Archive for the ‘Pumpkins and Squash’ Category

Pumpkin Puffs

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

angelsweb

A while back I wrote about the ways in which cooking and music can both be viewed as folk practices. We start with a melody (or a recipe) that has been handed down for generations and put our own little tweak on it, allowing it to evolve.

As Christmas approaches and we’re surrounded by holiday music, I’m struck by another way in which cooking and music resemble each other.

My neighbor Alice Parker, a composer and conductor who excels at getting groups of people to sing with all their hearts (even if they don’t think they can sing!), often exhorts her singers to leave the notes on the page behind.

Music, she says, isn’t notes on a page. It’s what fills a room when singers and instrumentalists lift their eyes off that page and start interpreting the emotions behind the notes.

Music is something concrete plus a group of people coming together plus a little bit of magic.

That description also applies to cooking—particularly at this time of year, when we frequently cook alongside our families and neighbors.

This recipe came together in a group. My apartment complex in Virginia hosts cooking demonstrations from time to time. We thought it might be fun to try a holiday cookie swap. It took place last weekend. Community members brought their own cookies and recipes. As they munched and we talked I threw together a couple of batches of cookies (including my seasonal illumination cookies).

I naturally wanted to try baking something new … or at least new-ish. Those of you who read a lot of my writing will recognize the concoction below as a combination of two formulas: a basic pumpkin pie and the cranberry cream puffs I made a couple of years ago.

I wasn’t sure it would work, but it seemed worth trying. Luckily, I had lots of help filling the puffs from my fellow apartment dwellers.

(I wish I had photos of the event, but we were too busy cooking to remember to take them! I did take one of the final product and one of the filling.)

In end, we decided that this “new” holiday recipe was a definite keeper. So I offer it to you, along with my wishes for a delicious Christmas and a healthy, happy, peaceful new year.

pumpkin puffsweb

Pumpkin Cream Puffs

I know it sounds as though this recipe has a LOT of steps. You can do much of the preparation in advance however. The custard may be done the day before and refrigerated. Ditto the caramel sauce (and you can always skip that and just dust a little confectioner’s sugar on top of your puffs).

Even the cream puffs can be made in advance and frozen for a day or two. Refresh them by baking them, lightly covered with foil, at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. If you prefer to purchase frozen cream-puff shells, feel free to do so. The filling is the important part of the recipe.

Ingredients:

for the custard:

1-1/2 cups pumpkin or winter squash puree
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger or allspice (or a bit of each)
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup water
2 eggs

for the cream puffs:

1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature (place them in warm water for a few minutes to achieve the right temperature)

for the optional caramel sauce:

1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the filling:

2 cups heavy cream
confectioner’s sugar and vanilla to taste (we used about 2 tablespoons sugar—maybe a little more—and 2 teaspoons vanilla)

pumpkin fillingweb

Instructions:

for the custard:

Make the custard early—ideally the day before—so it will have plenty of time to cool.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a 9-inch pie dish. Combine the custard ingredients, and place them in the pie dish. Bake for 10 minutes; then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until firm. Allow the custard to cool to room temperature; then cover it and refrigerate it until you are ready to assemble the puffs.

for the optional but good caramel sauce:

In a heavy, wide-bottom pan that holds at least 2 quarts slowly melt the sugar over medium-low heat. You may push the sugar in from the edges with a heavy spoon or heat-resistant spatula, and you may shake the pan over the heat. Try to avoid stirring the sugar, however. Be very careful; melting sugar can be extremely hot.

When the sugar has melted and turned a lovely caramel brown, remove it from the heat and whisk in half of the cream, followed by the other half plus the salt and vanilla. The sauce will bubble furiously.

If for some reason the sauce seizes (that is, the sugar hardens and doesn’t get absorbed by the cream), put it back over low heat until the sugar melts. Set the sauce aside. If you are making it in advance, cover and refrigerate it when it gets to room temperature so that it will last until you are ready to use it.

for the puffs:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease two cookie sheets or line them with silicone.

