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Cook Club: Beyond pumpkin pie

Pumpkin puree easy to make at home

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I’m not going to lie: I love a good pumpkin spice latte.

It may be cliche, but that flavor of fall has me hooked. I got rid of my Uggs years ago, but watching the leaves turn and feeling a chill in the air still stirs cravings for coffee laden with cinnamon and nutmeg.

And, sure, pass me a pumpkin ale too. And some pumpkin soup. Anyone have any pie?

Basically, I love pumpkin season. Thankfully, pumpkins are easy to find in Iowa in October. But not all pumpkins are created equal

The big, orange pumpkins we all know are perfect for carving into Jack-o’-lanterns and decorating door steps, but I wouldn’t recommend eating them — those gourds were bred for shape and color rather than flavor.

Instead, turn to pie pumpkins — small and sweet, they can be found at grocery stores, farmers markets or even directly from local pumpkin patch farms.

I got mine this year from Bass Farms in Mount Vernon, the source for my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share this year. Every week this summer, the CSA provided a box of fresh, organic, seasonal produce. As summer ended and fall took over, that meant a lot of winter squashes, including pie pumpkins.

The first time I was handed a pie pumpkin, several years ago from a CSA I had in Cedar Falls, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. My pumpkin had always come in a can, already pureed for me. But I quickly learned making puree from scratch is incredibly easy — simply a matter of baking the pumpkins, scraping out the flesh and blending it. Once made, the puree can be frozen in 2 cup portions — about the equivalent of a 15 ounce can — so you can pull it out when the urge to bake hits.

Beyond the traditional pumpkin pie, you can use the puree to make cookies, pancakes, muffins and even, yes, homemade pumpkin spice syrup for your coffee.

Don’t have a pie pumpkin handy? Butternut and kabocha squash make excellent substitutes.

And don’t stop at purees — pumpkins and their winter squash cousins are delicious roasted in the oven and cooked into soups and stews. Even the seeds are delicious — cleaned of their pulp and baked with a little salt and olive oil, they make a perfect snack.

This pumpkin cookie recipe is adapted from the blog Dear Crissy, who in turn adapted in from Better Homes and Gardens. It makes about 60 cookies. The cookies are cakey and soft — I turned some of the batter into muffins instead of cookies, which was a satisfying alternative way to cook them. If making muffins, try adding walnuts or other chopped nuts for a bit of crunch.

 

Pumpkin Puree:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Quarter pie pumpkins and remove stem, seeds and pulp. Place on baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake one hour or until pumpkin is soft. Let cool slightly; pumpkin will be easiest to remove from skins if still warm. With a spoon, scrape pumpkin flesh from skins and either place in blender or in a shallow pan or dish to blend with an immersion blender. Blend until puree is smooth. Substitute two cups pumpkin puree for one 15 ounce can puree.

 

Pumpkin Cookies

2 cups butter, softened

2 cups brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups pumpkin puree

4 cups flour

 

Frosting

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar

ground cinnamon to sprinkle on top

For cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat 2 cups butter for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin followed by flour. Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

For frosting: In a saucepan heat butter and brown sugar until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in milk and vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Let set until firm. Spread frosting on cookies. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

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