Halloween

CUPCAKE pumpkinspiceThe gluten free cupcake had become my nemesis. Until these. Several failed attempts at making both vanilla and chocolate, gluten free cupcakes did not discourage me. Cupcakes are a household favorite and not having these in our recipe binder has made not only my kids sad, but me as well (well, maybe not so sad, more disappointed).

I originally came up with these for one of the many Halloween parties we were invited to this year. They were so good that I recreated them again, for an event, last week.

A new, favorite teacake recipe is now the inspiration for many wonderful cakes and cakelettes. Infusing seasonal flavors and ingredients into the original base (which is the perfect combination), allows me to introduce old favorites using whole and gluten free ingredients.

Omitting maple from the original recipe while adding fall spices gave me the end result I was looking for. Topping them off with a dulce de leche buttercream was, literally, the icing on the cake!

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j0422837.jpgIn Philadelphia there is an apartment complex on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway called Park Towne Place. It is a cluster of four high rises – cleverly called East, West, North and South. I had three friends who lived there – Laura, Adam and Erik – and most years I spent Halloween night with them, riding the elevators in our costumes and tearing through the hallways, ringing every bell we could get our little hands on in an effort to collect maximum quantities of candy.

It was widely understood that trick-or-treating in an apartment building was the most efficient way to trick-or-treat, and for that reason Park Towne Place was the ne plus ultra because there were four apartment buildings arranged in one lucky clover shape – the prospect of that much candy simply boggled the nine-year-old mind. Our method was to exit the elevator, dash up and down the hallways ringing every bell, and then we’d wait a breathless moment to see who answered their door.

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budapest_1010_072.jpgIt was pumpkin season in Hungary when I was visiting there in early October. On a ride through the countryside, bright orange pumpkins could be spotted in yards, laying in the warm sunshine, probably waiting to be carved into a jack-o-lantern. Signs at restaurants announced the celebration of pumpkin week. Restaurants in Hungary are very mindful of using local, seasonal ingredients on their menus.

A chalkboard sign outside of Anno Taverna Restaurant in Balatonszárszón, a little village on the south side of Lake Balaton in the Hungarian countryside, announced they were celebrating pumpkins that week. My two traveling partners and I pulled the car into the small parking lot and chose an outdoor table to enjoy the October sunshine while we had lunch.

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keenepumpkin.jpg I love living in Southern California, except in the autumn. The weather's hot, there's no foliage, and the pumpkin population is pathetically small. That's why Jeff and I go home to New England every October. There's chilly weather, brilliant foliage, apple picking, cornstalks, scarecrows, and thousands of pumpkins to be seen and eaten.

This year there was pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, and, one of my favorites: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans. More on the pudding (along with the recipe) in a minute. But first, let's talk pumpkins.

Walk neighborhoods in New England in October, and you'll see scores of jack 'o lanterns smiling (or grimacing) at you. They're often propped atop a big bale of hay, accompanied by some tall cornstalks and a spooky black cat. There is one New England town, in particular, that reigns supreme when it comes to jack o' lanterns: Keene, NH. This was the first year I visited, and just the festival itself was worth the cross country trip.

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