In a medium saucepan bring the water, butter, and salt to a rolling boil. Throw in the flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon stir it in quickly until it becomes smooth and follows the spoon around the pan. Remove the pan from the heat.

Let it rest until it is cool enough so that you can stick your finger in and hold it there for a few seconds (this takes very little time).

Place the dough in a mixer bowl, and beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously after each egg. Make sure you continue beating for 1 minute after the last egg goes in. The dough will be stiff.

Drop teaspoonsful of dough onto the cookie sheets, leaving enough space between them so the puffs can expand to golf-ball size in the oven.

Bake the pastries until they puff up and begin to turn a light golden brown—about 15 minutes.

Remove them from the oven and quickly use a sharp knife to cut a small slit in the side of each puff. (This keeps the puffs from getting soggy.) Return them to the oven for 5 more minutes. If the puffs seem in danger of burning, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

Remove the puffs from the oven and cool them on wire racks.

for the filling:

Just before you are ready to assemble your puffs, whip the cream until it is thick and forms nice peaks, adding the sugar and vanilla toward the end of this process.

Use a whisk to break up the pumpkin custard. Gently fold it into the whipped cream.

for assembly:

Carefully cut open each puff in the middle; you will find that each of them has what King Arthur Flour (from which I slightly adapted the puff recipe) calls a “natural fault line.”

Decorate the bottom of each puff with the pumpkin-cream mixture and replace the top. Drizzle a little caramel sauce on top if desired. (If you prefer a little confectioner’s sugar, go for that.)

This recipe makes about 40 cream puffs. You may make fewer puffs by making them a little bigger—or even more puffs by making them smaller.

Merryweb

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Butternut Fritters

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

I haven’t forgotten about this blog—but my house is a little disjointed, inside and out. Cooking has not been high on my list of things to do.

First of all … I am a construction zone! Parts of my house that have been falling apart for years are now being fixed. In general, I’m happy to see the work being done. Of course, I wish the process were less expensive. And I wish the nice construction guys would arrive just a tad later in the morning. I’m thrilled that the house is going to be solid again, however.

My Driveway

My nice friend Michael has also been painting inside the house. I envisioned a soft buttery yellow for the living room so I bought many, MANY paint-sample cans and had friends help me paint swatches on the living-room wall. For a while the room looked like a patchwork quilt. We finally decided on a very light yellow. Even after all of my consultations and deliberations, I’m not 100 percent sure that the color is not TOO light and TOO yellowy. (I’d show you a picture, but the color doesn’t show up well on my camera.)

It’s clean and fresh, however, so I’ll live with it quite happily. Now if I could just remember where everything went on the walls and in the room before we moved it all in order to paint!

Michael also painted the kitchen a brighter yellow, which I adore. While he was painting, however, cooking not only slowed down. It stopped.

Finally, the indoor space has been disrupted by two adorable little boy foster kittens who are staying with us for a while. Luckily, my own Ruby and Truffle adore them. Having three young cats in the house makes things awfully lively, however, particularly in the middle of the night. The good news: the mice coming in for the winter are being hunted down relentlessly. The bad news: my feather boas apparently look like big mice.

Ruby is very proprietary about her friend Jojo.

Despite all the chaos I did decide to create a new recipe a couple of days ago. Before my farm share ended last week, the farm supplied us with a couple of months’ worth of squash. I love squash, particularly butternut squash. I’m happy eating it mashed or made into soup or roasted in the oven.

With all the rain, however, I was longing for something novel and (I admit it) slightly fattening. So I decided to try fritterizing some squash.

I’m partial to savory rather than sweet fritters so these are just a little spicy. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure whether they’re fritters or pancakes; they have a certain latke-like consistency. Whatever they are, they’re extremely satisfying now that the weather is getting just a bit cooler. I imagine one could make them with other types of fall squash.

Here’s the recipe. I’ll be back with another when things calm down a bit on the home front!

