pumpkin drop biscuits // book+film notes

My days have been bookended by two things lately: pumpkin drop biscuits before dawn, and tales of tragedy or woe at night’s end.

pumpkin db w.fg rawit was black as pitch when these came out of the oven the other morning, but lack of lighting (or a real camera) be damned, these are delicious // dusted liberally with fine grain raw sugar

I’ve a penchant for dark and lonely tales in general, but my favorite season/month/holidays all rolled up into a few short weeks amplify it a thousandfold. I’ve spend nearly every night huddled under blankets into the witching hour reading or viewing, followed by bleary-eyed mornings of biscuit making. Here’s a sliver of why it’s been worth it.

On the nightstand

Dr. Sleep: Have I mentioned King before? I’m sure I have. He’s hands down my favorite author, for reasons I won’t get into now (or this post will never end). What’s probably germain to my subjective adoration for Dr. Sleep, though, is a teensy bit of backstory. When I was a bored to tears, Dickens-reading fifth grader, I stumbled across The Shining – and it was love at first sight. Love for the genre, for the author, and most importantly, for the characters. I can actually say I have waited three-fourths of my life to find out what happened to them. And I was not disappointed.

The Snow Child: Beautiful, haunting, sad, magical, and well written. Oh, so well written. I can feel the frost creeping into my fingers and kissing the nape of my neck as I type this. More than once I put this  book down and curled up with my own little girl while pondering the one in this story.

On film

Jane Eyre (2011): There have been a few decent film versions of this novel, and in those instances it was (for me) a combination of direction, casting, locale, score, costume and set design, chemistry between main and/or supporting cast, or screenplay; never all of those things in any one film. This version? It has it all. As most adaptations, this film does not capture every single moment from Brontë’s story – but it is more true to the spirit of her novel and the times in which it was written than any other adaptation I’ve seen to date. The flashbacks to Jane’s childhood were heart wrenching in a way I’d forgotten since experiencing those same scenes on the page. Wasikowska and Fassbender were outstanding, as was the entire supporting cast. And the moors, oh, the moors! A lesser film could still be carried on the wings of location, set design and costuming. In this one, they were a beautiful canvas that melted into the background and allowed the story to seamlessly unfold.

Wuthering Heights (2011): Another outstanding adaptation – and the only film version of Wuthering Heights I’ve seen that remains true to the heart of another Brontë sister’s story. When I read the novel many many years ago, the descriptor that most came to mind was a well-intentioned but naively two dimensional cruel. I had not yet lived enough to really comprehend where Brontë was coming from; all of the critical analysis skills in the world didn’t provide the insight that I have now. When I watched this 2011 film version with a few more years of life behind me, the first descriptor that came to mind was feral. The film only covers the first half of the novel, but it gets to the beating heart of this story, rips it out and stomps on it. The first hour has almost no dialogue, instead subjecting viewers to the elements right along with Heathcliff and Catherine as they each endure their separate but equally harsh realities while also growing to care for one another. More time in this version is given to their childhood years than any other I’ve seen, and it makes the repercussions of their cleaving that much more resounding. Unfortunately, choices the director made in her treatment of animals prevent me from wanting to view any of her other works; I’ve heard great things about Fish Tank and Red Road, but have serious doubts I’ll watch them.

The Awakening: After experiencing two Brontë stories in a 48 hour period, I wanted to watch something that was still in the gothic vein, but nowhere as intense. Rebecca Hall in a creepyish-but-more-sad-than-scary ghost story filled that niche. Post WWI England, a drafty mansion that had been converted into a boys’ school, a female ghost debunker, hints of tragic love lost. The only thing that kept me from fully immersing myself in the story is that Rebecca Hall reminds me of Molly Wizenberg, and I kept wanting her to cook something. Needless to say, when this movie was over I made a tray of cookies and a pot of tea.

pumpkin db w.turbinadoa turbinado-topped biscuit is a great companion for culling my creepy postcard collection

Pumpkin drop biscuits

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This is a modification of my coconut cream drop biscuits, one I’ve made often enough now that it’s no longer a modification – it just is. I use half whole spelt and half white to add a little nuttiness to the biscuits without compromising the crumb, but all white spelt flour would be fine, too.  I don’t go overboard with the pumpkin or spices, because I hate when recipes do that – this isn’t a pie, you know? I’ve used both pumpkin and butternut squash in this, usually roasted the night before and then blitzed in my mini food processor just before mixing in; mashing it well with a fork works too. I don’t go overboard with the maple syrup in the batter, because 1. these would brown faster than I’d like, and 2. I want an excuse to add the sugar on top. It’s the most essential ingredient, according to Nina.

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1 cups whole spelt flour
1 cup white spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/4 cup solid coconut cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup (grade A or B, baker’s choice)
1/4 cup pureed pumpkin or butternut squash
1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk (I always use almond)
Large pinches of natural cane or turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and position a rack in the center.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator or freezer to chill while you mix up the dough.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Quickly rub the cream into the flour with your fingers until the pieces are the size of small pebbles; don’t worry if they aren’t uniform in size. Add the syrup, pumpkin puree and milk and stir until just incorporated; the dough will be sticky. Place the dough in the refrigerator to chill for at least 10 minutes, or longer if your oven is not yet preheated. Once the oven is ready, divide the dough into six portions, dropping them at least one inch apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the top of each biscuit liberally with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until just beginning to brown around the edges and golden on top.

Yield: 6 biscuits

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

Garden update + our house toast

Garden
So, when the rain came in and drowned a bunch of our plants back in June and July, Nina and I decided to start a bunch of new plants, knowing they might not grow at all, and they certainly wouldn’t get big enough to flower. Then this happened.

eggplant.bloomIt only took seven weeks, but my eggplants bloomed!
Thai.peppersSame goes for this Thai chili pepper.
oh pumpkins.too little too late!Don’t get me started on these pumpkins. At least they survived the squash borer infestation. . .

Now we’re boo hoo hooing that these plants are in bloom, but will probably not have time to fruit. We knew this might happen, but still. It feels so unfair! (Excuse me while I play my tiny violin of self-pity.) Of course, my freakshow watermelon patch has taken over our property.

watermelon.invastionEven the chickens are spooked because the vines are spreading so fast. Good to know global warming is good for something.

There were also some rosemary shenanigans, but I’ll save that for another garden update.

Toast
This weekend, Nina came down with the annual back-to-school virus. Because of course we had a jam-packed weekend. A long overdue museum visit, a birthday party, shoe shopping, fancy cookie recipes and maybe a pie. None of it happened.

Here are the highlights of our weekend of forced relaxation: big bowls of simple chickpeas simmered with garlic and fresh bay leaves; elbow macaroni smothered in nutchy sauces; apples dipped in homemade maple sunbutter; baby watermelons. We’ll do anything to halt the invasion. Basically, a lot of comfort eating. We watched Short Circuit. (A good thing; Nina loved it.) My attempts to show her Super 8 were foiled. (Also a good thing; it would have scared the bejeezus out of her.) I finally read Joyland, cover to cover. (Loved it.)

baby.hybrid.watermelonWe planted seed we saved ourselves and ended up with some hybrids.
hybrid.wedgeReally wishing I’d kept track of which two varieties produced this melon.

There was also a lot of toast. This toast, a couple of times a day. If we were a restaurant, this would be our house toast.

TOAST!coconut.cinnamon.sugarCoconut, turbinado sugar and cinnamon.

Select your favorite toasting bread. Lightly spread each slice with coconut oil. Sprinkle liberally with a pinch of turbinado sugar. Dust with cinnamon. Broil until fragrant and toasty.