My quest for awesome things to do with pumpkin puree continues!

Most of my life, I thought I didn’t like bread pudding.  I think it’s because any time I came across it, it always involved raisins (yuck!) and some sort of liqueur.  Plus, as a kid, if a dessert didn’t have chocolate, I wasn’t really interested.  Bread pudding just seemed weird and unpalatable and was moved to the recesses of the dessert-possibilities area of my brain.

A couple of years ago, I was at a dinner where one of the proffered desserts was a black and white bread pudding.  They were little ramekins with a fluffy, creamy yellow cake and inside, molten dark and white chocolate sauces.  *This* was bread pudding?  This was… amazing!  The texture was lovely, the flavors rich and intense.  It was something I would actually choose if I had other options.  Sold!

Making this dessert at home, though, never happened until recently.  I never had a whole loaf of day-old bread hanging around, or the necessary staple ingredients, or a good recipe, etc. etc.  Completely randomly, I came across some recipes for Pumpkin Bread Pudding.  Would it be texturally palatable?  Would it be the right sort of flavor?  Given that the other new things I’ve tried with pumpkin have been a success, signs pointed to “yes.”  I chose a basic recipe, from The Joy of Baking, then bought a loaf of Italian bread to keep on the counter for a day or two.

Oh. My. WOW.  This was so good!  Not too sweet, so it’s not overwhelming when combined with the super-sugary toffee sauce.  I’d never had or made toffee sauce before, and it was easy.  The whole thing was really easy.  The most labor- and mess-intensive part was preparing the bread.  I removed the crusts, because I like a creamy pudding;  leaving the crusts on will make the pudding more chewy.  You can do whichever suits you.  I also used Egg Beaters, about 2/3-C, in place of the 2 eggs+1 yolk, and added a good pinch of nutmeg to the spices.

Get an 8×8 brownie pan and let’s get going!

Ingredients:

  • 5 C day-old bread, crusts removed or left on, cubed
  • 2 large eggs + 1 yolk
  • 3/4 C pumpkin puree
  • 1-1/2 C half-and-half
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 C light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the toffee sauce:

  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350; place rack in center.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, half & half, butter, sugar, vanilla, spices, and salt.
  • Add the bread cubes, and toss to coat well.  Make sure that all of the pieces get nice and soaked.
  • Place the bread in an ungreased 8×8 pan, and bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
  • An option is to put the plain bread in the pan, pour over the custard mixture, toss really well, and bake the whole thing for 35 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Silky custard FTW!

To make the toffee sauce:

  • In a saucepan, bring the butter, sugar, and cream to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Watch the heat and make sure it doesn’t burn!  Remove from heat, and add the vanilla.  This can be made ahead of time and re-warmed.

Enjoy!

So apparently there’s a pumpkin shortage going on;  heavy rains have killed crops (and the livelihoods of many many farmers).   I wanted to get a couple of  “just in case” cans of pumpkin puree to put in the pantry, but wasn’t really expecting there to be any after the story broke last week, imagining hordes of locals rushing out to buy up all the cans available before we got there.

Well, it was obvious there had been a run on the stuff: where last week, there’d been an amply-stocked shelf of several brands of puree, and a large pyramid display fully stocked, this week there was one sad box, with a couple dozen cans, sitting on the floor.  I bought two cans, and would happily use some of it to make this next recipe again.

I’ve been getting a little bored with sweet pumpkin preparations, delicious as they are (I’ve already switched over to apple-based desserts, and will post some of those recipes when I refine them a little).  However, as with most winter vegetables, pumpkin can be really off-putting to me when done savory.  I then remembered that one of my aunts had once made butternut squash ravioli, and despite really disliking butternut squash, I enjoyed the ravioli.  Hmm, perhaps something similar could be achieved with pumpkin?

What follows is a very simple recipe from GroupRecipes for a tomato-infused ravioli with a pumpkin/ricotta filling.  While even a newbie like me could follow the recipe easily, I’m not going to lie: rolling out pasta dough by hand is a lot of work.  I couldn’t get it as thin as I really wanted it, and mangled a few edges here and there, so ended up with 22 ravioli instead of 32.  However, all of them stayed sealed and together when boiling, and they were good enough to feel really worth the effort.

That said, I really really want a pasta machine for the next time I make this.  Oh — and this is in no way a diet food.  You might call this “rich.”  I call it “wow, I felt really fat the next day.  But it was so worth it.”

For sauce, the recipe at GroupRecipes recommends a pesto, but I heartily recommend sauteeing some sage and walnuts in a few tablespoons of unsalted butter.  Sage tastes amazing with this, and the walnuts provide a contrasting texture.

Ingredients:

  • 1 C ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 C pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • another 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp water

Instructions:

  • In a small bowl, mix cheese, pumpkin, 1/2 tsp salt, and nutmeg until well-blended; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the other 1/2 tsp salt, and make a well in the center.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, tomato paste, and oil until well-blended, then pour into the well into the center of the flour.
  • Using a fork, move the flour from the sides of the bowl into the center, mixing until the dough gradually forms a ball.
  • Knead dough lightly on a floured, cloth-covered surface for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
  • Cover and set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 4 equal parts.  Cover whatever dough you’re not working with.  Take one of the quarters and roll it into a 12″x10″ rectangle.
  • Drop filling on one half of the rectangle, in 4 rows of two mounds each, 1-1/2″ apart.
  • Use a pastry brush and water to moisten all of the edges of the dough and the spaces between the mounds of filling.
  • Fold the rest of the dough over and press down all the edges and between the mounds of filling. Cut out ravioli with a sharp knife or pizza cutter, and seal edges with a fork.  Make sure to seal all edges well.
  • Place ravioli on a towel; let stand, turning once, 30 minutes or until dry.