Butternut Whatevers

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (a little less if you don’t like spice)
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
chopped chives, parsley, and/or cilantro as desired
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup (generous) grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups grated butternut squash (peel the squash first and scoop out the seeds and goop; 2 cups will be about half of a small squash)
peanut, canola, or even olive oil as needed for frying

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

In a bowl whisk together the eggs, salt, spices, herbs, and garlic. Stir in the flour, followed by the cheese. Mix with a spoon until blended; then stir in the grated squash. Your batter will be mostly squash.

Pour oil into a frying pan until it just about covers the bottom of the pan when you swirl it around to distribute it. Heat the oil until it is about 350 degrees. (It will shimmer!)

Pop spoonsful of batter into the hot oil.

Cook the batter quickly, turning as needed, until it is golden brown. Do not crowd the fritters in the pan! They will be idiosyncratic but lovely. Add a little more oil if you really must for frying.

When individual fritters are ready drain them on paper towels and store them in the warm oven until all the fritters have been cooked.

Serves 4 to 6 generously.

Butterscotch and Truffle

Once More onto the Crust

Monday, November 15th, 2010

 
Neighbors returned recently from a dinner at the Charlemont Inn with tales of being fed squash pizza.
 
As a fan of both squash and pizza, I was intrigued. It was only a matter of time before I fed a version of this dish to my family.
 
My success was mixed although generally positive.
 
As I note in the recipe below, I think the squash needed more spices to offset its sweetness. And it DEFINITELY needed the thinnest crust possible.
 
On the other hand, the color was pretty gorgeous, and we definitely ate the slightly sweet/slightly spicy combination. So I have decided to post the recipe. 

If any of you try it (and/or adapt it), please let me know what you think! I’ll probably make it again next fall and post an update.

 
First Try Butternut Squash Pizza
 
Ingredients:
 
extra-virgin olive oil as needed for sautéing and roasting
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1-1/4 pounds butternut squash (cut into chunks)
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seed (I will increase this next time!)
1 teaspoon chili powder (ditto)
3/4 cup water
more water or cream to thin the squash as needed (I used a couple of tablespoons of cream, but I think water would do as well)
1 pizza crust
grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese as needed (I used about 1-1/2 cups)
1/2 bell pepper, cored and cut into thin strips (I used a yellow pepper because I had it, but green or red would make a prettier contrast with the squash.)
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If your pizza dough is refrigerated, take it out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature while you are doing the rest of the work.
 
Place a Dutch oven on the stove top, and heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in it. Toss in the onion and garlic and sauté until they begin to brown.
 
Toss in the squash, salt and pepper, and seasonings, and stir to coat the squash with spices and oil. (Add a little more oil if necessary.)
 
Place the pan in the oven, uncovered, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. Stir in the water and continue to cook, covered, until the squash is very soft—about 1/2 hour longer.
 
Remove the pan from the oven, and mash the squash and remaining water together. Preheat the oven as indicated in your pizza dough instructions.
 
Mash in a little liquid to make the squash puree spreadable. Next, roll and/or stretch the pizza dough out gently (this may take a few tries) so that it forms a 14-inch circle (or a rectangle to go onto a cookie sheet if you don’t have a pizza pan). Use a little flour to help with this if necessary.
 
Spray your pan lightly with cooking spray and oil it even more lightly. Place the dough on the pan. Spread a very thin film of olive oil on top.
 
Spread the squash puree on top of the crust, and top that with the grated cheese. Arrange the pieces of pepper onto the cheese topping.
 
Bake the pizza until the cheese is nicely melted and the bottom of the crust turns golden brown. With my crust (from Trader Joe’s) and my oven this took about 20 minutes.
 
If you are using a thicker pizza crust, you may want to cook the crust a bit before you spread the toppings on so that the pizza cooks all the way through. 

Serves 4 to 6.


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Apple-Pumpkin Scones

Friday, November 12th, 2010

 
I know I’ve been a bit fixated on warm breakfast foods lately—probably because of the chill in the air.
 
