WE LOVE PUMPKIN PIE, and missed it on our sojourn in Europe a couple of years ago. We finally found a few small ones at the market one Saturday in Slovakia, and we made some great pumpkin pies for the locals, They had no idea how good a pumpkin pie tastes. Where there's a will there's a way! But pumpkin isn't only for pies, so I thought I would give you some other ideas on how to use raw pumpkin and process it for baking as well as some great recipes for pumpkin.
All About Pumpkins - Pumpkins are versatile. You can use it in many different ways. You can bake a pumpkin, steam a pumpkin, sauté a pumpkin, make puree out of a pumpkin, and more. But where a pumpkin really comes into its own is in your kitchen. Pumpkins make favorite pies, moist cakes, interesting breads, and delightful cookies. The flavour is mild, maybe a little earthy. Typically, pumpkin is the canvas for an array of spices. When we think of pumpkin, we think of mixtures of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves found in pumpkin pie.
There are two types of pumpkins—the decorative pumpkins intended for jack-o-lanterns and sweet, pie, or eating pumpkins. The larger decorative pumpkins used for jack-o-lanterns tend to be watery and stringy and are not very good for baking. Pie pumpkins are much better—meatier, smoother, and sweeter. When choosing pumpkins, select those that are firm and heavy for their size. Avoid those with soft spots or any signs of decay. Inspect carefully any areas that may be soiled with dirt from the field. The rind should be hard. Choose one that is small enough to use at one time since cut pumpkins will not keep as well. In the right conditions, your pumpkins will keep for two or three months. Store them in a cool, dry location. Space them so that the air can circulate around them. Ideal temperatures are 50-55 degrees.
Once you cut into a pumpkin, it should be refrigerated. Chunks can be kept in your crisper where the atmosphere is moist or in perforated plastic bags for a week or more. For longer storage, cook your pumpkin, puree it, and freeze the puree. Properly frozen, your puree will keep in the freezer for six months. Raw pumpkin can also be frozen. Clean and peel the pumpkin. Cut the flesh into one-inch cubes. Place the cubes in freezer-type bags and freeze. Measure out what you need for your favorite recipes. Use within two months.
How to Puree Fresh Pumpkin
Can you use fresh pumpkin instead of canned? Yes, in fact I think it tastes better although canned pumpkin is convenient.
Cut a sugar or pie pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds.
Place the halves in a baking pan, flesh side down with 3/4-inch of water in the pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees or until the flesh is tender. (For small quantities, you can cook the pumpkin in the microwave.)
Let the pumpkin cool until you can handle it without burning. Scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin and place it in a blender, foodmill, or food processor. Process until smooth. If you have a Victorio-type strainer, you can process the cooked pumpkin with the skin. The strainer will separate the skin from the pulp.
Often, especially from smaller or immature pumpkins, the puree will not be thick enough—a spoon should stand upright in the puree. To thicken, place the puree in a saucepan and cook, stirring often, until the puree becomes thicker, or you can just stir in a few spoonfuls of Ultragel until the desired thickness is achieved.
This is a great pumpkin bread recipe! It has an attractive orange color, it’s moist, and it’s packed with nutrition and flavor. We usually make it with white bread flour but you can substitute whole wheat flour. (If you use all whole wheat, add several tablespoons of wheat gluten.) The recipe calls for raisins but walnuts make it a great pumpkin bread also.
This bread is not sweet like a dessert bread. You can add more sugar if you like. If you choose, add one cup of chopped walnuts. Incidentally, try this bread toasted with Saskatoon jelly. It is terrific!
5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups white bread flour (you can substitute up to 3 cups fresh milled whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup brown sugar or 1/8 cup Xagave
1 Tbsp. Saf Yeast
1 Tbsp. dough enhancer
1 1/3 cup warm water, 110 degrees
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup puréed pumpkin or canned pumpkin
1/2 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups raisins, golden raisins, or currents
1. Place the water, sugar or Xagave, and dough enhancer and half of the flour and the yeast on top in your Bosch Universal Plus Bowl equipped with the dough hook and mix for 30 sec. on speed one.
2. Add the rest of the spices, the pumpkin, the salt, and the butter and turn on speed one again, and begin adding the remaining flour until the bowl has cleaned the sides with the dough. Knead with the dough hook at speed two for 6 minutes. When the dough comes together, add the raisins and continue beating for the remainder of the 2 minutes or until the gluten is developed. You will likely need to adjust the moisture level either by adding flour or water. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn once, and cover. Set the bowl in a warm place and allow it to double in size.
3. Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Form two loaves, cover them, and let them rise until doubled and puffy.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until done. The internal temperature should be at 190 to 200 degrees F. Remove the loaves from the pans and let the bread cool on a wire rack.
More Pumpkin Baking - When we were first married I started to make these wonderful pumpkin pie squares. Over the years we have changed the recipes and the size of the pans to fit our changing family sizes. It tastes like pumpkin pie without having to making the pastry and the family love them. I also now make them using fresh milled barley flour from ourNutrimill Plus Flour Mill.