Pumpkins start turning up in early October so that we can bring them home and gleefully disembowel them and carve them up for our own morbid amusement. I know I'm not the only one who enjoys scooping out the slimy, stringy insides with my hands. We tell ourselves it's okay because we are going to dry out those slippery seeds, then roast, salt and eat them later when we can't stand the thought of another fun size Butterfinger.
Once the ritual abuse of pumpkins comes to an end, we immediately start making kinder, gentler plans for these innocent gourds. It's a given that they will have a place at the Thanksgiving table in the form of a simple, classic pie. They might find their way into a creamy soup this year, or even homemade ravioli served with a browned butter sauce.
On many of my favorite food blogs, last week was the week of pumpkin. On Baking Sheet, there were light and fluffy Pumpkin Streusel Muffins. Immediately after reading about these muffins, I visited Cream Puffs in Venice where I was delighted to find Ivonne making Pumpkin Donuts with a powdered sugar glaze using this recipe from epicurious. Mike and I plan to try them this weekend. If you want to have dessert and still go the healthy route, you could try this Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake from South Beach Diet guru, Kalyn.
If you are like me, you probably will not touch a fresh pumpkin after Halloween, opting instead for the handy pumpkin puree obtained at any supermarket. I kicked off the holiday baking season last weekend by opening a couple cans to make Mini Pumpkin-Cranberry-Walnut Loaves. I love these because I can get them done early and keep them in the freezer until I am ready to give them as little holiday gifts. I may end up making another batch the week before Christmas because Mike will have eaten all of them, but that's what happens when you leave such tasty things lying around.
Mini Pumpkin-Cranberry-Walnut Loaves
Adapted from epicurious.com. Makes 6 mini loaves.
I bake these in mini disposable foil loaf pans that I buy at the supermarket. Because the loaves are tiny, I like to chop the walnuts finely and give the dried cranberries a good chop as well. Though small, these loaves require quite a long baking time. Wearing oven gloves, turn them upside down and flip them out of their pans to make sure the bottom is browned.
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
24 oz. canned pumpkin puree
1 c. sugar
1 c. (packed) golden brown sugar
1 c. vegetable oil (I use Spectrum expeller-pressed canola oil)
4 large eggs
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 c. (packed) dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1 1/4 c. walnuts, chopped
6 mini loaf pans
nonstick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a bowl; whisk to blend.
With an electric mixer, beat pumpkin and both sugars on medium speed until blended. Slowly add the oil while beating. Continue beating and add the eggs, one at a time. Add the dry ingredients in four additions alternately with buttermilk in three additions. If using a stand mixer, keep the machine on low to medium-low while adding flour mixture and buttermilk. Otherwise, stir these in by hand. Stir in the cranberries and walnuts.
Coat the loaf pans all around with cooking spray. Divide the batter evenly among the six pans. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes. Test with a toothpick or cake tester, as well as by checking the bottom of the loaf. It should be lightly browned. If not, continue baking. Cool completely in pans.