Pumpkin oats fruitcake

This recipe is sort of an offshoot of this pumpkin bread pudding recipe:


I was thinking of making it again but I wasn’t sure if I had enough bread; I’ve been experimenting with different grains making gluten free quick breads (made with baking powder, not yeast).  Then it occurred to me to just make the Libby’s pumpkin pie filling and instead of using bread cubes use quick oats.  Quick oats are also rolled oats; they haven’t been pre-cooked or anything, just oat grains cut up before they’re rolled so that they’re smaller and cook more quickly.

Special equipment: I’m doing the recipe by weight so you’ll need a kitchen scale. I’m also not specifying a loaf or bundt pan of any particular size so you’ll determine if the fruitcake is done by using a digital thermometer; 190 degrees F.  You can figure out how much batter you’ll need by using a measuring cup and filling a loaf pan with water.  Mine is a little less than 6 cups capacity.

The basic idea is to make the pumpkin pie filling following the recipe on the can of plain pumpkin (with some tweaks which we’ll get to in a sec), add some quick oats, let it rest overnight, add dried fruits and nuts that have been soaking in liqueur, rum, brandy, etc., and then bake.

For the pumpkin pie pie filling two changes are made.  One is to replace some of the evaporated milk with an egg.  If you use the single pie can of plain pumpkin you’ll take out 50 grams of evaporated milk.  Save it or freeze it, or in my case, just drink it.  Replace that evaporated milk with an additional egg; a large egg weights very close to 50 grams.  The other change is to crank up the spices using the amounts from the King Arthur Flour recipe; double the ginger, add some nutmeg, and add some vanilla.  So the updated spice quantities are

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla

Other than changing the eggs from 2 to 3 and decreasing the evaporated milk by 50 grams and the above spice quantities the recipe is the same as what’s on the can.  (Double these for the 2 pie can of pumpkin pie.)

After you make the pumpkin pie filling you weigh it, then divide its weight by 4, and add that amount of quick rolled oats.  For example, the first one I made I used the large 2 pie can and the weight of the filling was 1,980 grams so for that I’d use 495 grams of quick rolled oats.  If you use the 2 pie can I’d recommend dividing it in half unless your mixing bowl is very large; oats are light and 495 grams of oats is a lot.  That means 2 containers or bowls with 990 grams of pie filling in them and 248 grams of quick oats for each.  For a single pie can of plain pumpkin the numbers were slightly different.  A good spatula with a sharp edge is handy for scraping out the bowls and getting every last bit.

After mixing in the oats cover the bowl with plastic wrap or whatever and put it in the fridge for an overnight rest.  If you remember to, stir it every so often.

The next day drain an appropriate quantity of the soaked dried fruits and nuts. Grease and paper the loaf pan. After the final greasing sprinkle it with flour. Let the fruits and nuts drain while you’re working on the loaf pan.  Then mix the fruits and nuts with the pie filling and spoon it into the loaf pan.  Since there isn’t any baking powder in this recipe it won’t rise in the oven. This means that you can fill the loaf pan right up to the top edge.  The “appropriate quantity” of soaked dried fruits and nuts is up to you.  For example, use half as much dried fruits and nuts as batter. For my loaf pan of about 6 cups I could use 4 cups of batter and 2 cups of dried fruits and nuts.  I don’t pack the fruit into the measuring cup so the spaces between it give me some leeway.   (To be honest I’ve been lax and not measuring how much dried fruit and nuts I’m adding.)  If there isn’t enough batter then it won’t hold together so that’s the main concern; beyond that it’s a matter of preference.

I’ve been baking it at 325 degrees F because it takes longer than a regular cake to bake and at 350 the top is a bit too dark.  And at 325 it takes even longer.  At least an hour and 45 minutes, the last one took 2 hours.  So set your timer and when it goes off take it out and insert the digital thermometer and make sure it’s 190 degrees internally.  If not, back it goes for another 15 minutes.  For the last 15 minutes you can turn the oven up to 350 to get the top browner if you’d like.

