Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pumpkin "butter" on fresh scones; pumpkin cookies. AKA I love Thanksgiving.

The period between Halloween and Thanksgiving is what I have (just) decided to call "Pumpkin Mania!" It's the time of the year when I indulge in pumpkin goodies and love them so much that say to myself, "Hey, I should make this anytime during the year!" But of course, that never happens. I just forget about it until next Halloween.

So, I better take full advantage of the 2007 Thanksgiving season. Here are a couple pumpkin yummies to start:

Trader Joe's recently introduced Pumpkin Butter to their stock. The label's suggestions for uses include "pastry filling, poultry glaze, ice cream topping, on toast or mixed with fat free cream cheese."

They're also perfect to spread on warm plain scones. A store-bought mix by Sticky Fingers Bakeries will do, but making them from scratch is so easy!

Boxing Day Scones, Sara Perry and Leigh Beisch, Holiday Baking
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk
Strawberry jam (in this case, pumpkin butter), for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease it lightly and set aside.
2. Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then lightly whisk. Use a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers to cut or work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs.
3. Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture, and add the buttermilk all at once. Stir the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Using lightly floured hands, gather the dough into a soft ball and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 4 parts and pat each one into a 3/4 inch thick circle. Cut each circle into 4 or 6 wedges.
4. Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet, and bake in the center of the oven until the scones rise and turn golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack. Serve warm, split and spread with pumpkin butter.

These are best eaten freshly baked of course, but if you store them in an airtight container and pop them in a 325-degree oven later for about 5 minutes, they're almost as good as new!

Ah yes, it's now time for the pumpkin cookie. There are basically two kinds: iced/frosted and chunky. I used to fancy the chunky kind, chock full of dried cranberries and pecans or walnuts. There was a recipe I used to have back in seventh and eighth grade -- as a library aide for my middle school, I had a ton of spare time on my hands and explored the stash in the storage area and found a kids' holiday cookbook with a recipe for the best pumpkin cookies I've ever tasted -- perfectly spiced, with a balanced pumpkin flavor and great texture, more cookie instead of cakey.

I wish I could share that recipe, but unfortunately, I lost it and can't remember what the book was to find it again. Even today I haven't been able to find a suitable replacement for chunky pumpkin cookies, but I was recently recommended a killer recipe for the kind slathered in frosting -- browned butter frosting, to be exact. Courtesy good ol' Betty Crocker.

Perhaps later this month: pumpkin cheesecake..?

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