Sugar Pumpkins in Connecticut

Is it their silly, bulbous shape that makes us love them?  Is it their unflinching shade of orange?  Does their candy-loaded symbolism spark memory and ignite 2015 718neurological pleasure centers?  Do we even need to analyze a love so pure?  Roasted pumpkins melt in the oven – their shapes collapse, their so-bright colors tarnish; they surrender excess juice and shrink into lumps of dark, fragrant pulp. Sweet, but a little sad.  Don’t worry, pumpkins!  We can bring you back to your glory!  When we puree the pulp with brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon and salt, a light pour of dark rum, that less-than-orange goop becomes the base for cookies and classic pie and brightens harvest evenings right up.  Indeed, this same puree base can be transformed into both cookies and pie.  Knowing that the oven is revved up, the pumpkins are gloriously generous with their flavors, how will you choose which one to bake?  Moral of the story?  Yes, BUY that extra pumpkin at the grocery or PICK that extra one at the pumpkin patch or STOP at the roadside farm stand and then make them both.  Don’t forget to scrape the seeds and toast them on a sheet pan with sea salt, fennel and a little rosemary.  And know that the small pumpkins, known as “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins are the best for baking – the big ones are best to light up the night.


Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Maple Pecan Icing

For the cookies:

1 cup shortening (try Spectrum, a natural, non-transfat brand); Crisco works, too.

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup pumpkin pulp (two small “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins or 1 small can)

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 Tbs. dark rum (optional)

2  1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. powdered or fresh, grated ginger

1 tsp. salt

Cream shortening & sugar together. Add egg, then pumpkin, then lemon, then sifted dry ingredients.  Use two spoons and drop cookie dough in approximately 2″ discs.  Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges.

For the icing:

1 cups sifted powdered sugar

2 Tbs. butter

1 Tbs. milk

2 Tbs. maple syrup

1 Tbs. vanilla

1 cup pecans (broken and toasted for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven)

Place all the ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and mix until smooth.  Add a little extra milk (only a few drops at at time) to thin the consistency if needed.  Once the cookies have cooled, spread the icing on each one, then top with pecan pieces.


Pumpkin Pie in Gingersnap Crust

For the crust:

25 crushed ginger snap cookies (store bought OK; recipe for homemade gingers forthcoming).

4 ounces butter (melted)

Place the cookies in a food processor and pulse until they form a coarse crumb.  Put them in a pie plate, pour the melted butter over them, then pat them until the crust is smooth and slightly moistened all around.  Set aside.

For the pie filling:

1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (the pulp of 2-3 sugar pumpkins or 1 large can)

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 Tbs. butter

3 Tbs. heavy cream

4 oz. milk

2 Tbs. maple syrup

1 Tbs. vanilla

1 Tbs. dark rum (optional)

1/2 cup candied orange zest

In a large bowl (or mixer), whisk all the ingredients together until smooth.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate.  Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned and the center is firm (not liquid).  Allow to cool.  To finalize the color, consider topping the finished pie with candied orange zest.

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