The end result is very dense and heavy, not like your usual fruitcake. But in my opinion it’s much better than the usual fruitcake. And because it’s so dense I would not do the usual fruitcake thing of brushing it with rum or brandy because you’d probably end up with a sticky and gooey mess.

For soaking the dried fruits I’ve been using liqueur. For liqueur choices the sky’s the limit. I’ve been soaking each fruit in a different liqueur. Cassis is one of my favorites; it’s made from currants. My next batch will use walnuts that have been soaking in Frangelico, which is made with hazelnuts. Previously the walnuts weren’t soaked. If you chop the dried fruit to be at most pea sized it takes about 3 days to plump up. But longer is better.

Letting the batter rest overnight is important so that the oats fully soak up as much as they can. You may be able to use regular oats instead of quick oats, I’ve only been using quick oats.

You don’t have to stick with oats. I made some with a 50/50 combination of teff flour and buckwheat flour.  It came out very dark and tasted great. For the latest one I used corn tortilla flour (masa).  When used in sweet recipes the sugar neutralizes the strong corn tortilla flavor of the masa and it ends up tasting quite nice, and different, but in a good way.  When experimenting with alternatives to oats you’ll need to be careful about how much you use; some will need more or less. For example, with the masa I used 192 grams. The batter should drop from a spoon, but not be as runny as pancake batter, and I suspect that a thicker batter is better.  When experimenting with different flours you can check the batter’s consistency after it’s rested in the fridge for an hour or so and the flour has soaked up the majority of what it’s going to.  But it will be stiffer from being cold so take that into account.  This isn’t a precise chemistry experiment and we’re using a thermometer to test for doneness so as long as you don’t go overboard on it being too runny or stiff it should come out fine.


Real fiber versus faux fiber

Nice: Food companies are adding fiber to almost everything, for better or worse.
This confirms something that I’ve always suspected.

Rye crackers with more bran

I halved the atta flour quantity and increased the bran by the same ammount (I have to fudge the numbers slightly because my scale only does 2 grams at a time; no odd amounts displayed). The dough was very crumbly; I’m not hopeful.

84 grams wheat bran
30 grams atta flour
62 grams dark rye flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
192 grams water

Still not getting my hopes up; after its 2 hour rest the dough was definitely crumbly.

As an experiment to hold in more of the moisture and possibly help bind it together I sealed the top of the loaf pan with aluminum foil before putting it in the oven to bake. Since I’m not using any leavening the bread never rises so no worries about it pushing up against the aluminum foil.

It’s baked and cooling down. The top of the loaf looked less dried out than the ones that don’t have foil over them.

After chilling overnight in the fridge I sliced them. They sliced nicely. The aluminum foil trick definitely helps keep the final bread moist and makes it easier to slice. I’ll have to remember to do that henceforth.

The slices are in the food dehydrator drying.

I just tried one of the crackers after several hours of drying; they’re not fully dried yet but it looks like they’re not going to be too crumbly, which surprises me considering how crumbly the dough was. Perhaps baking the loaf covered with aluminum foil is the trick. I should try redoing the sorghum flour recipe with it to see if it helps. I should also see how far I can push the wheat bran percentage; I could halve the rye flour quantity to 30 grams and increase the wheat bran by another 30 grams.

After fully drying: well I’m pleasantly surprised; they came out well. They’re not crumbly and the flavor is quite reasonable. Not especially bitter. They’re also not tough so I could also slice them more thickly and give them more substance.

It seems as if the other flours somehow enable the bitterness of the bran to come through more strongly. I’m also suspecting that the atta flour I bought may be the culprit; the grocery store had 3 different brands and being the skinflint that I am, I bought the least expensive (read, cheapest) one.

Standard procedure for making the rusks.