These scones are so seasonal that I had to keep up the breakfast trend for one more post!
 
I have seldom met a scone I didn’t like, but even to my sconophilic taste these are special. You can taste and feel everything in them—the apples, the pumpkin, the spices, and of course the butter.
 
The Scones
 
Ingredients:
 
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking power
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold sweet butter
2 small apples, cut up
1/2 cup (generous) pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons sweet cider
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
additional sugar as needed
 
Instructions:
 
Combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Cut in the butter, but be careful not to overmix. Stir the apple pieces into this mixture.
 
In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine the pumpkin, cider, egg, and vanilla. Add this mixture to the dry mixture and blend just to moisten the dry ingreidents. They won’t ACTUALLY get completely moist at first.
 
Transfer the ragged dough to a board, and knead it a few times to make the ingredients start to hold together. Shape it into 1 or 2 slightly flattened rounds (1 for large scones; 2 for small). Using a serrated knife, cut each round into 6 or 8 pieces.
 
Place the wedges of dough (your future scones) on a cookie sheet covered with a silicone baking mat. Allow the sheet to cool in the freezer for 1/2 hour.
 
While it is cooling preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
 
Remove the scones from the freezer, sprinkle sugar generously over them, and bake them for 15 to 18 minutes, until they are a nice golden brown on the bottom. 

Makes 6 to 16 scones, depending on size.


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Laurel’s Squash Risotto

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

 
This recipe was inspired by Laurel Ritmiller Lucrezia of Boston. I “met” Laurel on Facebook when she informed Mass Farmers Markets (and therefore all of that organization’s friends!) that she was getting ready to make some butternut squash risotto. I was taken by the idea and asked her for her recipe.
 
Of course, being me and having the ingredients I had in the house, I changed the recipe! (Laurel said I should feel free to do so.) 

I had just used up my butternut squash so I tried a delicata instead. The butternut would probably provide squashier flavor and require more chicken stock since it’s larger. The delicata was lovely, however. Its flavor was subtle, and it lent a gorgeous seasonal color to the risotto.

 
The Risotto
 
Ingredients:
 
1 medium delicata squash
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter plus another 1/4 cup later if desired
2/3 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-1/4 cups Arborio rice or long-grain rice
1 cup white wine
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup finely diced carrots (optional)
4 teaspoons chopped parsley
several sage leaves, finely chopped
I small fresh tomato, diced
grated parmesan cheese to taste (start with 1/2 cup)
1 6-1/2 ounce roll of chèvre cheese (optional but what a great idea)
 
Instructions:
 
Peel the squash. Cut off the ends and scoop out the seeds and the goop in the middle.
 
Cut 3/4 of the squash into small cubes. Cut the remaining quarter into tiny julienne strips and set them aside.
 
Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and pop in the cubes of squash. Cover and cook until the squash softens, about 20 minutes. Let the squash and liquid cool for a couple of minutes and then puree them. I used a potato masher for this, but you could also employ a food processor or blender.
 
Put the squash stock into the saucepan and keep it on low heat as you make the risotto.
 
In a heavy saucepan over moderate heat melt 1/4 cup butter and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the rice. Cook for 1 minute.
 
Add 3/4 cup of the wine plus the bell pepper and carrots (if you’re using them), and stir. Add 1 cup of squash stock and keep stirring.
 
As the mixture cooks and the rice dries up, add the remaining squash stock a bit at a time. Cooking will take quite a while–somewhere between half an hour and 45 minutes. (In my experience, the only sure-fire way to know whether risotto is done is to taste it and decide whether the rice has cooked.) If you run out of squash stock, add a small amount of water.
 
About 20 minutes into cooking your risotto, add the small pieces of squash.
 
Just before serving, add the tomatoes, the herbs, the remaining wine, the last bit of butter (if you want an extra rich risotto), and the parmesan.
 
For extra deliciousness, top each serving with a wedge of chèvre. I didn’t have any in the house so I omitted this, but I’m trying it next time! 

Serves 6.


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