To cook, bring well-salted water to a boil, add ravioli, reduce heat to medium, and cook until they pop up to the top, about 5-6 minutes.  Drain, return to the pot, add butter-sage sauce and toss to mix.

Yep, still on a pumpkin kick!  I actually adapted this from a cookie recipe at Grouprecipes.com.  According to the comments on many different pumpkin cookie recipes around the web, pumpkin cookies often tend to come out cake-like, so I experimented by making half of the batter as cookies, and the other half in a muffin tin.  The muffins came out much better, I thought, but were too heavy to really be called muffins, yet were not really cupcake-y either.  So “mini cakes” it is!

You can add chocolate chips or good chopped bar chocolate to this, if you like.  I had a bar of Green & Black’s 70% and used about a third of the bar, chopped, but 70% was really too high and clashed a little with the other flavors; 60% would be better.  (I haven’t used milk chocolate with pumpkin, but if it’s good, please let me know.)  Chopped toasted walnuts would also be a good addition.

If you don’t have Pumpkin Pie spice, use 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp allspice.  Another option with this is to add a pinch of ground cloves, too.

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 C canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt together in medium bowl.
  • Cream butter and sugar together in large bowl, then add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla, and beat until creamy.
  • Mix in the dry ingredients, 1/3 of the mixture at a time.
  • If adding chocolate or nuts, fold them in now.
  • Spoon into muffin tins and bake 20-22 minutes or until golden on top.   Enjoy!

I love baking sweet things with pumpkin puree.  I’ve been making pumpkin pancakes on Sundays, and need to do something with the rest of the puree — pumpkin breads generally take a whole 15 oz can, so it’s over to things like muffins and cookies (and more pancakes!) to use it up.   I recently did a pumpkin bread with chocolate chips, and thought how nice it would be to do muffins, so I went on a search and got to choose between a ton of different recipes, some more complex than others.

This simple  recipe comes from The Joy of Baking.  These muffins are moist and tasty and were quickly eaten!  I used a 12-cup nonstick muffin tin, no paper linings, and did not need to spray or grease the cups.  This recipe calls for sifting the dry ingredients, but I don’t have a sifter, so I whisked them, which probably doesn’t lend the same amount of fluffiness to the finished muffins — but they still came out great.   The only alteration I made was to be generous with the spices, using rounded measurements instead of flat.  Next time I’ll try sprinkling a little brown sugar on the tops of the muffins before baking, for a delicious crunchy topping.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs ( I used 1/2 C of Egg Beaters)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 C chocolate chips (I used 60% Ghirardelli chips)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Sift dry ingredients together in medium bowl.
  • In large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  • Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Beat in vanilla.
  • Alternately add 1/3 of the dry mixture and 1/2 of the pumpkin puree, mixing after each addition, beginning and ending with the dry mixture.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Spoon into muffin tins and bake 18-20 minutes (mine needed the full 20 minutes).

Let them cool for a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool.  Yum!

I’ll fess up right now:  before this morning, I’d never made pancakes from scratch.  To me, “making pancakes” has always meant taking the box of Aunt Jemima Complete (“Just Add Water!”) out of the cabinet.  Making pancakes from scratch has always seemed appealing, but the kind of task undertaken by people with more culinary prowess than I.  Or people whose pantries routinely contain things like baking powder and flour.

Well, that’s changed, now that I’ve been cooking and actually have stuff in the pantry with which to make things like pancakes.  It’s also turned out to be really easy to make pancake batter from scratch; there’s an extra bowl and measuring cups to clean, but it doesn’t take that much more time to do.  No more instant boxed mix!

I came upon this Martha Stewart recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes after searching for something to make with the canned pumpkin we bought.  I made a slight alteration by using 1-1/2 teaspoons of Pumpkin Pie Spice instead of separately adding the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves (I make my own Pumpkin Pie Spice with those same spices).  I also only had Egg Beaters, not actual eggs, so I used 1/4 cup of that instead of 1 egg.  Make sure you use plain canned pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C milk
  • 6 Tbsp canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 egg

Instructions:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour baking powder, sugar, and spices.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together milk, egg, pumpkin and butter.
  • Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
  • Use 1/4-cupfuls to drop batter onto griddle/pan.  Makes 8-10 pancakes.

I found it helpful, because the batter is so thick, to drop the batter and then use the back of a large spoon in a spiraling motion from the center to spread out the batter a bit, not *too* much like a crepe, but to get the pancake thinner.  This ensures the middle will be well-cooked by the time the outsides are golden brown.

We ate these with butter and maple syrup, but they’d probably be very awesome with applesauce, too, or some spiced simple syrup and whipped cream.