Sorghum and atta flour crackers

These are looking good so far; I just sliced them and put them in the food dehydrator. I baked this one at the same time I baked the corn flour and millet flour loaves but had to wait until their slices were dry because I don’t have enough trays to do 6 mini loaves sliced.

Here’s the recipe; same as the others with 50% atta flour and 50% sorghum flour:

54 grams wheat bran
62 grams atta flour
62 grams sorghum flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
170 grams water

After drying: the flavor is definitely unremarkable.

The texture turned out to not be so good; they’re a bit crumbly and won’t hold up for scooping dip.

It would seem that the main advantage for sorghum flour is that it has a low glycemic index.

Standard procedure for making the rusks.

Back to crackers

I’ve sort of fallen off the wagon with my cracker making. I think it was because I had taken a wrong turn with cooking the bread in the pressure cooker. It made crackers that were too tough. And any added spices or flavorings mostly got killed off by the pressure cooker. So I decided to go back to baking in the oven.

Just before I switched to the pressure cooker I realized that I don’t want to add any leavening to the recipe; a brick is what’s needed. But I’d been experimenting with a recipe that had lots of added ingredients; potato, oil, and milk. So I decided to start from scratch, bake a recipe with just flour, water, and salt to see how that worked in the oven. Of course I couldn’t just do it with plain flour so I used half atta flour and half dark rye flour. The first batch was as follows:

1 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup atta flour
1/2 cup dark rye flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water

After mixing I put it in a small plastic bowl with a lid and let it rest for 2 hours. Then I baked it in a mini loaf pan for 1 hour in a 350 degree oven. I did the usual of letting the bread cool after it was baked, then wrapped it in a paper towel (to absorb any moisture that might otherwise collect on the inside of the plastic bag), then put it in a plastic bag and let it get fully cold in the fridge. Then I sliced it about 4 mm thick and dried it in the food dehydrator set at 105 degrees.

The crackers were fine.

Next I decided to get a bit more rigorous and use weights instead of volume measurements and add some potato.

54 grams wheat bran
62 grams atta flour
62 grams dark rye flour
22 grams dried potato flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
240 grams water

The potato makes the crackers a bit tougher. But the flavor isn’t any different.

I also did one with egg, no potato; the total fluid was about 240 grams. These were no different than the first plain batch.

Next up was corn flour:

54 grams wheat bran
62 grams atta flour
62 grams corn flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
225 grams water

And millet flour:

54 grams wheat bran
62 grams atta flour
62 grams millet flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
180 grams water

Notice that I used less water. It turned out that the corn flour dough had too much water; after it had rested for 2 hours there was some water puddled at the bottom of its container. For determining the water needed I was eyeballing and feeling the dough; I should have been feeling it more than eyeballing it since its visual appearance is deceptive.

These two are sliced and drying in the food dehydrator.

The millet flour loaf was quite crumbly and difficult to slice without the slices falling apart. I tasted some of the crumbs and bits before it was dried and it was noticeably bitter. I think I’ll try another batch with it and the potato, and maybe also an egg if the potato doesn’t help. Or perhaps use a cup of pumpkin puree.

I need to go back to the original wheat and rye recipe and try it with milk. The milk might make it more crumbly.

I’m thinking of doing something off the wall and baking the loaf for 30 or 45 minutes, then cook it in the pressure cooker for just a few minutes, at the lower pressure setting. I’m wondering if that will help make the bread denser (and easier to slice) without making the crackers too hard and not dull the flavors.

After drying: The 50% corn flour crackers are definitely crunchy with lots of snap. But the flavor is completely unremarkable. Looks like corn flour can be useful for adding crunch to the crackers.

The 50% millet flour crackers have a bit of a bitter taste. I’d say that the millet flour is a dud.

Next up is 50% sorghum flour.

Standard procedure for making the rusks.

