Pumpkin: A sweet seasonal jack-of-all-squashes

October 14, 2013 

By Suzanne Boyle News-Democrat

Time to get your orange on. It's pumpkin season.

It's the only squash (also classified as a fruit) that Americans truly embrace, whether we're carving up a big one to make a scary face or roasting a sugary little one for the sumptuous meat inside. (And, when it comes to eating, pumpkin pie ranks in the top tier of desserts behind apple.)

It surely is a seasonal crush we have on pumpkin, though. Between now and Thanksgiving, more pumpkins are sold than the rest of the year. Same with canned puree and pumpkin pie filling, even though they are available year-round. Libby's sells more than 80 percent of its commercial pumpkin products during this holiday season.

And there continues to be a debate as to which is better, the canned puree you buy or the puree you create yourself by roasting a sugar or pie pumpkin. Doing so softens the inner flesh. Then the flesh is mashed or processed into a puree. (Never use jack-o'-lanterns pumpkins.) Check for the how-to on this page.

Cost-wise, it's cheaper to buy the canned variety: For example, a 15-ounce can of 100 percent pumpkin is about $2. Larger 29-ounce cans are about $3.

A pie pumpkin weighs about 4 pounds and averages about 79 cents a pound. Once you roast it, the resulting yield is about 2 1/2 cups, or 20 ounces of pumpkin.

A half cup of pumpkin has only 50 calories, less than 1 gram of fat and 4 grams of dietary fiber. Pumpkin is high in vitamin A and beta carotene -- an antioxidant.

These pumpkin dessert recipes all use pure pumpkin, so don't buy pumpkin filling, which has added sugar and spices.

And, of course, if you only make pumpkin desserts around Thanksgiving, you should find at least one recipe here that you can sock away to serve after the turkey: Pie, bread, cupcakes, muffins, bread pudding, tart and even a "pie" layered in a jar.

The fastest way to use pumpkin? Try this: Make Chocolate-Pumpkin Muffins by mixing 1 box of devil's food cake mix with one 15-ounce can pumpkin. Scoop batter into mini muffin tins. Bake according to package directions.

HOW TO MAKE PUMPKIN PUR(*131*)E

Bake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut sugar or pie pumpkins in quarters and remove all the seeds and fibers. (Save seeds for roasting, if desired.) Place the quarters flesh-side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast about 45-50 minutes or until the flesh is tender.

Puree: Scoop away tender pumpkin flesh from the skin. Puree it in a food processor or mash it by hand until smooth. Cooked pumpkin can have a lot of moisture. To remove it, line a colander with cheesecloth or coffee filters. Place the flesh in the colander and press on it to remove excess moisture.

Store: Freeze any leftover canned or homemade pumpkin puree. Place it in a plastic sealable freezer bag and squeeze out the air. Press the bag so it will store flat, label, date and freeze. You can keep the puree about 6 months. Thaw before using.

Susan M. Selasky Detroit Free Press

Pumpkin Banana Bread

Floured baking spray

1 mashed ripe banana (about 3/4 cup)

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup canola oil

1 large egg

2 egg whites

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with floured baking spray.

In a large bowl, place mashed banana, pumpkin puree, oil, egg and egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together rest of dry ingredients. Add dry mixture to banana and pumpkin mixture and beat until just moist.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake 1 hour, or until toothpick placed in center comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool slightly before cutting into slices.

Makes: 1 loaf (12 slices), each slice with 196 calories, 5 grams fat, 33 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 206 mg sodium, 18 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.

Susan M. Selasky, Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen

If desired, substitute 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice for the nutmeg and cloves.

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup raisins

1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 standard muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Add the walnuts and raisins and gently toss with the flour mixture. This will help prevent the nuts and raisins from sinking to the bottom.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugars and oil.

Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in three batches, stirring with a wooden spoon just until combined.

Fill muffin cups about three-fourths full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Cool tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes and cool them completely.

Frost and decorate as desired.

Makes 36 cupcakes, each with 164 calories, 8 grams fat, 22 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 171 mg sodium, 21 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

PUMPKIN STREUSEL TART

crust:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup walnuts

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces

4 ounces cream cheese

Streusel topping:

1/4 cup rolled oats

3 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Filling:

1 (15-ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. With cooking spray, coat an 11-inch round tart pan (use one with a removable bottom).

