Participants at the bake-off prepare and sample pumpkin creations at Seven Stars bakery.

In what seems to be a tradition at the Summit Neighborhood Association’s Fall Bake-Off, pouring rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants.

Despite the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, about 60 people gathered at Seven Stars bakery on Hope Street the night before Halloween to sample 17 dishes whose primary ingredient this year was pumpkin. Last year’s apple-themed event was punctuated by rain that turned to snow.

Adding to this year’s festivities were wine and beer tasting put on by Swan Liquors plus olive-oil and vinegar sampling from Olive del Mondo, both Hope Street stores. Children in Halloween costumes enhanced the fun.

A panel of three local culinary celebrities – Nemo Bolin from Cooke and Browne, Denise Kammerer of The Sandwich Hut and Lynn Williams of Seven Stars – judged the entries brought in by Summit neighbors. Everyone present got to sample the offerings and to vote on a people’s choice. The balloting included picking a favorite costume.

The judged winners were: First Prize, a gift certificate to Seven Stars, for Pumpkin Smoothies by Anisa Raoof and sons Ethan and Dylan Itkin; Second Prize, a gift certificate to Olive del Mondo, for Pumpkin Hummus by Leslie Tang; and Third Prize, a gift certificate to Frog and Toad, for Pumpkin Butter by Kim Ahern and Jenna Lafayette.

The people’s choice award, a gift certificate to Swan Liquors, was for Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares by Sandy Kohring.

The best costume was voted to be the Two Musketeers, worn by Ethan and Dylan Itkin.

SNA President Dean Weinberg presented the awards, invited all the neighbors to SNA meetings held the third Monday of every month at Summit Commons, 99 Hillside Ave. and thanked all the local merchants that participated as well as SNA member Sarah Arrigo, who arranged the event.

Then it was out into the rain to clean up hurricane debris.

Some of the prize-winning recipes (more to be published as they arrive):

Pumpkin Butter
2 cans of pumpkin, 15 oz each (I used organic pumpkin from Whole Foods)
1 ½ cups apple juice
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3 cinnamon sticks

Combine all the ingredients over stovetop. Bring to boil and then let simmer for 30-40 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Serve over delicious bread from Seven Stars!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter or margarine
1 cup quick-cooking oats
½ cup finely chopped pecans (or can use walnuts)

8 oz (1 package) cream cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
15 oz (1 can) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
3 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt (recommended by chef, but not used in bake-off entry)

2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9”x13” pan with cooking spray. In medium bowl, mix flour and brown sugar. Using electric mixer, cut in butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in oats and nuts. Press into bottom of pan and bake 15 minutes.
  2. In large bowl, beat filling ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Pour over hot base and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until set and dry in center.
  3. In small bowl, mix topping ingredients. Droop mixture by spoonsful over pumpkin layer and spread evenly over hot filling. Bake about 5 minutes or until topping is set. Cool completely (about 2 hours). Cut into 4 rows by 6 rows and sprinkle with additional nuts (bake-off entry used toasted nuts). Cover and store refrigerated.

NOTE: Vanilla sugar (granulated sugar stored in tightly closed container with whole vanilla beans) was used in bake-off entry.

Categories: SNA