Sunday, December 11, 2011

Snowman Poop and pumpkin cream cheese muffins!

Every year since fifth grade, my girlfriends and I get together for a Christmas gathering, a relaxed party with just the few of us with wine, lots of dessert, Dirty Santa, board games, comfy clothes, and bare feet.  It's been harder and harder for us to do this as we grow older and older and get more and more responsible, but life is too short to not be able to set aside one day a year to see old friends that are dear to you.
This year we met at my beautiful friend Melissa's house, played Apples to Apples and Loaded Questions, drank wine, and ate copious amounts of chocolate truffles, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, and snowman poop.  Yum.

I know typically pumpkin season is over and done with by now, but per special request, these pumpkin cream cheese muffins made the perfect pumpkin farewell til next season.

Ingredients (adapted from Annie's Eats)
½ cup sugar
4 tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Mix dry ingredients with whisk, then use a fork to cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly. Refrigerate until ready to use.

8 oz softened room temperature cream cheese
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Mix well until fully incorporated and lump free.  Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1¼ cups vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend.  In a separate bowl combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil.  Mix on medium-low speed until blended.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To assemble muffins, put a tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each liner.  Spoon in about a teaspoon of cream cheese filling.  Cover the filling with more batter, just to the top of the paper liner.  Sprinkle crumble on top.  Bake 20-25 minutes.  Cool before eating, even though it seems impossible.  The filling stays hot for a while so indulge with care!!

The snowman poop was a lot of fun. They're actually just lightly flavored vanilla meringues and can be piped into any design.  I also did some snowflakes and Christmas-y words, like hope and joy.  However, they're so delicate I highly recommend just making snowman poop if you're planning on taking these out of your house. Even moving them from countertop to table proved to strenuous for the more delicate pieces.

3 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 200. In a glass bowl, mix egg whites on highest speed until foamy. Add in cream of tartar and mix well.  Slowly add sugar, a teaspoon at a time, making sure all sugar is well distributed from each teaspoon before adding more. Beat on high until stiff glossy peaks form. Fold in vanilla just until incorporated.
Spoon meringue into  pastry bag or a Ziploc bag with the corner clipped off.  Pipe your poops onto parchment lined baking sheet.  For best results, keep them about 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter and up to 1 inch tall. Bake at 200 for one hour, then turn off the oven and leave them to dry out for another hour.  Resist temptation and don't open the oven door at all throughout the process!

We had a blast eating everything in sight and playing games until late, and I can't wait to see what we come up with for next year!

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