Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Party!! (with a pumpkin mousse brownie recipe)

Pumpkin Party!!
The Occasion: Kicking off the harvest/fall season and celebrating the bounty of fall produce on the weekend before Halloween! It feels like Halloween always kicks off the autumnal/winter holidays, and it is such a fun, light-hearted holiday which I love (aka there's no pressure to throw an impressive party with a beautiful feast like there is for thanksgiving or christmas......which lends itself well to my lazy disposition)

The Plan: The weekend before Halloween, I invited a few close friends over to carve pumpkins and eat halloween/autumn/pumpkin themed food! We drank pumpkin beer, hard apple cider, carved pumpkins, and enjoyed eachothers' company. We have been blessed to have warm weather in October, so we were able to carve our pumpkins outside......yayy!

Pumpkin Party Part I: The Pumpkins

Pumpkin Carving: This is honestly one of my favorite things to do, and I wish that one could do it all year round without seeming like a fool. My brother was kind enough to accompany me to our Trader Joe's where we purchased 14 gorgeous pumpkins! Pumpkin carving is pretty easy when it comes to the basics, it only gets harder when you decide to take on a masterpiece such as Van Gogh's starry night as your jack-o-lantern design.  

- sharp, medium kitchen knife,
- curved metal scooper/spatula
- sharpie
- small knige or pumpkin carving knife

The Pumpkin my friend accidentally cut out the entire face of;
but he saved it by making it seem like a "Pumpkin Mask"
1. Cut out the top of your pumpkin, preferably with at least some kind of distinct pattern so that it is easy to close and open
2. Hollow out your pumpkin. This is the part that takes awhile, and this is what I would suggest using a metal scooper or spatula for. Although it takes awhile, I find it weirdly satisfying and fun, but that's probably just because I'm the coolest kid on the block.
3. Decide what design you want to carve out, and see if you can find a stencil for it online. If you can't find a stencil, it's probably okay to free-hand it, just make sure that you are keeping in mind which parts need to be carved out/removed, and which parts need to stay on the pumpkin/attached to the pumpkin. One major problem that happens is that people accidentally cut out an entire segment of their pumpkin design because they didn't factor in that they need to keep everything connected to the pumpkin somehow (this happened with one of my friends but he dealt with it like a champ).
Us with out finished pumpkins! (mine is a witch-hello kitty if you can't tell)
4. Once you have decided on your design and carefully drawn it onto the pumpkin, carefully carve out your design using small, sharp knives or pumpkin carvers. 
5. Remove any leftover sharpie with ethanol (rubbing alcohol) and a paper towel.
6. Refrigerate you pumpkins until you want to put them out so that they last longer.
7. Celebrate.........because you just carved an adorable (or frightening) pumpkin!

Pumpkin Party Part II: The Foods
The plan: To serve up some light snack-ish type food with a Halloween/Pumpkin theme. The snacks included:
- guacamole, salsa, and chips: recipe for the guacamole is here, and the chips and salsa were store bought
- veggies & roasted red pepper hummus (I just added the red peppers so that the hummus would be orange to fit the fall theme, but they also added a great flavor): The Basic Hummus recipe can be found here, and then all you have to do is add roasted red peppers to it. 
- Halloween themed veggies courtesy of my friend Sara (we had Cauliflower "brains" and carrot "fingers").....they were delicious to eat AND fun to look at ;)
- Pumpkin Mousse Brownies! These were a hit, and a recent recipe creation of mine, and the recipe is to follow!
- Pumpkin Ale: We tried 2 brands, and the resounding favorite was KBC's Pumpkin Ale which I purchased from Trader Joe' go get yourself some of that before pumpkin time is over!

Pumpkin Mousse Brownie Recipe: 
This Recipe has 3 components- The Brownie (bottom) layer, the Pumpkin Mousse (middle) layer, and the Chocolate Ganache (top) layer, as well as assembly instructions.
Date Paste!

Prepare in Advance:
- Date Paste: This will be used in all three components of the recipe, and about 2 1/2 cups total are needed for the entire recipe. Date paste is made by soaking pitted medjool dates for 4 hours, and then blending the drained dates in a food processor until fluffy.
- Coconut Milk: Place canned coconut milk into the freezer so that the thicker, white part of the milk separates and rises to the top. This is the only portion of the coconut milk you want to use, and should make up about half of the can.

Brownie Ingredients: 
- 1 cup all purpose white flour
- 2 tbs cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 heaping tbs unsweetened applesauce (optional)
- 1 & ¾ cup vegan chocolate chips  (reserve ¾)
- 1cup date paste 
- 1/2 cup soymilk
- 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar (any light/white vinegar should work fine)
This is what your batter should look like when it's all done.
- 1 egg equivalent (I used the Vegg but you should be fine using a flax egg or Energ-G egg replacer)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbs fine instant coffee
Directions for Brownies:
1) Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a large bowl mix together all the "Dry" ingredients, EXCEPT for the applesauce. Reserve this for later.
3) In a small pot over low to medium heat, mix up ONLY 1 cup of chocolate chips (reserving ¾ cup) with all of the other wet ingredients just until all of the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture looks even.
4) Slowly add in the liquid mixture to the "dry" bowl. Mix for about 20 seconds; if you feel that the batter is still too dry add the applesauce, but if it looks like the image on the right, then you don't need the applesauce.
5) Stir just until incorporated. Avoid stirring for too long as this will make the dough too tough. The dough should be shiny but does not have to be perfectly smooth, as long as the color is even.
Just about to go into the oven! This height of the walls of
this tray is what is important.
6) Line medium-large baking tray that has higher walls with parchment paper just along the bottom and pour in the brownie mixture. (You want to use a larger sheet because the brownies are not supposed to be as tall/thick as in a normal brownie recipe, and you also want vertical space to add the other layers of this dessert after the brownies are done. You can use a smaller tray if you want thicker brownies, but make sure the walls are tall enough)
7) Sprinkle about ¾ cup of the reserved chocolate chips evenly over the batter.
7) Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
8) Remove the brownies and set aside to cool

Ingredients for Pumpkin Mousse:
- 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 can pumpkin puree
This is what your mousse should look like after processing.
- 1 1/4 cup date paste
- 1 cup canned coconut milk (top thick white part only)
1. Remove only the thick, white portion of the coconut milk from the can and place in the food processor.
2. Add all other ingredients to the food processor and process until smooth and even.
3. Pour evenly over the cooled brownies (which should still be in a baking sheet and remain uncut)
4. Place in the freezer while you prepare the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:
- 1 cup coconut milk (top thick white part only)
- 2 ¼ cup chocolate chips (about 1 bag)
- 1/3 cup date paste
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp salt
Pouring the ganache....the last step!
1. Add all ingredients to a small, heavy bottomed pot.
2. Heat the pot on low-medium heat, stirring continuously.
3. Once the mixture is smooth and everything is completely evenly mixed remove from heat. (all chocolate should be melted at this point)
4. Place in the freezer, and stir it every 10 minutes for half an hour. 
5. Once the ganache is only warm/lukewarm on the back of your hand, go ahead and pour the ganache evenly over the pumpkin mousse layer of the brownies.
6. Place the entire tray back in the freezer for another hours.
7. Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut the brownies into little squares before removing them from the tray to serve.

Now stop reading this recipe and go make these addictive brownies!!


  1. wonderful recipe I will check this out, it reminds me of this dessert my mom used to make me when I was young!

    1. That's awesome, what was the dessert that your mom made called?
      Let me know how the recipe goes!