If you ask anyone to describe fall in three words, you will get a wide variety of answer. But I firmly believe that everyone will have one word in common: pumpkin. Social media becomes inundated when “pumpkin spice lattes” are released. For three holidays in a row, pumpkin pie will grace the dessert table. And who doesn’t love using this gourd to seasonally decorate their house?
The creation of canned pumpkin has allowed us to enjoy the delightful flavor of pumpkins all year round, cutting out the need to wait until fall to savor our favorite orange dishes. While I fully advocate taking advantage of this modern miracle in spring and summer, I would like to suggest another alternative for the fall and winter months. It is an idea that is only moderately time consuming, but well worth the effort you will put in: make your own pumpkin puree.
What?! Why would I do this, you may ask yourself. Well, I will tell you…The DIY version is much sweeter than the canned version. It also has a creamier texture, which adds a silkiness to the food you are making.
Or you could just trust me, head to the grocery store, buy a pumpkin, and try it yourself. You won’t regret it! This time of year, pretty much every grocery store sells “pie pumpkins.” They’re smaller than jack-o-lantern pumpkins and are much sweeter. If you get a chance, though, to buy heirloom pumpkins, the Cinderella pumpkin and the peanut pumpkin have a rich flavor that is out of this world. I’m sure you can guess which ones are which in the pictures above.
If you google “roasting pumpkins,” you will find a wide variety of methods to make your own puree. Some folks advise cutting the pumpkin first; others say to put water in the bottom of the tray; a few remove the seeds before putting it in the oven. Personally, I like to keep it simple. Cutting fresh pumpkins is laborious, as anyone who has carved a pumpkin will know, and adding water will cause the puree to be soupy and need cooking down.
Here are my steps for easy pumpkin puree:
- Trim the stem of the pumpkin so it will fit in your oven.
- Turn your oven to 350° F.
- While the oven is warming up, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (This makes clean up easy. If you don’t have aluminum foil, you can skip this step, but you may have a little bit of scrubbing in your future).
- Using a VERY sharp knife, poke a few holes in the pumpkin, just like a baked potato or eggplant. Place pumpkin on covered tray.
- Put pumpkin in the oven. Smaller pumpkins (2-3 pounds) will cook for 40-50 minutes. Medium pumpkins (4-5 pounds) will cook for 60-70 minutes. Larger pumpkins (over 6 pounds) will cook for an hour and 15 minutes or more.
- Test the done-ness by inserting a sharp knife into the pumpkin. It should go in fairly easily. If the pumpkin is not done, roast it for 10 more minutes. Continue repeating this step until the pumpkin is done.
- Remove pumpkin from the oven and allow to cool for an hour. You want to be able to handle it without burning yourself.
- Once cool, cut wedges out of the pumpkin. Scoop the seeds out (save these!! They can be roasted with spices later to make a great, healthy snack). Using a knife, peel the skin off the wedge.
- For the next step, you’ll need either an emersion blender or a food processor. A blender will suffice if you don’t have either of these, but you’ll need to work in small batches. Puree the pumpkin “meat” until all the lumps are all gone.
Fresh, homemade pumpkin puree will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 6-8 months.
After roasting three pumpkins, I desperately wanted to use some of the puree. I remembered a promise I had made a friend’s daughter, Olivia, to do some baking, and found instant inspiration to make a pumpkin roll. The classic combo of pumpkin spiced bread and sweetened cream cheese filling twisted together in a fancy, yet easy to make, log will wow family and friends.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour, plus extra flour for the baking tray
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- Nuts, optional (Olivia and I used pecans)
- Confectionery sugar (for towel)
1. Turn the oven to 375° F. Grease a 15×11 cookie tray using your favorite “grease”, ie butter, Pam, etc. Sift flour onto the tray, then tilt and tap the tray until the entire surface is covered with flour. Discard extra flour. If you have parchment paper, cut to fit and place onto of the greased and floured tray. I highly recommend taking this extra measure – it makes removing the bread soooo much easier.
Note: Make sure the tray is deep enough to hold the liquid, at least 1/2 inch.
2. Combine the first three ingredients in one bowl; this will make the “wet mixture.” Stir with a spoon until full incorporated.
3. Combine the next six ingredients in a second bowl; this will make the “dry mixture.” Stir with a spoon until full incorporated. Or, if you’re Olivia, use your hands.
4. Beat eggs on high for five minutes. When you are done beating, they will be a mellow shade of yellow and have a slightly ribbony texture.
5. Add wet mixture and beat on medium low until the wet mixture is fully incorporated.
6. Add the dry mixture in three batches, beating each third on medium low until it is fully incorporated.
7. Pour the batter onto the baking tray. Ensure that that batter surface is smooth by taking a spatula and gently pulling (NOT pushing…pushing can make deep crevasses) into the edges and corners.
8. Optional step: Add nuts.
9. Bake for 15 minutes.
10. While the pumpkin roll is baking, lay out a *clean* dish towel. Cover the surface of the dish towel with a generous portion of confectionery sugar.
11. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Run the edge of a spatula along the edges of the cooking tray, separating the bread from the tray. Gently slip the spatula under the bread, running it around all the edges. This is the trickiest part of the entire process, and the part that makes the step of parchment paper worth the effort.
Note: If you do accidentally tear the bread, no worries. In the end, you’re going to roll the whole thing up and cut it into little slices, so no one will notice. I promise!! I’ve torn many a pumpkin roll in my day…
12. Using one mitted hand and one bare hand, grab the tray with your protected hand, placing the long edge of the tray on the long edge of the sugared-towel. Gently start to tilt the tray, using your bare hand to prevent the bread from flopping down.
13. Wrap the short ends of the towel over the bread, then roll it up. Place in the fridge for at least fifteen minutes to set.
- 2 cup confectionery sugar
- 16 oz of cream cheese (typically 2 packages), room temperature
- 8 tbsp butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
14. Beat together all ingredients at medium low speed.
15. Remove pumpkin bread from the fridge, and unroll.
16. Gently spread filling onto the bread.
17. Roll up bread in the same direction it was rolled the first time.
18. The pumpkin roll can be served cold or at room temperature. It can be stored for up to a week, but good luck having it last that long!
Olivia and I have decided to make baking together a regular appearance on the blog. Baking is so much more fun when you do it with other people, and even more fun when you get to share the finished product! Let us know if there’s a baking idea you want us to tackle.