A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the pumpkinification of autumn—this annual season, peculiar to the United States, that lasts precisely from midnight on September 1st to approximately sunset on Thanksgiving Day, and that requires pumpkin (or, at least, pumpkin spice) to be added to everything–from coffee to breakfast cereal to bodywash to household cleaning supplies. You can love it, hate it, or take a realistic approach to it as the unchanging reality of life in this country. Let’s face it, the phrase “as American as apple pie” is outdated–it’s really pumpkin pie that we should be talking about here.
This pumpkinification of the season, farce-like as it may appear at times, serves a useful purpose, to be sure. As one avid baker, Bethany L. Persons, remarked, “Pumpkin spice is Thanksgiving’s way of being remembered in the age-old Christmas-Halloween battle for retail space.”
It really is a solemn time, one that requires serious planning. How, one might ask, do you use up the multiple pounds of cooked and mashed pumpkin pulp in your various recipes? Just how much pumpkin–and in what forms—can an average-sized family eat anyway? The wise saying comes to mind here: how does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Substitute the elephant with pumpkin, and you have your answer. This makes this season the ultimate challenge for team waste-not. You must find enough recipes, and make them diverse enough, that your family will not totally hate you. To be fair, you could always use that gloppy preternaturally orange stuff that comes in a small can, but you should never admit this in public. There are community standards on this blog, at any rate.
Of course, at the scientific poll administered two weeks ago, many readers claimed to have no love for anything pumpkin-related. If this is you, you can stop reading here. The jokes stop here, and the serious content begins—the recipes tried and tested by our stress-baking writers.
Beatrice Scudeler: Pumpkin Cheesecake
Beatrice recommends the pumpkin cheesecake recipe from My Baking Addiction. In addition, here are Beatrice’s step-by-step instructions for the white-chocolate coffee ganache topping for this cheesecake:
8 ounces (approx. 225g) white chocolate
2/3 cup whipping or heavy cream (approx. 160ml)
1-5 tsp instant coffee powder, to taste. (Do not use ground coffee as this will leave a gritty texture in your ganache).
Method: 1. Pour cream into a heatproof bowl (metal or glass works well). Pour 1/2 inches water into a small saucepan, and place the bowl containing the cream on top of the saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat until the cream is very hot and about to simmer, but do not boil. Remove saucepan from heat.
2. Meanwhile, as your cream is heating, chop the white chocolate into small chunks and place them into a medium bowl.
3. Pour hot cream over the chocolate chunks, and add instant coffee powder to your taste. I like mine quite strong to offset the sweetness of the cheesecake, but it’s entirely up to you. Remember, the bitterness of the coffee won’t be as prominent once the ganache is poured over the cheesecake.
4. Leave your mixture for 3-5 minutes for the chocolate to soften, then stir gently with a spatula until the chocolate and coffee powder are completely incorporated into the cream. 5. Once completely smooth, leave the ganache to thicken slightly at room temperature, but not so much that it completely solidifies.
This may take between 15 and 30 minutes depending on the weather. It should be thin enough that it is still a pourable consistency to go on the cheesecake, but thick enough that when you pour it, it stays on top of the cheesecake and doesn’t drip down everywhere. You can test the thickness with a spoon: if it drips off the spoon slowly but consistently, it’s ready to go.
6. Once you’ve poured the ganache on top, the cheesecake can go back into the fridge for another hour to allow the ganache to fully set on top.
Dixie Dillon Lane: The Baking Dare
Dixie has presented this dare of sorts to herself, first and foremost: to work through this entire list of “16 best pumpkin recipes for fall baking.” Since Dixie is also growing her own pumpkins, she definitely has enough to make use of this season. In fact, sixteen recipes may not quite cut it for all the bounty.
Personally, I’m contemplating making this Pumpkin Chocolate Babka. Babka is the quintessential European Jewish dessert bread, and the one I’ve traditionally made is with cinnamon. This seems like a good Americanized update on a classic. The pumpkinification of Jewish culinary culture is here, thanks.
I’ve made variations on a pumpkin ricotta pasta sauce in the past, so this recipe for a pumpkin ricotta pasta bake has caught my eye.
If you are bold enough to add real pumpkin puree to your coffee, you can make this decadent pumpkin spice coffee creamer. You can then count your morning cup of coffee as a vegetable serving for the day.
Finally, I make variations on pumpkin soup and butternut squash soup that look a lot like this recipe. Really, I improvise every time I make pumpkin or fall squash soup, but I always make it in the slow cooker and the general formula goes as follows, with the caveat that I don’t measure anything:
Combine in your slow cooker the ingredients: a large-ish amount of cubed pumpkin and/or fall squash of your choice (I usually fill the pot 2/3 full), chopped onion and minced or crushed garlic, seasonings of your choice (Madras curry powder is my go-to), and enough vegetable or chicken broth to barely cover the vegetables.
Let this all cook 6-8 hours on low. Then use an immersion blender to puree the soup to your desired consistency. Add heavy cream or coconut milk shortly before serving. Top with pumpkin seeds.
Of course, one question remains that is beyond the purview of this post: will my children graciously agree to consume any of the above?