Janet's Notebook
Bake In A Little Time For Creativity This Holiday Season

Tres Leches Pumpkin Squares

The baking bonanza has begun! We're heating things up in the Test Kitchen and are nearing full-on bakery status. Cakes, pies, cookies... you name it! In fact, we're so consumed by the power of flour this time of year that we've gathered up a few of our favorite tips and recipes to help inspire you this holiday season.

Perfect pie anyone? Light and flaky crusts can be as elusive the Great Pumpkin himself, but home cook Vanessa Milare is helping bakers achieve pie perfection with her Just A Pinch discussion group devoted solely to pie baking hints and tips. The "Pies, Pies and More Pies" group is packed with crafty bakers who are happy to share wisdom from their years of experience. In fact, one of the tips we now use on a regular basis came out of a discussion started by group member Karla Everett: For super flaky crusts, use the largest holes on a cheese grater to grate cold butter into your dough. You get even distribution and uniform pieces!

If you're more in the mood for mini munching than for a whole pie, why not mix things up and celebrate the season with cupcakes?! Andrea Runnells of Orlando, FL is fast becoming our cupcake queen, and her Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Mousse Frosting are the latest jewel in her crown.

"I put pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg in anything and everything in the fall," smiles Andrea. "Fall, with all of the flavors and aromas that go with it, is my favorite season of the year! I invented these [cupcakes] in the kitchen the other day and they were a big hit with everyone who ate them, from elementary school kids to grandparents."

Sweet, delicate and super moist, these cupcakes have a perfectly subtle pumpkin flavor that is wonderfully offset by the light and airy icing. YUM!

Feeling a little square? We've been there. And there's nothing more perfect when craving corners that the delicious taste of Wendy Rusch's Tres Leches Pumpkin Squares. Wendy's recipes have never let us down, and this dandy is sure no exception.

"I love pumpkin pie and I wanted to make the best of the best this year," explains Wendy. "So [I] started playing with the ingredients and trying things out on my friends and family. This is the winner!"

With a brown sugar pecan crust and a filling of sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin, heavy cream and eggs, these little darlings are Thanksgiving decadence personified.

"This makes a lot, a jelly roll pan full," says Wendy, "so make this for a crowd or put into smaller pans and freeze. I hope you enjoy it as much as my loved ones do!... It is super easy!!!"

Find more bake-tacular recipes and holiday dessert ideas in our special Holiday Baking section. Holiday cheer never tasted so good!

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Janette N. Casey - Dec 9, 2013
I like all kinds of cakes,cookies,pies,fudge, u name it I love it , even though I can't stand for only a short time but I do try sometimes. By the way merry Christmas and a great new and happy New year.

View photo
Jewel Hall - Nov 19, 2012
Janet, I am having some computer problems and trying to get it repaired. Just bare with me.
Jewel Hall
KIM CAMERON - Nov 18, 2012
My grandmother always had the flakiest crusts. She added 1 T vinegar.
Wendy Rusch - Nov 17, 2012
Thanks Dee :o)
Dee Stillwell - Nov 17, 2012
congrats Wendy, on making Janets notebook with ur delicious pumpkin bars.
Pat Duran - Nov 16, 2012
Check out the site only pie crusts on just a pinch. Classic Crisco Pie Crust
LIN ISHIKAWA - Nov 16, 2012
cooks illustrated reccomends using vodka to keep the crust moist it adds liquid when needed but cooks off in the oven. Of course you could drink the vodka before or while rolling the pie crust it may be less stressful and you probably will be HAPPY with whatever comes out lol.
Seriuosly this was a tip from CI
Wendy Rusch - Nov 16, 2012
Well that was a surprise to come on here today and see my photo at the top!
Thank You Janet! That was a lot of FUN!!! :o)
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!!!
Mariann Benway - Nov 14, 2012
Making a pie crust certainly is an art and one that must be practiced. I cannot tell you how many I have thrown against the wall in frustration. Here's what I think helps: I freeze my shortening bars and cut in the shortening in 1/3 amounts. I then add ICE WATER one tablespoon at a time. I do not pay attention to the amounts in the recipe, I just keep adding water until my dough moist. I then wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it for a half an hour. I pat it into a flat round and roll from the middle on all sides, with lots of flour underneath it and on my rolling pin. I do not turn my dough over, but rater circle it in the flour on the counter. I hope this helps you. Good luck, Pam.
Pamela Garnish - Nov 13, 2012
I have such heavy hands and my crust is always horrible. Any ideas?