OK, so this pumpkin post was supposed to be my Halloween post, or just an October/Autumn/Fall post. It’s now one month later, but hey, it’s still Autumn/Fall, so that counts for something!
I’m sure a lot of you fellow food bloggers have been there. You make stuff, you photograph it, then the photos sit in your photo program for a while, sometimes months, while you post about other stuff you’ve made, particularly stuff that comes with a side of deadline aka food blog challenges.
You keep thinking “I’ll get to that tomorrow.” every time you see the photos waiting to be re-sized and uploaded into an entry. Suddenly a month has passed, maybe more (I still have a cookie post that’s been postponed since last April!) and the photos start to become all too familiar; prisoners of Picsasa or Adobe, begging for probation at the very least.
In this case, I wasn’t going to let it get away. Actually, I couldn’t, unless I wanted to wait until next Fall. Somehow, I don’t think a spring or summer pumpkin entry would be very interesting to those slathered in Bain de Soliel on the beach or at the pool. Come on everyone, let’s talk pumpkin pie in 95 degree heat and humidity! NOT.
Pumpkin evokes the crisp, cool weather of Fall; the smell of falling leaves and roaring fires on chilly nights, and Thanksgiving, of course, although I did once bake a pumpkin pie in July! No one complained.
Mr. Pumpkin above is supposed to be winking. I tried..really.
Having said all that, let’s talk pumpkin; FRESH pumpkin. Sure, canned pumpkin is great, and some say you’d never know the difference between fresh and canned, and that has proved to be true in some pie testings/tastings I did a few years ago (No one could tell the difference. Seriously.). But, in other pumpkin preparations, some could make out a slight difference, so it’s definitely worth cutting up and roasting Mr. Jack O’ Lantern every so often.
Many use butternut squash in lieu of pumpkin in recipes calling for fresh pumpkin because it’s more widely available and easier to deal with when it comes to peeling and cutting. I can honestly say this isn’t the case, if you use a small, tender pumpkin, like a sugar pumpkin. OH, a little factoid, most canned pumpkin is butternut squash! So there you go!
Every October (except for last, when I was rotting away at the rehab facility awaiting surgery on my knee), it’s a must that I go pumpkin foraging. Well, foraging at a local patch, farmer’s market, or supermarket. Naturally, I must get a big guy to carve, but I always, always, always, pick up a few sugar pumpkins. Those are the tender 2 to 4 lb pumpkins that are not only perfect for baking and cooking, but are simple to peel and cut. This year, I only bought sugar pumpkins and used one for my not so scary carving, above. The rest I roasted, using the lovely, deep golden, rich puree to bake and cook anything ‘pumpkinny’ craved or requested.
The small difference some pointed out between fresh versus canned pumpkin is that fresh pumpkin gives you a richer tasting soup or bread, and a more full-bodied texture in general. The funny thing is, many say NOT to use the giant Jack O’ Lantern pumpkins in baking because the water content is too high. I roasted one a few years ago, using the puree for three pumpkin pies, and they were ALL wonderful. SO, from my experience, I say use any pumpkin you can get your hands on. Then again, I may have just gotten lucky with that one big boy, so maybe just stick to the sugar babies.
Next time I’m going to use Pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) in the brittle
Now, let’s get started on my frenzy. First off, you’ve gotta roast some pumpkin. My pictures do not do this process justice, but I found a blog that does, along with instructions on how to do so. Without further ado, I present to you Pen & Fork’s photo tutorial and instructions on how to roast a sugar pumpkin. Granted, I roast my pumpkin a bit longer than she does, enough so that I can simply scoop out the creamy flesh without having to break it down too much, or at all, in the food processor, but either way is fine.
Now that you’ve got your fresh pumpkin puree, it can be substituted cup for cup in any recipe that calls for good old ‘rhymes with Dibby’s’, also known as canned pumpkin puree. From the top, I made a Vanilla Bean Pumpkin Flan, the vanilla bean due to running out of regular sugar and having to dip into my canister of vanilla sugar (as if that’s a bad thing!).
If you don’t have a nice, fragrant canister of vanilla bean sugar steeping in your kitchen, just split open one large vanilla bean and scrape it into the milk and cream for the custard. I served it with a very light and crisp (golden) pumpkin seed brittle, which was perfect with the flan, and not hard on the teeth since it’s feather light and crispy.
Next on my pumpkin crazy agenda was a Thai inspired soup I found on Epicurious.com for Silky Coconut Pumpkin Soup (Keg Bouad Mak Fak Kham). I ended up futzing with it so much, with the addition of sweet potato and what not, that I guess I can call it mine?
This soup is so freakin’ incredible. The Thai bird chile pepper and coriander add a depth of flavor, heat and richness that really amp it up, and the topping of coconut cream evens out the heat from the pepper. The final touch of crunchy, chopped pistachios provides just the right amount of texture to all the velvet and creamy. My twist on this recipe is provided below.
Finally, how can I have a pumpkin post without including pumpkin pie? There was no contest here. After watching a repeat of the Great American Pie Cook-Off in Celebration, Fla, one late night on the Food Network, I had to give the first place winner in the pumpkin pie category a shot. Boy am I glad I did because it’s amazing! Here’s the recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Crumble Pie, courtesy of Marles Riessland and the Food Network, but it’s also typed out below with a few of my tiny revisions.