2. To make the crust: Combine the flour, walnuts, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground.

Add the butter and pulse to incorporate it, then add the cream cheese and blend until the mixture forms a moist ball.

3. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan. Spread it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust until it's set, but not browned, about 15 minutes. Let it cool on a wire rack.

4. Meanwhile, make the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, flour, brown sugar and walnuts.

Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

5. To make the filling: Combine the pumpkin, condensed milk and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk until smooth.

Whisk in the eggs. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and pour in the filling (the crust will be very full).

6. Bake the tart until the filling is just slightly set, about 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven and scatter on the streusel topping. Return the tart to the oven and bake it until the filling is set and the topping is lightly golden, about 25 minutes more. Transfer it to a wire rack and let it cool completely. Remove the tart from the pan before slicing. The tart can be served at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 10 servings, each with 433 calories, 9 grams protein, 25 grams fat, 46 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 28 grams sugar, 158 mg calcium, 2 mg iron, 322 mg sodium.

FamilyFun magazine

PUMPKIN-PECAN STACK PIE

Pumpkin pie:

2 cups cooked pumpkin, or 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

3 whole eggs

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

Pecan pie:

1 cup dark corn syrup

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecans

1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

To make pumpkin pie: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In medium bowl, beat together all ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shell that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees; do not remove pie from oven. Bake an additional 50 minutes, or until almost set. Cool completely on wire rack.

To make pecan pie: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla using a spoon. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into pie shell that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake on center rack of oven 60 to 70 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.

To assemble: When pies are completely cool, very gently remove pecan pie from pie pan, using two spatulas, and place on a cake plate. Remove pumpkin pie from pie pan with spatulas, and place atop pecan pie. Slice into thin wedges and serve.

Sharon Thompson, Lexington Herald-Leader

This is a variation on the layered pumpkin pie dessert being served at Red Lobster this fall.

Layered Pumpkin Pie in a Jar

Graham cracker crust layer:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

For the whipped cream layer:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Pumpkin layer:

1 cup milk

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

2 packages (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon cloves

Semi-sweet chocolate shavings to sprinkle over the top (optional)

1. You'll need a dozen 10-ounce, wide-mouth mason jars. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the mixing bowl and beaters into the freezer to chill.

2. Make the graham cracker crust layer: Stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and salt.

Then add the melted butter and stir until evenly moistened.

Spread mixture in a 9- by 13-inch pan and bake for 5 minutes.

Stir and bake for another minute or two, or until crumbs are fragrant and nicely browned. Be careful not to burn.

Remove from oven and let cool completely while you prepare the other pie layers.

3. Whipped cream layer: Use chilled bowl and beaters to whip the cream until stiff.

Add the powdered sugar and beat just to combine.

Remove sweetened whipped cream to another bowl and set it in the refrigerator.

Add the cream cheese to the same chilled bowl and cream until very smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Blend in the vanilla.

Now add half of the sweetened whipped cream back into the chilled bowl with the cream cheese, gently folding to thoroughly combine.

Place this bowl of whipped cream cheese and the remaining half of the sweetened whipped cream back into the refrigerator to stay chilled.

4. Make the pumpkin layer: Pour the milk into a large bowl. Add the pumpkin, pudding mixes and spices. Beat with a wire whisk for 2 minutes, or until very well blended. The mixture should be thick.

5. To assemble: Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip (or use a sturdy plastic storage bag with a hole cut in one corner) with the whipped cream cheese mixture.

Pipe a layer of this mixture onto the bottom of a jar, starting at the perimeter of the jar and working to the center. Lightly tap the jar on a towel (so jar doesn't break) on the counter, to settle the mixture. Repeat this step with the rest of the jars.

Sprinkle this layer with 2 tablespoons of baked graham cracker crumbs. Lightly tap the jar again to even out the crumbs. Repeat with the rest of the jars.

Fill another pastry bag with the pumpkin pudding mixture.

Pipe this mixture onto the graham cracker crust layer, in the same manner as the first whipped cream cheese layer. Lightly tap again and repeat with the rest of the jars.

Now add a dollop of the reserved sweetened whipped cream (without the added cream cheese) to the top of each pie with a spoon.

Then finish with a sprinkling of graham cracker crust and chocolate shavings, if desired. Makes 10 to 12 jars of pie.

