pop the loaves in the oven and do some dishes.  Yikes!

Waaaaahhhhh! (That's angels singing, btw).  And that chunk missing from the middle?  I was just making sure it wasn't poisonous. 

Look how cool and swirly they are in the middle!  They say the best way to slice the loaves is to turn the loaf upside down and cut with a serrated knife.  Mine still crumbled a bit, but it was still SO tasty.

I ate a few pieces, then took some to work and the rest to Aunt Peggy.  Ahhhh so amazing.  I think I may make a few loaves for Christmas gifts.  I have to work on the presentation a bit, but I can't wait to play around with a few other fillings.  :) 

This took all day.  And was definitely a challenge but I was really pleased with how it turned out.  I'm anxiously awaiting Daring Bakers to post what this month's challenge will be (it comes out today).  So hopefully they don't kick me out for posting late!  Whoops. 

If anyone wants the recipe, lmk and I will send it to you.  <3