pumpkin

Pumpkin and Cornmeal Quick Bread

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Pumpkin and cornmeal made for one of the more, shall we say, interesting quick breads I have  made. I was not sure that my taste buds, which are fully aligned with sweet, would be down with it.

Things were not looking too good until I sliced the loaf thin and used it as a hearty sandwich bread. Then I was on board.

Walnuts impart a nice crunch, and fresh flat-leaf parsley packs an unexpected punch of flavor. It is a perfect alternative to the standard cornbread muffin I enjoy with chili and would likely pair well with any soup or salad.

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Still not sold? I hear ya. If I was not on a near-constant lookout for unusual recipes to try, I would have passed right over this in a heartbeat. But in addition to sounding unique, the ingredients were easy to procure. I had everything I needed, including the fresh parsley, on hand when I set out to make it. That almost never happens.

Not quite so lucky? Or maybe you are feeling adventurous? I would love to know how other nut and herb combos work for this bread. My first thought on the next go round is to use sunflower seeds and sage. Pepitas and rosemary also seem reasonable.

In the meantime, there are plenty more delicious dishes to experiment in the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash links below. Check them out!

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Savory Pumpkin and Cornmeal Quick Bread
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup ground cornmeal, plus additional for sprinkling
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts until browned and fragrant.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the toasted walnuts, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the pumpkin puree, eggs, parsley and oil.
  4. Fold the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture until fully incorporated. Do not overmix.
  5. Grease a 9 x 5 – inch loaf pan with oil, line the bottom with parchment paper and sprinkle cornmeal along the sides until coated.
  6. Pour the bread batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes until the top is crusty and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling or serve warm.

 

Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies

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Reduction. A reducing or being reduced. The amount by which anything is reduced. Which leads us to…

Reduce.

1. a) to lessen in any way, as in size, weight, amount, value, price, etc.; diminish b) to put into a simpler or more concentrated form

2. to bring into a certain order; systematize

3. to bring into difficult or wretched circumstances

Alright, so that last definition seems a bit dramatic, but man, what a week! Reduced to tears and still sort of wondering what exactly that was all about, I coped the best way I knew. I reduced some pumpkin and baked some cookies.

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Reducing thin liquids to thick syrups is not a foreign concept, but reducing solid pumpkin puree was new to me. According to the recipe’s original authors, the idea to do so was born out of a desire to create a pumpkin cookie with a cookie-like texture rather than the fluffy, cake-like textures typical of so many others. To achieve this, they decided they could either sell their souls or reduce the pumpkin. Again, a bit dramatic.

But, I think they succeeded in the cookie department.

Apparently, the people I shared these with did too because I brought home no leftovers. In the spirit of brutal honesty, I think people just like free cookies, but that is fine too.

I tend to like my pumpkin cookies chock full of things like chocolate chips or white chocolate chips or some nuts or oats here and there, but these plain pumpkin cookies were a good change of pace. The flavor was left up to a quartet of spices – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove – which hit all the right notes.

Funny how things, when reduced to their simplest forms, are oftentimes the best. That is something I hope to keep in mind the next time I look for complicated reasons and explanations in situations that, even though they did not go as I had hoped, are really quite simple. Enjoy!

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Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup oat flour or ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Reduce the pumpkin by placing it in a saucepan over low to medium heat. You do not want the pumpkin to boil, but it will steam. Stir periodically to keep the pumpkin from scorching. When the pumpkin is reduced to ½ cup according to a measuring cup used for liquids, remove it from the heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, oat flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. If you do not have oat flour, simply make your own by processing the whole rolled oats in a food processor until they are very finely ground.
  3. Next, add the spices to the flour mixture and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the shortening and sugars together until well combined, then add in the vanilla.
  5. Slowly add the dry flour and spice mixture into the large bowl with the sugar mixture. Mix until just combined.
  6. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees until the cookies look firm and are ever-so-slightly browned, about 10-12 minutes.
Notes
The original recipe indicated reducing the pumpkin would take about 45 minutes. Working over medium, heat, this step took only 20 minutes in my kitchen.

 

Pumpkin White Chocolate Cookies

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I was recently reminded of just how good I have it. I work a very part-time retail gig every now and again. A gal who, to put it plainly, does not fit in with her younger peers recently started working this gig too. We were partnered up the last time I worked, so I took the opportunity to talk to her about what attracted her to this particular position. I learned my new friend is a waitress who took this job because “I needed a little more.”

Here I am working this job simply because I can, and to put it plainly again, often whining about having to go in for a measly four-hour shift two times per month. Yet across the table of impeccably-folded, over-priced clothes stood a woman who is working this job because she can’t make ends meet otherwise. Much like the man and the pears, her story has remained with me.

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I am guilty as charged when it comes to “creating a narrative.” I instantly felt sad for this woman and her situation, but the fact of the matter is, she could be perfectly happy with her life. I do not know what sort of circumstances she was born into or the choices she made that make her life so radically different from mine. What I do know is hearing her story made me ever grateful for what I do have.

That’s a mantra I am going to carry with me this month: feeling grateful for what I do have. One of the things I have today is a mountain of pumpkin and white chocolate cookies that might have replaced these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies as my favorites. I will probably need to eat a half-dozen more to be sure. I feel grateful that I can. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
 
Author:
Serves: 3 dozen
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅔ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
Instructions
  1. Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a large bowl.
  2. Place the butterscotch chips in a food processor and process until the chips are ground; some larger bits will likely remain.
  3. Stir the ground butterscotch chips in with the flour and baking soda and set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Beat in the egg and the pumpkin puree until combined.
  6. Stir the dry flour mixture into the wet pumpkin mixture and mix until the flour is fully incorporated.
  7. Next fold in the oats, white chocolate and walnuts.
  8. Cover the bowl and refrigerate anywhere from 10 minutes to overnight.
  9. After the dough has chilled, drop two tablespoons of dough per cookie onto parchment- lined baking sheets.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees F for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through baking. The cookies will turn light golden brown and no longer look doughy when done.
Notes
You can sub 1½ cups white chocolate chips for the 8 ounces of chopped white chocolate. If you chill the dough for the minimum 10 minutes, return to bowl to the refrigerator in between batches. This will make sure the dough does not become too warm; chilled dough helps the cookies maintain their shape during baking.