In conclusion, USE YOUR PUMPKIN; they’re not just for carving! OH, the seeds, the seeds; how could I forget the little buggers? Roast them, toast them, candy them, spice them up; the possibilities are endless! The only part of a pumpkin that should end up in the trash is the stringy, slimey innards that the seeds cling to, BUT, it does make for a wonderful bucket of guts you urge kids (and adults) to stick their hands into in a homemade haunted house laboratory. Try it, it’s a hoot! I guess the only part that’s unusable is the skin/rind, but then again, I’m sure there’s a DIY tutorial pumpkin rind or skin thingmahjig out there somewhere. Pumpkin skin purses, perhaps?
Vanilla Bean Pumpkin Flan
- 2 cups sugar (if you have vanilla sugar, use that, and only use half a vanilla bean in the recipe)
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 5 whole large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
- 1 (15-ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin (1¾ cups)
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean, split and sccraped
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup fresh pumpkin seeds, rinsed well, dried, and roasted, or pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds. They're green and can be found in most supermarkets and come already roasted.)
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a soufflé dish in oven while making caramel.
- Cook 1 cup sugar in a dry 2 quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar melts into a deep golden caramel. Wearing oven mitts, remove hot dish from oven and immediately pour caramel into dish, tilting it to cover bottom and side. (Leave oven on.) Keep tilting as caramel cools and thickens enough to coat, then let harden.
- in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, add vanilla bean scrapings to cream and milk, then bring to a simmer over moderate heat, then remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk together whole eggs, egg yolk, and remaining cup of sugar in a large bowl until combined, then whisk in pumpkin, vanilla, spices, and salt until combined. Add hot cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking non-stop to prevent scrambled eggs.
- Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, scraping with a rubber spatula to force through, and stir to combine. Pour custard over caramel in dish, then bake in a water bath until flan is golden brown on top and a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 1¼ hours. Remove dish from water bath and transfer to a rack to cool. Chill flan, covered, until cold, at least 6 hours
- Line a baking sheet with foil; butter foil.
- In a saucepan, cook sugar and water over medium heat, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar melts and syrup is a light amber color.
- Stir in pumpkin seeds or pepitas, then cook 1 minute, stirring. Immediately pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet, spreading with a fork; cool completely. Break into pieces.
Silken Velvet Thai Pumpkin Sweet Potato Coconut Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 small leek, well cleaned and chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 Thai bird chile pepper, de-seeded, chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 3-4 lb sugar pumpkin, roasted, flesh removed (yields anywhere from 2 to 3 cups pumpkin puree)
- 2 small orange fleshed sweet potatoes, baked in skins, flesh removed
- 2 cups canned or fresh coconut milk
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce, or to taste
- salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Garnish - Coconut cream (chill cans of coconut milk, then pour off the liquid and scoop out the thick cream), chopped Thai bird chile peppers, chopped pistachios, and chopped cilantro
- In a large pot over medium heat, cook the onion and leek in 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent. Add the minced garlic, chopped Thai Bird pepper and coriander. Saute for 1 more minute.
- Puree (in a blender or food processor) the roasted pumpkin and sweet potato with a little of the chicken or vegetable stock until smooth.
- Pour the pureed pumpkin and sweet potato into the pot with the sauteed onion, leek and pepper mixture. Add the coconut milk, remaining chicken or vegetable stock, and coriander, then stir until combined. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce (start with 1 tablespoon, then taste) and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and add a little more fish sauce if you wish.
- Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in increments in a blender, until super smooth. Add more chicken stock or coconut milk to get the consistency you want if too thick. The soup can be served immediately, but has even more flavor if left to stand for up to an hour. Reheat just before serving.
- Top each bowl of soup with a spoonful of coconut cream, chopped Thai bird chile pepper, chopped cilantro, and chopped pistachios, or the garnishes of your choice and enjoy!
Maple Pumpkin Pecan Crumble Pie
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter flavored shortening, chilled (I used half butter half shortening, instead)
- ⅓ cup ice water
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup light or dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
(see below directions for my take on the pecan crumble topping. It's more like a streusel, which I prefer)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- ¾ chopped pecans
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
- Chill all ingredients, including the flour and vinegar. Combine the flour, salt and sugar. Cut in shortening and butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In another bowl, mix water and vinegar with the beaten egg. Add the liquid mixture, one tablespoon at a time to the flour mixture, tossing with a fork to form a soft dough. Stop here, keeping the pie dough ragggedy.
- Shape into 3 disks, gently by squeezing. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours, before attempting to roll out. (Overnight is best, but keep no more than 3 days in refrigerator). For longer storage, place in a freezer bag and freeze. Use one disk for a single crust pie. Use 2 disks for a double crust pie. To roll out for pies, work quickly on a floured pastry cloth or pastry board.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Beat eggs until frothy. Add all remaining ingredients in order given, beating until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake for 25 minutes *.
- Combine topping ingredients. Remove pie from oven and sprinkle topping over filling. Return pie to oven and bake 25 minutes more or until center is set.
- In a bowl, combine the pecans, butter, brown sugar and flour. Combine with your impeccably clean fingers until crumbly.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to sprinkle on top of partially baked pie (15-20 minutes prior to the end of your pumpkin pie recipe baking time).
Finally, I would like to thank Sophie, of Sophie’s Foodiefiles for this awesome award! Thank you, Sophie!
I’ll be passing this award to: