This season is perhaps the most colorful of all, specially if you stays in US and Europe. Even in India, it is the festive time. Colorful vistas, hues of rich and vibrant color presents an enchanted visuals and to make it more sweeter and warmer, there is orange, red and green pumpkin and squash to make the holiday season more beautiful and enjoyable.
My first brush with pumpkin as sweet dessert happened few years back when I was watching a food show and the chef showed us how to make this Indian pumpkin pudding aka pumpkin halwa in straight 10 minutes. It was an impromptu effort from my side and was an instant success from pumpkin’s side, as it behaves well and gave a delicious result.
Years later, on a cold and lazy morning, we drove to our nearest Dunkin donuts for a coffee and off course for a donut. That donut was something special, it was pumpkin donut and its flavor still haunts me. A seasonal product from Dunkin, and we simply loved it, so much that while the season last, we used to have that pumpkin donut almost every morning. Yes, it was that addictive.
Pumpkins makes their gorgeous appearances in early to mid fall in anticipation of Halloween festival. It is difficult to ignore the fervor of Halloween, the costume party, the spooky nights and off course the beautiful pumpkin patches, with all sorts of small, large and giant pumpkins with variety of winter squashes.
My first tryst with pumpkin in baking was – this pumpkin bread with dried pumpkin seeds or pepitas. I still remember I brought home a mid size pumpkin and two mini pumpkin for decor purpose. Never knew that it is so difficult to saw (yes, not cut) a pumpkin into halves. After I broke a knife, I realised it.
Making pumpkin puree from scratch : The best way to extract the pulp of pumpkin is to roast it in the oven, till it changes to nice caramel color. Cool it and then scoop out the flesh, puree it in the food processor to use in the baking. When you roast the pumpkin, the sugar in it burn and turns into caramel , gives a nice flavor to the dish. Depends upon the sweetness required, you can add sugar later in stages while preparing the pumpkin puree.
Next season, I tried canned pumpkin pulp, already sweetened, no need to add extra sugar and if you happen to use America’s favourite – Libby’s, you will get free pumpkin pie recipe too. The result was lovely, a beautiful pumpkin pie with satiny smooth texture and with ginger chocolate crust it was simply heavenly. Less work and more enjoyment !
Recently I found an article on Kitchn – are the canned pumpkins are real pumpkins or they are squashes in disguise ? Well, it is hard to tell the difference but when you made the pumpkin puree from scratch, it adds a refreshing touch to the pies or cheesecakes. More work and plus more enjoyment !
But what makes the pumpkins so successful in baking ?
The Pumpkin pie spice. A beautiful sweet and warm blend of flavours from cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, mace and allspice. Perhaps it was first used in pies, hence pumpkin pie spice, but no pumpkin muffins, cookies, pumpkin latte, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cheesecakes will ever be complete without it.
Pumpkin was native to America, it helped native Americans make it through long cold winters. They used it in many ways, including medicinal use. They introduced it to pilgrims, and half a century later a French chef wrote about pumpkin pie that include the pastry. That quiet well explained the fact why “Quatre epices” has close resemblance to present day pumpkin pie spice. Without the peppers, Quatre epices becomes good old American pumpkin pie spice.
The recipe for pumpkin spice :
- 2 tbsp ground Cinnamon
- 1 tbsp Ground Ginger
- 1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 1 tsp Ground Mace
- 1 tsp Ground Cloves
- 1 tsp Ground Allspice
- Measure all and mix the spices to make this blend.
- Store the spice blend in air tight container and keep it in cool and dry place.
- This will yield 4 tablespoon of pumpkin spice blend
On my wish list -
Chocolate cake with pumpkin butter cream frosting. Isnt it gorgeous !
What you are cooking / baking with pumpkin this season ? Do share your ideas with us.