Note: If you plan to transport these jars with their lids screwed on, keep in mind the height of your top dollop if you don't want it to get smashed when you add the lid.

Make ahead: Can be prepared one day and kept chilled in the refrigerator.

Afarmgirldabbles.com and Kraft

Pumpkin-Maple Bread Pudding

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 cup real maple syrup

4 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups heavy or whipping cream

2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin puree, no sugar added

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

1 loaf (8-10 cups) of challah or other rich bread, cut in to small chunks

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped, preferably toasted

1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or individual tart dishes.

2. In a large bowl, whisk sugar, maple syrup and eggs.

3. Add all the spices, vanilla extract, heavy cream, and pumpkin puree. Mix well until they are combined.

4. Toss the bread, walnuts and raisins together in the baking dish (or bowl if using tart dishes, then divide).

5. Pour the pumpkin puree mixture over the bread and allow it to sit 30 minutes so the bread can absorb as much liquid mixture as possible.

6. Place the dish in the oven and bake 50 to 55 minutes.

Foolproofliving.com, adapted from Anne Burrell and Suzanne Lenzer's "Cook like a Rockstar" cookbook

The filling is adapted from a recipe in "The Pie and Pastry Bible" (*29*) by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It uses uncooked egg whites in the meringue.

You don't need anything fancy to make these little pies: a couple of standard nonstick muffin tins will do, maybe one or two tiny cookie cutters if you want to get fancy. As for ingredients, a single standard pie's worth of filling and two to three single pie crusts are enough to give you a dozen or so mini pies.

MINI PUMPKIN CHIFFON PIES

1/4 cup water

1/4 ounce (2 1/4 teaspoons) powdered gelatin

1 1/4 cups (a 15-ounce can is 1 3/4 cups) fresh or canned pumpkin puree

3/4 cup sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated, plus extra for dusting the finished pies

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

3 eggs, separated

3/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

12 pre-baked mini-pie shells, still in the muffin tins

Whipped cream, for garnish

1. Put water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set aside until the gelatin is fully moistened, at least 3 minutes.

2. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together pumpkin, 1/2 cup of sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until mixture is thick and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Scrape the mixture into a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process for 1 minute. With motor running, add milk, processing until incorporated. Add egg yolks one at a time, processing just to incorporate, about 5 seconds after each addition. Add gelatin mixture and pulse in.

4. Return mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened slightly (160 to 170 degrees), about 3 minutes. Pour into a medium bowl and set aside.

5. Chill pumpkin custard by placing the bowl over a larger bowl of ice water, with about 1 tablespoon of salt added to the ice water to speed chilling. Stir occasionally for the first 10 minutes, then slowly but frequently for about 10 minutes longer.

6. No more than 20 minutes before you put the pies together, make the meringue: In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites over low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form when beater is raised.

7. When a small amount of custard dropped from a spoon mounds very slightly on surface before disappearing, immediately remove bowl from water bath and, using a whisk, fold in meringue just until blended. You'll have about 5 cups filling.

8. Place filling in a pastry bag fitted with a large tip, and fill each pie crust with a generous one-fourth cup filling. (See crust directions below.)

Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours, before serving. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg.

Servings: 12, each with 314 calories, 5 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 17 grams fat, 59 mg cholesterol, 11 grams sugar; 378 mg sodium.

Mini-pie crusts: Prepare muffin tins by greasing every other cup. Fill alternating muffin cups to allow extra room to form and crimp the crusts, and let heat circulate more evenly while baking.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a round one-eighth-inch thick and roughly 14 inches in diameter. Cut dough into rounds using a 5 1/2-inch cutter. Gather scraps and reroll, cutting more large rounds (for bottom crusts) or smaller rounds (about 3 inches) to make top crusts. Carefully place rounds in muffin cups, pressing dough against bottom and edges of cups. The dough should extend above cups by one-half to three-fourths inch; roll the edges and crimp as desired.

If prebaking crusts, gently line shells with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake in a 425-degree oven 10 minutes, then remove weights and foil. Brush edges of crusts with egg wash and prick bottom once or twice with a fork. Continue baking until bottom of crust is dry and lightly colored, 6 to 8 minutes more.

Noelle Carter, Los Angeles Times

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