New Castle News

October 5, 2013

Culinary Conversation: Use pumpkin to make more than jack-o-lanterns

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A true sign of fall for me is when “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” airs on television.

Its popular counterpart is the Christmas version.

Let’s not jump ahead, though. We’re accustomed to seeing Halloween decorations in stores before school starts, Christmas promotions in September and end-of-summer sales in June. But that’s retail. In our kitchens, we can savor each time of the year, making best use of what the seasons have to offer.

Right now, it’s pumpkins.

Across the country, there are festivals in honor of the round, orange gourd. It’s so versatile — both for decorating and cooking.

My interest peaked when I discovered Pinterest on Facebook. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s like a virtual scrapbook with different categories including home decor, photography, fashion and cooking. On the cooking site, my cousin, Tina, pinned to a recipe called pumpkin cake. She does lots of baking and I bookmarked it for future scrutiny.

Through the years, I’ve made muffins, jelly-roll type desserts with cream cheese filling, cheesecakes, cupcakes, cookies and fritters — all from pumpkin. And of course, pumpkin pie seems to be the favorite with just about everybody. One year, I did a variation that included a fudge type topping that hardened when it set. The vote was 50/50 in popularity at the Thanksgiving table.

The point is — there isn’t much that can’t be done with pumpkin. Recipes are plentiful using pumpkin, which despite being a member of the squash family of vegetables, is mainly used in desserts.

The canned version of pumpkin is generally preferred, but the gourd can be cooked, drained and mashed to use in recipes. Just quarter the pumpkin, cut into pieces, pare and boil until tender (but without seasoning) for 15 to 30 minutes. Drain well. One 5-pound pumpkin, cooked and drained, yields about 4 1/2 cups.

Fall is here and with it, good things arrive. Pumpkins are just one of those.

While I forgot to return to the Pinterest site and get the pumpkin cake recipe, I did retrieve one from my wonderful, 800-page, go-to-for-everything cookbook.

The website for one of my favorite magazines, Better Homes & Gardens, has a wonderful selection of recipes including marbled chocolate pumpkin brownies.

And where would we be without our wonderful contributors to Culinary Conversation? We can’t wait to see what pumpkin recipes you have to share with us.

PUMPKIN CAKE

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together and blend thoroughly; set aside.

Cream butter; gradually add sugars, creaming until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.

Beating only until smooth after each addition, alternately add dry ingredients in fourths and a mixture of the buttermilk, pumpkin and raisins in thirds to creamed mixture. Turn batter into two prepared 9-inch layer cake pans and spread evenly.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until cake test done.

Cool and remove from pans. Frost with a buttercream type frosting.



MARBLED CHOCOLATE-PUMPKIN BROWNIES

Preheat oven to 325. Line a 13-x-9-2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over the edges of the pan. Grease the foil; set pan aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and the 1 tablespoon butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until well combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in 1 egg, the pumpkin, 1 teaspoon, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger until combined. Stir in the 1 tablespoon flour. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the 1 1/4 cups flour baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine chocolate and 3/4 cup butter. Cook and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Gradually add the 2 1/4 cups sugar, beating with an electric mixer on low speed just until combined. Add the 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in milk and the 2 teaspoons vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture just until combined.

Spread chocolate mixture evenly in the prepared pan. Spoon cream cheese mixture in several mounds on top of the chocolate batter. Using a narrow metal spatula, gently swirl the cream cheese mixture into the chocolate batter. If desired, sprinkle with walnuts.

Bake about 60 minutes or until center is just set when pan is gently shaken. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Use foil to lift uncut brownies out of pan. Cut into brownies.

*Layer brownies between sheets of waxed paper in airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

PUMPKIN COOKIES

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, beat 2 cups butter with an electric mixer on high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally Add eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla; beat until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.

Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool.

In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cookies. If desired, sprinkle with additional cinnamon. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

*Note — recipes have not been tested.