It's All About Pumpkin
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2010
A sure sign of fall are the arrival of pumpkins. They add both color and texture to seasonal displays when combined with corn stalks, hay bales and colorful mum plants outside, as well as centerpieces along with a variety of dried gourds and flowers inside. We also couldn't forget the Jack-o-lanterns we love to carve from the perfect pumpkin for Halloween, or those mouthwatering pumpkin treats we look forward to this time of year. But do you know the history of the pumpkin?
When the Pilgrims landed in North America, they found the Indians growing and using pumpkins. These new Americans embraced the pumpkin as well, and pumpkin pie became a national Thanksgiving tradition. The pumpkin is a member of the gourd family, which also includes muskmelon, watermelon and squash. Its orange flesh has a mild, sweet flavor and the seeds are quite nutty when husked and roasted. Pumpkin seeds are called pepitas.
Pumpkins can be as small as those that fit in the palm of your hand, to the world's largest pumpkin that was grown in Rhode Island and weighed 1,689 pounds! The larger pumpkins are grown mainly for decoration since their thin walls make them easier to carve, but the flesh is stringy and bland. The smaller pie pumpkins that weight from five to ten pounds have a sweet, creamy flesh and can be used to create your own pumpkin purée for baking.
Cooking pumpkin is like cooking any type of winter squash. It can be peeled, seeded and cubed as well, then added to soups and stews. If you want to try your hand at making your own pumpkin purée for your Thanksgiving pie, now is the perfect time to do this. You will be surprised at how easy it is and what a difference it makes in the flavor of your baked treats. However, we do have canned pumpkin available that can save you time if you are overwhelmed by making the other parts of that traditional meal. Supplies look to be good this year, so pull out your pumpkin recipes and enjoy this classic autumn treat. We have some to share that we think you'll like.
Steps for Making Pumpkin Purée
- Remove stem; cut pumpkins in half through stem end.
- Scoop out seeds; pierce the skin with a knife.
- Place halves, cut-side-down, on a jelly roll pan; add about a 1/2" of water to the pan.
- Bake in a preheated 350° oven until tender (about 1 hr.); cool.
- Peel off skin; cut the cooked flesh into large chunks.
- Purée pumpkin in batches in food processor to a consistency like applesauce. It you want a thicker purée, drain the purée in a fine mesh strainer overnight.
2 3/4 cups flour
In medium bowl, combine first 6 ingredients; set aside. In large mixer bowl, beat sugar, butter, molasses and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition; beat in pumpkin. Add dry mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating until thoroughly combined; stir in walnuts. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets, 2" apart. Bake in a preheated 325° oven until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (12-14 min.); cool on baking sheet. Frost with icing. Makes 4 dozen.
Brown Butter Icing: In large sauté pan, melt 1 cup butter over medium heat until the solids start to turn golden brown (about 10 min.), swirling pan to prevent burning. Sift 4 cups powdered sugar and 1/4 tsp. salt into large mixer bowl; add 1 tsp. vanilla. Beat browned butter into sugar by pouring through a fine mesh strainer; stir in 4-5 tbsp. milk by hand until frosting is of spreading consistency.
3/4 cup butter
In small saucepan over low heat, cook butter, 1/3 cup whipping cream and brown sugar until butter is melted, stirring constantly. Pour mixture into 13x9" cake pan; sprinkle evenly with pecans. In large mixer bowl, combine cake ingredients on low speed until moistened; beat 2 min on medium speed. Carefully spoon batter over pecan mixture. Bake in a preheated 350° oven until cake springs back when touched lightly in center (29-34 min.). Cool 5 min. in pan; run knife around edge of pan to loosen. Place jelly roll pan or serving platter over pan and invert onto platter allowing all of caramel to spread over top; cool completely. In small mixer bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add Whip It, powdered sugar and vanilla; continue beating until stiff peaks form. Cut cake into serving-sized pieces; top with dollop of whipped cream. Refrigerate any remaining cake and topping. Serves 12.