As temperatures turn chilly and autumn-painted leaves flutter to the ground, attention turns to those glowing orange gourds. They guarantee fun: jack-o'-lanterns, roasted seeds and mouth-watering treats.
"It's kind of a sensory calling towards fall," says Graham Sheldon, head chef of Ashland Creek Inn and Cooking School. "Pumpkins are so associated with all of those things we love this time of year like pumpkin pie, breads "¦ feelings of home and family and good times."
Yields one 10x15 or two nine-and-a-half inch round cakes.
3 Cups flour
2 Cups brown sugar
1 pound unsalted butter
2 Cups fine chopped pecans
3 Pounds cream cheese
3 Cups sugar
2 1/2 Cups canned pumpkin
2 Tablespoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 Teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon ground allspice
Crust: Combine flour and sugar, then cut in butter until crumbly and toss in pecans. Set aside 1 1/2 cups for topping and press remaining crust into glass baking pan.
Filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and beat until well blended. Pour over crust and sprinkle with reserved topping, then bake one hour in 325 degree oven, rotating halfway through the cooking time for consistency.
Courtesy of Susanne Glass, baker, Country Cottage Café in Jacksonville
selection & storage
When choosing pumpkin from your garden or the produce patch, select smaller pumpkins weighing between two and five pounds. Heavier pumpkins yield softer flesh while lighter and larger pumpkins offer tougher "meat" and a large hollow at the center more suited to carving than baked goods.
Once plucked from the vine, pumpkins will keep for several months in a cool dry place or cold storage. When prepared, whether baked or boiled, pumpkin should be used within 2-3 days or stored wrapped in the freezer. To use fresh pumpkin in recipes calling for canned, decrease liquid to compensate for the more runny consistency of fresh pumpkin.
pumpkin roll dessert
1 1/3 Cups sugar
1 Cup prepared pumpkin
1 ½ Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
½ Teaspoon orange zest
1 ¼ Cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ Teaspoon salt
2 Teaspoons baking powder
3 Teaspoons cinnamon
1 Teaspoon each ginger and nutmeg
½ Cup finely ground nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds)
½ Cup powdered sugar
2 Cups powdered sugar
8 Ounces cream cheese (light is OK)
½ Cup butter, softened,
½ Cup whipping cream (whipped)
Prepare a rimmed cookie sheet by greasing, lining with parchment paper, then greasing again. Preheat oven to 350˚.
In a large bowl beat the eggs at high speed for 5 minutes until light and airy. Add the sugar to the eggs and beat for 1-2 minutes. Add pumpkin and orange juice and beat for another minute until combined.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, spices and nuts. Stir to blend. Combine dry flour mixture with egg mixture, then pour into prepared sheet pan and bake for 12-15 minutes until cake springs back when touched.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Place a dishtowel the size of the cookie sheet on a flat area and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Carefully unroll the cake from the parchment onto the towel, beginning at one end and finishing at the other. Place rolled cake seam side down in refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
For filling, beat together the sugar, cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Fold in the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture, incorporating well. Remove chilled cake from refrigerator and unroll it onto a flat counter. Beginning at inside end, spread filling very thickly, slowly rolling in the same direction as you did before chilling, forming a "log" as you spread. Make sure you do not spread filling all the way to the end.
Once the roll is done, seal in plastic or waxed paper and freeze overnight. Slice while frozen, sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar and allow to soften slightly before serving.
Recipe courtesy of Sandy Dowling, chef, The Willows Cooking School in Central Point
Pumpkin pancakes are a year-round breakfast staple for guests at the inn. While Sheldon uses canned pumpkin pie purée for convenience and consistency, fresh pumpkin is a nice touch when the harvest is fresh. You can make your own batter or use a mix.
"Basically, you just use any pancake mix that you want, Bisquick® or something, then add pumpkin pie purée into the mix in lieu of some of the water, then add spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg," Sheldon says.
To use fresh pumpkin, try baking the entire pumpkin at 350 degrees (stab a few holes to vent steam) then slice and remove seeds and skin. Baking not only yields more flavorful fruit, but preserves pumpkin's hefty dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Another easy add-in for bread recipes lacking in depth of flavor, consider using pumpkin for a richer bread flavor and throw some fresh cranberries in for good measure.
Jacksonville's Country Cottage owner Chris Georgiou favors merging cream cheese and pumpkin, creating a cheesecake which his café can hardly make fast enough.
"I think the cheesecake, like anything with pumpkin, reminds people of homey Thanksgiving, fireplace type scents and all that," Georgiou says.
A longtime pumpkin favorite for Sandy Dowling, head chef at The Willows Cooking School and B&B in Central Point, are roasted pumpkin seeds which she says are "a must for the kids."
A kid-friendly recipe if ever there was one, scatter seeds on a dry cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, remove as much of the 'pumpkin guts' as possible and roast at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully remove additional pulp and loosen seeds from the sheet, then roast another 5 to 10 minutes until crisp. For added flavor, sprinkle seeds with kosher salt and roast 10 minutes more on a cookie sheet coated with extra virgin olive oil.
Enjoy the pumpkin season. "When you're having a sweet treat with pumpkin, it doesn't feel like you're cheating on anything because it's tasty and it's good for you," Georgiou says.