Pumpkin Muffins with a Spice

by Richa Chaturvedi ’18

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In an effort to test how yummy Buzzfeed suggestions really are, I spent my Friday afternoon making these pumpkin muffins!  Spoiler alert: never shall I doubt Buzzfeed again.

Pumpkin is always a tricky ingredient – it has an interesting consistency and tends to overpower everything else in the dish.  A basic rule of thumb for cooking with pumpkin is to enhance the flavor with the correct spice, but to make sure to incorporate more dynamic elements into the recipe so that pumpkin isn’t the only flavor. This is why I added chocolate chips to these muffins. Chocolate and pumpkin is actually an underrated combination, plus they look amazing together!

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The recipe also calls for pumpkin spice, which is just a combination of basic fall flavors: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Since I’m a normal college student, I didn’t just have those lying around so I was very generous with cinnamon and vanilla extract. It still tasted great! The big takeaway from this is that recipes aren’t set in stone. As long as you have the basic chemistry down, you can take liberties to personalize and experiment with the dishes you create. After all, you’re the one eating them so it’s really up to you.

Above all else, don’t be scared to try new recipes and ingredients. I’m basically inept – there was a period of time in high school when I was banned from using the microwave due to an unfortunate aluminum foil incident – but I was committed to making myself something nice and pumpkin-y and, I’m not going to lie, I crushed it.  It’s helpful to remember that if you don’t make yourself chocolate chip and pumpkin muffins, then you won’t be able to eat chocolate chip and pumpkin muffins. With that inspiration, go forth! And happy fall from Crimson Crave.

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Make it yourself!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin spice
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 (16 ounce) can pure pumpkin
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 24 pumpkin-shaped candies

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper or silicone liners and coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a whisk, combine eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin. Add the flour mixture in two batches, mixing after each addition until uniformly combined.
  4. Using a large cookie scoop, fill the muffin cups nearly to the top with batter. Bake about 25 minutes, rotating the muffin tins halfway through baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely.
  5. While the muffins are cooling, in a large bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth. Frost muffins using a spatula or a pastry bag and piping tip of your choice. Top with pumpkin candies.

*Recipe courtesy of CulinaryHill.com.

Basia’s Scoop (#3: Christina’s)

by Basia Rosenbaum ’18

There is a Cambridge debate over ice cream: Toscanini’s vs. Christina’s. Central Square vs. Inman. Cocoa pudding vs. chocolate mousse (below left, along with cactus pear, right).

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A couple weeks ago I went to Toscanini’s, and this week I tried Christina’s.

Starting with location, Christina’s takes it. Just 10 minutes down the road from CGIS, I wondered why I didn’t go to Inman more often. Fun restaurants (including Punjabi Dhaba serving great cheap Indian food), cute shops, and a branch of the always amazing 1369 Coffee House.

Walk inside and Christina’s has a completely different vibe. Whereas Toscanini’s feels almost hipster—minimalist décor, flavors written in chalk, people coding over ice cream—Christina’s feels like an institution. This is not a shop designed to impress; rather meant to let the flavors speak for themselves.

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The range of flavors at Christina’s is impressive and there is an excellent combination of standard favorites with creative offerings. There’s maple walnut, black raspberry, rum raisin, and pistachio. But also Adzuki bean, banana cinnamon and Khulfi.

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Butter almond and peanut butter chip

Some of the flavors were amazing; some were less impressive. The butter almond was fantastic, but after a few bites I realized the peanut butter chip wasn’t one to order again. Cactus pear sorbet? Such an interesting option (and color). But while yummy initially, it was just too sweet and left me with a taste of pure sugar. The chocolate mousse is fantastic (better than Toscanini’s cocoa pudding in my opinion) and their chocolate chip cookie dough is great (as all chocolate chip cookie dough flavors are).

My best advice is to taste before you buy (and taste extensively). Depending on what flavor you order, you will leave with an entirely different impressive of Christina’s. Find the right flavors and this might be your favorite Cambridge ice cream.

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Chocolate chip cookie dough

You can also find Christina’s at the weekly Farmer’s Market in the Science Center. Albeit serving just a few options, the mobile Christina’s is great way to try the ice cream closer to campus.

Toscanini’s vs. Christina’s. I’d have to say that I come out of the side of Toscanini’s. But when we’re talking about good ice cream, why would we even have a debate? The more good ice cream options, the better.

Basia’s Scoop (#2: Toscanini’s)

by Basia Rosenbaum ’18

This is the best ice cream within walking distance. There is no debate on this. Every flavor I’ve tried has been wonderful. The coffee is delicious too; and what could be a better study combination than ice cream and coffee? And speaking of studying, Toscanini’s is what might sound like a contradiction: a studying ice cream shop. I aim to have tried all the flavors before I graduate (and with my rate of ice cream consumption, this goal appears quite likely.)

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Photo taken by John Phelan, via Wikimedia Commons.

