The recent passing of Alan Rickman, may he rest in peace, reminded me that I never blogged about the Harry Potter party we had back in November. It was a small affair, with maybe a dozen like-minded Potter-nerd friends, as many free decorations as I could print off of the Internet, with Pumpkin Pasties, Butterbeer, and a cheese plate with fixin’s (because cheese plates are my favorite and require no cooking or baking). It was one of those fun parties where at the last second before guests arrived I was able to snap some pictures of what we assembled, then promptly lost my phone and forgot to capture any photos of actual humans. We each took a 100+ question sorting quiz (find it here), watched some of the movies, did Harry Potter trivia (to compete for Head Boy or Head Girl of course) and played Quidditch Pong. It was a marvelous time! Also, a fair warning: If you have no interest in Harry Potter, but you are interested in Pumpkin Pasties, skip the middle and read to the end. They were delicious for breakfast the next day. What I’ve included below is some pictures of the sparse decorations we had, a link to an authentic butterbeer recipe, and my recipe for pumpkin pasties.
If you’ve ever wandered into the murky waters of Harry Potter fan fiction, you know that they are vast and highly detailed (I think I read somewhere that Potter fans have created more fan fiction than any other fantasy series, which is impressive considering all the LOTR, Narnia, Star Trek and Star Wars fanatics that are out there, I find those genres rarely overlap in their fanaticism). I was able to find everything I wanted online for free, and that included some fairly ornate printable potions labels and all four house banners. If I had had a fancy, $1,000 printer and a month’s free time, I could have printed off a few editions of the Quibbler, or perhaps learned origami and made my own Marauder’s Map, or life-sized wanted posters of Death Eaters. I don’t remember where I got everything, or I would include the links, but trust me, a simple google search is all you need to immerse yourself in over-the-top party ideas that will satisfy even the wildest of Potter fans.
I will include two links, just for fun though:
If you haven’t checked out the Pottermore website, you can start now. Its fun and full of little extra write-ups from JK Rowling and details about the characters. It used to be more interactive: you take a quiz, let your wand ‘choose you’, buy an owl, toad or cat, and get sorted. From there you could be a part of your Hogwarts house, with a wall similar to old school Facebook (circa 2007) that you could post comments on. The new Pottermore has more of a blogish feel to it, but apparently the sorting quizzes are coming.
This website, Food in Literature, is for the ultra nerd (like me, apparently) that wants to throw book themed dinner parties. They’re quite ornate, but really fun to read about. I got the butterbeer recipe from this site.
(the above photos show our homemade Quidditch pong [cups fill with water, because drinking beer out of cups that a dirty ping pong ball has floated in is the height of disgusting] post owls made out of baloons, and surprise! Moaning Myrtle.)
A note about ButterBeer: you can find the recipe I used here. I made this on the stove in my large, 8-quart stock pot. This is apparently taken from an original recipe circa 1600s-ish, which means it has Old English roots and is not original to the Potter world. I followed the recipe pretty much exactly, but increased the cinnamon a bit and the recipe by 8 fold. The serving is 1 pint, which I thought was a lot, so I reasoned if everyone drinks 1/2 a pint then that type of increase will give us enough and then some. And woo-boy. Wow. The ancient English must have really needed the stoutness of the calories that came with this, because I could barely drink more than a few sips (you’ll note the recipe is ale, brown sugar, egg yolks, spices and butter, all in generous portions). Most of the recipes I found online were weak imitations comprised of beer or cream soda mixed with butterscotch sauce served with whipped cream. Because I’m an anal purist, I wanted to try an authentic recipe. And this definitely delivered, but in ways I can’t really describe. It wasn’t bad, but I’ve never had anything quite like it. It was thick, heavy, stout, sweet and spicy, and tangy from the beer. It was a balmy 70 degrees outside when we had our party, so I think I would have enjoyed it more had I been drinking it on a wet, snowy and frozen English hillside. Also, I served mine warm (just like Harry drank it) but I wonder if it had been better served cold? It’s definitely worth making a least once, but I think making it as written and splitting a pint of it between 4 people would be fine, so you don’t have a vat of the stuff leftover like I did. Mine also turned out nothing like the picture, it didn’t foam properly and was a really unattractive brown color, so I didn’t photograph it.
You’ll find that Harry eats pumpkin pasties for the first time aboard the Hogwarts Express. When I envisioned these, I pictured hand pies made out of buttery crust and stuffed with sweetened pumpkin puree. I think a dusting of powdered sugar would finish these nicely.
Makes about 6-10 hand pies, depending on how large you make them.
1 all butter crust recipe
1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin puree
1-2 teaspoons (based on preference) of pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/8 to 1/4 cup maple syrup. You may need more or less here, depending on you sweetness preference. You can substitute any kind of sugar here (brown sugar would make a nice substitute) but I found that the maple flavor went well with the strong pumpkin flavor.
1 egg + 1 teaspoon of water, whisked together, set aside
powdered sugar for finishing
Preheat the oven to 425 degree F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, spices, maple syrup and vanilla extract (if using), whisking until well-combined and there are no lumps of pumpkin. Set aside.
On a floured work surface, roll out the pie crust dough to 1/8 inch think. Use a glass, a small bowl, or a cookie cutter to cut circles. You could also use a pumpkin shaped cookie-cutter. I used a 4 inch circle, added some pumpkin filling to one half of the circle, then folded the circle in half, and pressed the edged with a fork. You could also place circles on top of each other.
Once you have your pies assembles and your edges crimped, carefully place your pies on your cookie sheet. Freeze the pies for about 10 minutes (Alternatively, you can make them ahead up until this point, wrap them will with plastic wrap then aluminium foil. They’ll last a month in the freezer) then remove them from the fridge and brush with the egg wash. Using a sharp knife, slice a small vent into the top of the pie. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the pies are browned on top and golden brown on the bottom. Let cool on a wire rack before serving.
These will keep for about 4 days in an air tight container at room temp.