Rye flour for a deep fried batter

I was going to try using sorghum flour for deep fried fritters but in front of it on the shelf was the dark rye flour so I thought I’d give it a try. The usual recipe; 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup water, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons dry milk, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt. The batter was a bit too thick, and I anticipated it thickening up while I was using it, so I added 2 or 3 tablespoons of water to it after it was first mixed.

The flavor and texture were nice. The grassy rye flavor didn’t reveal itself until a few seconds after chewing a piece. The texture was nice; nicely bread like.

The flavor was nothing special so I decided to try adding some spices to it to see how they affected its flavor. I added 1/2 teaspoon ground dried New Mexico chili and 1/4 teaspoon ground dried California chili and 1/4 teaspoon cumin. I couldn’t taste the chili at all. The cumin flavor was just a hint, which was very nice.

Then I made another batch with the same chili and cumin spices added and used it for dipping some onion rings. The batter was a bit too thick; I still need to figure out the right consistency for it for dipping. The flavor was fine although the onion flavor, while not strong, overpowered the cumin and I couldn’t taste it at all. The finished rings were too heavily breaded but they tasted good.

Dulce de leche in the pressure cooker

You can find various recipes for dulce de leche on the web; a gallon of milk, sugar, small amount of baking soda, vanilla (optional), cook for an hour on the stove top.

Chow.com has one where you put sweetened condensed milk in a pie plate, cover it, bake in the oven for an hour, stir, then bake for an hour and a half more.

I haven’t tried either of these methods.

In the comments section for the Chow recipe people were relating the way their mom, grandmother, etc. made it by putting an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot, add several cups of water, and cook it on the stove top. Of course there were many comments about how dangerous that is. Talk about a disaster waiting to happen. There’s also the problem with the BPA that the cans are lined with.

All of these seem like too much work to me. The stove top method is sure to need lots of attention in order to avoid the milk sticking and scorching on the bottom of the pan. The oven one takes too long. There were also comments asking how to make a lower sugar version; sweetened condensed milk is very sweet. All this got me to thinking that dulce de leche could very likely be made in a pressure cooker using the bain marie method.

I took a can of sweetened condensed milk, poured it in a metal bowl, covered the bowl tightly with aluminum foil, and put it in the pressure cooker on top of the steamer basket and poured several cups of water around it. Then I cooked it at high pressure for 1 hour.

Well, not exactly that; I first added 2 tablespoons of dry whole milk and mixed that in well before I put it in the pressure cooker. I have this dry milk, Nido, that’s made by Nestle that’s whole milk, not the usual nonfat dry milk. It’s a fine powder, not the fluffy granules like instant nonfat dry milk.

When I took the bowl out of the pressure cooker and uncovered it the sweetened condensed milk had reduced by a lot and had a slightly grainy crust on the top. So I used the electric hand mixer and mixed it well. Then I put it in a jar and put that in the fridge. It’s thick. And it tastes great.

Thinking about the lower sugar queries I made the next batch with one can of sweetened condensed milk and one can of evaporated milk. For the evaporated milk I used whole evaporated milk, not non fat. This time I added 4 tablespoons of the Nido whole dry milk. I mixed everything together well in the steel bowl using a whisk, covered it with aluminum foil and cooked it as before in the pressure cooker for an hour. This wasn’t as thick as the batch made with only sweetened condensed milk. I was almost thinking of putting it back in the pressure cooker and cooking it for an additional half hour but I decided to try letting it cool down to see if it thickened up sufficiently. It was fairly thick, but not as thick as the first batch was, which was quite thick. It also needed a good mixing with the electric hand mixer.

After an evening in the fridge it thickened up nicely. The flavor is incredible. A rich and creamy caramel to die for. But still too sweet.

I think some of the condensation is dripping back into the bowl while it’s cooking so for the next batch I’m going to cook it the way I do my morning mush. I’ll use the 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup with the brown glass lid from a Pyrex pot. The glass lid is a bit too large and sits at an angle because of the measuring cup’s handle, which is good because that makes the condensation drain to the outside of the measuring cup.