Pumpkin Cheesecake Pillow Popovers
Before now, the only time I’ve lived away from my hometown was during my sophomore year in college when I moved to Beaufort, a small town on the coast of North Carolina. I lived there for a few months before traveling for a month down the Eastern seaboard to study marine zoogeography. That semester changed my life, and I’ve continued to process the memories over the years. Periodically I’ll share stories here on Willow Bird Baking from that time.
David Fountain was an engineer, a farmer, a father, a husband, a comedian. I met him at Duke Energy, our local electric company where I worked during my high school summers. It didn’t take long for me to notice and appreciate how he brightened the office, which was otherwise filled with the daily drudgery of dry-but-crucial electrical calculations. He had an “Aw, shucks” Barney Fife sort of vibe to his personality and was a master of cheesy “dad jokes.” He was also a wise and reflective person.
During the summer of 2003, I found out I was moving to the coast for the next semester of school. Some of you are travelers and won’t see the significance of this for me, so let me provide some context. I’d never been away from home for long. When I moved into college in 2002, in fact, I was sick with anxiety despite the fact that my parents were literally only 30 minutes away. I went to visit them every weekend without fail.
When I told the folks at Duke Energy that I’d be going away once school started again, I couldn’t hide how terrified I was. Thankfully, working there was like having dozens of extra moms and dads. David, in particular, was helpful to me, though I bet he doesn’t realize how important his words were.
First, he told me about the time the company sent him to Indonesia. He knew when he took the assignment that it would be miserable and lonely (he would have to leave his family for around a year), but the money was sorely needed and he couldn’t pass it up. He said it was, indeed, a tedious and trying year. Because of the language barrier, there wasn’t much to do other than sit in his room. However, because he was working hard and spending almost nothing, he ended up saving enough money to make a huge difference to his family. Ultimately, while he hadn’t been sure what the time in Indonesia would bring, he was glad he had taken that leap.
The story meant a lot to me, but the image of spending each night alone and miserable hit a little too close to home. I wondered if that really was what Beaufort held for me: a sad, lonely few months without family or friends. Sensing my continued fear, he added a few words that turned out to be exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve remembered them often over the past decade. He said, “Julie, God’s already there.”
He didn’t just mean God was already in Beaufort — although that was true, too. He meant that God was already in Beaufort and already in the future, already there with me. He holds not only all places in His hands, but all times. He knows all that I’ll do to disappoint Him and all the dangers I’ll face. I won’t find any place or any situation that He hasn’t already dealt with.
I’m remembering David’s words here in Raleigh, too. It’s hard for me, a homebody who clings to routines, to go through so many changes at once. I’m in a new city, in a new apartment, working at a new place, going to a new church, living with someone instead of alone. Things are wonderful, but they’re also very different. And different means scary. Sometimes I just hug my dog, one of the only “constants” in my life lately, and ask her, “What the heck just happened?” (I’d hug my turtle, too, but he frowns on that sort of thing.)
But God’s already been here. He was in Raleigh and in this moment before I got here. I know He’s prepared this for me — and me for this.
Another “constant” that’s kept me sane throughout the transition is baking. It’s true that baking in your new kitchen makes it feel like home. Recently, I saw that Pillsbury had new crescent roll baking sheets in the refrigerator aisle and had to try them out. They’re just like the regular tubes of crescent rolls except without perforations, so you can use them for all sorts of baking projects. Too cool.
This time around, I used them to make Pumpkin Cheesecake Pillow Popovers: pillows stuffed with pumpkin cheesecake and baked in a mini muffin tin. They come out with the cutest little popover shape and are amazing when served warm in a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream with a caramel drizzle. Toasted pecans would be great on top, too!
How do you handle change? What major changes have you gone through?
One year ago: Vanilla Custard Soaked Pumpkin Poke Cake
Two years ago: Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread with Butter Rum Glaze
Three years ago: Assorted Donut Muffins
Four years ago: Mini-Pies: Pumpkin, Peach Crisp, and Sour Cream Apple
Pumpkin Cheesecake Pillow Popovers
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 39 pillows
These little pumpkin cheesecake pillows are amazing served warm with vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of caramel. Add some toasted pecans for more delicious fall flavor. This recipe makes 39 pillows, but if you don’t need that many, just half it. To half 1 egg, lightly beat it in a small bowl and discard about 1.5 tablespoons of it before adding it to the recipe.
4 cans crescent rolls
2 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
5/8 cup sugar (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
2 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon*, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice*
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg*
1/2 teaspoon ginger*
powdered sugar for sprinkling
caramel sauce and ice cream for serving
*or substitute 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice for these spices.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray two mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, and beat to combine. Cover this and chill it while you prepare your dough.
Unroll one can of crescent baking sheet dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out to around 9 x 12 inches. Cut it using a pizza cutter into 9 squares, roughly 3 x 4 inches each. Place the squares into wells of the mini muffin tins, skipping a well between each. Gently push the squares down into the well. Spoon a heaping spoonful of the pumpkin mixture into each well and pinch the corners of the dough together around it, twisting at the top to close.
Bake for 10-14 minutes or until browned (let them get good and golden or they’ll still be doughy in the middle.) Remove from the oven and top with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Let them cool in the pan for around 5 minutes before serving them in a bowl with heaping scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and caramel drizzle.
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