How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Pumpkins (A Photo Essay)

Occasionally, I get it in my head to experiment with something new. These impulses are usually short-lived and relatively harmless, but during my bouts of activity, I learn all kinds of fascinating things. Earlier this year, I learned that you can make a pretty decent cake from scratch. I also learned how to make cornbread stuffing (from scratch), how to brine turkey, and how to make my own pasta. A different sort of madness possessed me this year. I wanted to learn about pumpkins. Specifically, I wanted to learn how a pumpkin became a delicious, delicious pie. Like so.

But a man must crawl before he can walk, and so I decided to set my sights a little bit lower. Instead of turning it into a delicious, delicious pie, I would focus my efforts of making into a quick bread. This has many benefits, because I make zucchini bread all of the time and I'm a huge fan of pumpkin bread.

I began with some research. First, I learned that when it comes to pumpkins, bigger isn't better. In fact, the pumpkins raised to be jack o'lanterns are not good for baking because they are not sweet like their smaller brethren. As a result, I procured a small "sugar pumpkin" from the produce section.

The first thing to do is cut the pumpkin open and ruthlessly scoop its insides out. So a lot like any normal Halloween (You know...spent carving pumpkins).

And then you put it in a pan and pop into the oven, easy as you like! In the interest of full disclosure, I figured at this point something would have gone terribly, terribly wrong. I am a little bit afraid of the kitchen, and while I've had no genuine disasters, I'm always certain one is lurking around the corner. On the surface, purchasing, splitting, and gutting a pumpkin seems like a straightforward task, but I manage to ruin lots of straightforward tasks. Still, the pumpkins got in the oven without any undue trauma.

Once you get your pumpkin in the oven, it needs to roast. This time, I put that pumpkin in for 45 minutes, but subsequent experiments tell me that a pumpkin that size should have been in the oven for at least an hour. Still, if you want to try your own pumpkin recipe, 45 minutes seem to be the best starting place. After 45 minutes, it should look something like this.

Once you roast the pumpkin, you need to puree. I scooped it from the skin and dumped it into my Kitchenaid and turned it on! Once I got it to a consistency that seemed close to canned pumpkin (I mean, honestly, I've never seen pureed pumpkin before!), I scraped out the bowl and prepared the next step of my plan. The bread. (Note: I used this recipe and it was DELICIOUS!).

And finally--the moment you were all waiting for!

What did we learn from all of this? Well, cooking with a pumpkin is dead easy. For the purposes of quick bread, it doesn't make a huge difference if you use a pumpkin or a can. But I've experimented several times in the past few weeks since this first attempt, and gathered the following facts:

  1. The use of pumpkin greatly increases the moist goodness of oatmeal raisin cookies.
  2. Using a pumpkin absolutely makes a difference when it comes to squash soup. In fact, squash soup is unbelievably easy and delicious! Given how cheap squash is in the fall, it's also really affordable.
  3. There's really no other way to make pies. After all, the pie should be there to showcase the deliciousness of the pumpkin. It should be the delivery mechanism of pumpkin flavored happiness (and Cool Whip).

With the holidays coming up, I'm sure I'll be trying more experiments with cooking basics that I never learned as a child. Perhaps next, I'll tackle the miracle that is gravy.

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Roasted, huh?

For some reason, I've always imagined boiling pumpkin. I'm glad I read your article. I'll bet the house smelled great while the pumpkin was roasting - and then when the bread was baking.

Quote Originally posted by jali View post
Roasted, huh?

For some reason, I've always imagined boiling pumpkin. I'm glad I read your article. I'll bet the house smelled great while the pumpkin was roasting - and then when the bread was baking.
That's what I would have thought, too, but it makes sense to roast it when I stop and think about it. Boiling would add extra water and leach out some of the flavor.