Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tis the Season...

For writing! For baking! For drinking Sangria outside one last time-- as many times as you can.

I'll be having a fun guest post from my CLBB friend Canice in a day or so, & enjoying the lovely weather we're having here. Canice is also a big fan of shopping the Farmer's Market, but she gets to do it in California.

Today, I'm not even jealous of that. It's beautiful enough to have the windows open, airing out the house, but cool enough to make lasagna. And maybe a pie. If you've never cooked a fresh pumpkin to put into pies or muffins, do it this Autumn. It is too easy, and the taste and color are well worth the minimal effort.

Use a small, firm pumpkin. Wash it, cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and scrape the stringy stuff out of the middle, then stick it in a roasting pan or large baking dish with a half cup of water on the bottom. Throw that into a medium hot oven for 35-50 minutes, depending on size.

It really doesn't matter if you cook it skin up or skin down. It doesn't matter if you cook it at 350 F, 375, or 400. It will become tender after a while-- just check around 30 minutes, and then again every ten. Take it out of the oven when it is cooked through.

Let it cool. Pull the flesh off the skin and puree it in your food processor or blender, and you'll have the most psychotic bright orange pumpkin puree you've ever seen! It's wonderful in muffins, breads, pizza dough, Ice cream, smoothies, pie or pancakes. It makes good soup, cooked with some rosemary and onion in a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt. It can be used to thicken or enrich chili or other soups, and it makes a killer lasagna.

But here's one of my simple favorites for using pumpkin, fresh or not--
a giant, well-spiced muffin that showcases the flavors of fall. We love these big treats, but you can make it into a nine-inch square cake or regular sized muffins, too. Or several small mini-loaves. Adapted slightly From Bon Appetit magazine, Dec. 2005.

*Note-- if using fresh pumpkin puree, use 1 3/4 C in place of the 15-oz can. That's what I do! If your homemade puree is a little watery, put it in a fine strainer for a few moments to drain away some of the liquid. It'll be fine.

Giant Pumpkin Muffins with Molasses-Ginger Glaze

yield: Makes 6 giant muffins or 15-18 standard muffins


Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger & 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (or about 1 3/4 cups fresh pumpkin puree)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon mild-flavored (light) molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger, divided

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (or more) water


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 6 giant (1 1/4-cup) muffin cups or 18 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups with nonstick spray. Sift flour, ginger, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer**, beat 1 cup sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in pumpkin, 1/2 cup molasses, buttermilk, and 1/4 cup crystallized ginger. Stir in flour mixture until just blended.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes for giant muffins and 30 minutes for standard muffins. Transfer muffins to rack; cool completely.

Whisk powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons water, and 1 tablespoon molasses in medium bowl, adding more water as needed to form thick glaze.

Dip muffin tops in glaze; transfer to rack, allowing glaze to drip down sides. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crystallized ginger. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour.

** I always beat this by hand. Who wants to get out a mixer if you don't have to???

Aside from pumpkin pancakes with walnuts or leftover cold pie, these muffins are probably our most coveted fall breakfast. What are you eating as the leaves turn?

(Farmers market on the Village green, in Autumn: the source of my pumpkins.)

Peace, Mari

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