It is true that Toscanini’s is farther than Harvard Square. It is true that it is far enough that you could even take the T. But going to Toscanini’s isn’t just about getting ice cream; it’s an occasion. (An occasion that I take advantage of much too often.) And while it may be more of a schlep, it is completely worth it.

To demonstrate how many times I have been to Toscanini’s, I can tell you all of the amazing flavors from personal experience. Ginger snap molasses, coffee, cocoa pudding, chocolate #3, cookie dough, butter almond, Aztec chocolate…the list could go on and on. And now serving soft serve, Toscanini’s has something for every ice cream lover.

But I must talk about one flavor in particular: the Toscanini’s flavor. B3 is pretty much everything you could ever want in an ice cream flavor: brown butter, brown sugar, and brownie bits. It is decadent (a kiddie cup—micro cup in Toscanini’s speak—is more than enough), creamy, and absolutely delicious.

My most recent Toscanini’s excursion was motivated by an upcoming paper. A paper that I really didn’t want to write. And what better excuse to take the trek down Mass Ave than for an ice cream-incentivized study break.

I got the chocolate chip, which might seem a bit boring, but it is absolutely fantastic. Toscanini’s flavors taste exactly like their name. They taste as though were just made (and with rotating flavors, this is often the case). Their vanilla is so creamy, and their chocolate chips (more like chocolate chunks) are like a high-end chocolate bar.

Toscanini 1Unlike a typical cream store, Toscanini’s has more of a coffee shop vibe. Quiet but not too quiet, lots of students, good lighting, and most importantly, the presence of great food and drinks. I’ve been for birthdays, for days when I just need a good cup of ice cream, and most often, I’ve been when I just need to get off-campus to study.

My paper is now complete and I cannot wait for the next excuse to make the journey to get my favorite Cambridge ice cream.

Note: Basia will be publishing a Best of Boston Ice Cream series – check back for more next week!

Toll House’s best kept secret: Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

By Victoria Piccione ’16

When it comes to baked goods, there are two kinds of people in this world: cookie people and cake people. I’ve always been infuriated when people ask me what camp I fall into because I don’t discriminate against any baked goods. And they’re so completely different that I don’t think it’s a fair question anyway. Cakes are for celebrations; cookies are for everyday consumption. But when asked if I’m a cookie or cookie bar person, I can confidently state that I fall into the latter camp.

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For your sake, I really hope that you’ve consumed a chocolate chip cookie bar at least once in your lifetime. If you haven’t, you need to put down the computer, print out this recipe, and go whip up a batch right now because they are (1) so easy and (2) absolutely delicious. They pack the chewy interior and slightly crunchy exterior of a regular cookie, along with the buttery, vanilla-y, slightly salty goodness that we all love about a Toll House cookie, but then they do it better. They’re thicker, kind of like blondies, but chock full of chocolate and the consistency is more like a cookie.

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This recipe is an old standby in my house, and for many reasons. It’s versatile: you can throw in M&Ms, coconut, toasted hazelnuts, or swirl in some peanut butter, Nutella, or salted caramel. They’re also the perfect base for a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of hot fudge. It’s too easy: rather than spending as much time rolling out balls of cookie dough as you spent mixing up the dough itself, this dough you just spread in a pan and throw in the oven. I’m all about immediate gratification. And there’s just something about biting into a thick bar that’s intensely satisfying.

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Chocolate chip cookies have done a good job of keeping their younger, more attractive sister hidden, but I think it’s time that she finally make her debut!

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups unsifted flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 12-oz package (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F, and grease a 15” x 10” x 1” baking pan.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl fitted for an electric mixer, combine butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract; beat until creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture, scraping down the bowl between additions. Mix until completely incorporated.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips, then spread into greased baking pan.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
  7. Let cool, then cut into 2” squares.

Recipe adapted from Toll House

Toasted Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

by Emily Brother ’19

Everyone knows that dining hall meal: the one where the only dessert available is a chocolate chip cookie. Well, hope is not lost! In fact, you’ve just been presented with an opportunity to create a warm chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. This sandwich balances the cool, creamy sweetness of vanilla soft-serve with the warm, chewy, gooey goodness of a chocolate chip cookie. And, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, add a pinch of salt to the cookie to make it just a bit more savory!

Ingredients:

  • 2 chocolate chip cookies
  • Vanilla soft-serve (or ice cream, if it’s Sunday!)
  • Salt (optional)

Steps:

  1. Put two chocolate chip cookies in one of the dining hall conveyor toasters. Remove when chocolate chips are somewhat melted. IMG_3467
  1. Take a generous dollop of the vanilla soft-serve and, using a knife, smear it on one of the warm chocolate chip cookies.IMG_3471
  1. Complete the sandwich by placing the other chocolate chip cookie on top of the cookie that is already covered with ice cream. If you’d like, sprinkle some salt on top of the whole sandwich. Enjoy!