Cinderella's Fairy Godmother had the right idea about pumpkins.
The mundane pumpkin is often bewitchingly raised to the rank of dessert as pumpkin pie. But it can get quite boring if it is the only pumpkin recipe in your reportoire.Many people don't realize that pumpkin is a very versatile and easy-to-use ingredient. The early colonists considered it a daily staple so much so that the following verse was written in the 17th century:
"We have pumpkins at morning, pumpkins at noon.
If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon."
Along with soups, main dishes and desserts, they even made pumpkin beer which had the same effect, if not taste, as the original version made with barley.
Although sound, ripe pumpkins will keep a year or more if stored separately in a cool dry place and occasionally wiped off, most of us do not have the forethought or, more importantly, the room to do so. (A pumpkin can weigh up to 100 pounds!) Furhtermore, an inexpensive can of pureed pumpkin, which takes up very little room indeed, goes a long way in saving time and effort while making a very satisfactory substitute.
All of the recipes that follow call for canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), but if you'd rather use the fresh, you can easily make your own puree. Simply cut a pumpkin into halved or quarters and remove the seeds and fibers. (The seeds may be cleaned and toasted in a low oven for another treat.)
Place the pumpkin pieces cut-side down down in a jelly roll pan containing about 1/4 inch of water. Bake the pumpkin at 400 degrees until it is tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 to 45 minutes. Scoop out the pulp and put it through a food mill or processor, then put it in a seive to drain well. One pound yields about 3/4 cup of pulp. Canned or freshly prepared pumpkin puree can be frozen for several months.
Remember when chosing pumpkins that the small ones are usually tastiest and most tender. Pick those that are heavy for their size, and that have bright, unblemished skins.
Here are some interesting recipes which are prefect for tired-of-pie pumpkin lovers, as well as those who never gave pumpkin a second thought except on Halloween. PUMPKIN 'N CREAM CHEESE CAKE ROLL (8 to 10 servings) 3 large eggs 1 cup sugar 2/3 cup canned pumpkin 1 teaspoon lemon juice 3/4 cup flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1 teaspoon ginger 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped Filling: 1 cup confectioners' sugar 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Have all ingredients at room temperature. Lightly grease a 15x10x1-inch jelly role pan, then cover with a large sheet of waxed paper. Grease and flour paper. Set aside.
Place eggs in large mixing bowl and beat at high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice by hand. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and spices, and gently fold into pumpkin-egg mixture. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle top with chopped nuts; then very lightly press them into the batter with your fingertips. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until cake is springy when touched lightly. (Do not overbake or cake will crack when rolled.) Remove cake from oven and sprinkle with a little extra confectioners' sugar. Cover with a dishtowel and reverse onto countertop. Remove pan and peel off waxed paper. Roll towel and cake together to cool. While cake is cooling, make filling.
Place all filling ingredients in a mixing bowl, and beat until completly smooth. Unroll cooled cake and spread evenly with filling. Reroll and refrigerate until serving time. (Cake may be frozen. Thaw in refrigerator before serving.) PUMPKIN ROCKS (Makes about 4 dozen) 3/4 cup brown sugar (packed) 3/4 cup butter 1 large egg 1/2 cup canned pumpkin 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon cloves 1 cup seedless raisins or currents 1/2 cup chopped nuts
Thoroughly cream sugar with butter. Beat in egg until blended. Add pumpkin and mix until blended. Add remaining (dry) ingredients; then mix in raisins (or currents) and nuts. Drop by scant tablespoons into greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. NUTTY PUMKIN WAFFLES (Makes about 6-8 very large waffles) 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour 2 tablespoons sugar 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ginger 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon cloves 1 3/4 cups milk 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 cup canned pumpkin 3/4 cup pecan or walnuts, chopped 3 large eggs, separated 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Combine all ingredients except the egg whites and cream of tartar. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff but not dry. Fold into the pumpkin batter. Bake on a hot waffle iron until done. If desired, top with a scoop of ice cream. PUMPKIN-PECAN CARAMEL FLAN (6 to 8 servings)
This elegant dessert is a superb substitute for pumpkin pie, especially for those who don't like to eat or prepare pie pastry. Use your imagination in choosing a mold; any shape with the right capacity (7 to 8 cups) will do. 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, divided 1 1/2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons water 2 cups (1 16-ounce can) pumpkin 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1 teaspoon ginger 3/4 teaspoon cloves 1/4 teaspoon allspice 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel (yellow part only) 3 large eggs, beaten 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk 3/4 cup chopped pecans Pecans halves for garnish
Place 6 tablespoons of the brown sugar in a saucepan with the butter. Stir over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil one minute, add the water, then boil for four minutes more. Pour into a 7-to-8-cup heat proof mold; then immediately tilt the mold so the entire inside is coated. Set aside.
Combine the rest of the brown sugar (7/8 cup), pumpkin, spices and lemon peel. Then add the beaten eggs, evaporated milk and chopped nuts, and mix well. Pour the mixture into prepared mold, and place it in a pan of very hot water. (Add enough water so that it comes within an inch of the top of the mold.) Bake at 325 degrees for two hours, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Remove mold from water and cool slightly.
Refrigerate until chilled. Loosen edges with a small knife. Cover mold with a serving dish, then invert mold and dish together. Remove mold. Decorate flan with pecan halves and serve with the following vanilla sauce. Vanilla Sauce: 1 cup heavy cream (or light cream for a not-as-rich sauce) 1 teaspoon vanilla (or 1/2 vanilla bean, split) 3 tablespoons sugar 2 egg yolks Pinch salt
In a small saucepan, heat cream to the simmering point (with vanilla bean, if using). In the top of a double boiler, mix sugar, egg yolks and salt. Add a little of the hot cream, stirring constantly. Add the remaining hot cream, continuing to stir. Then place over simmering water and heat, while stirring, until mixture coats a spoon. Add vanilla (if not using bean). Serve hot or cold with flan. RUM PUMPKIN MOUSSE (6 to 8 servings) 1 envelope (scant tablespoon) unflavored gelatin 1/4 cup water 3/4 cup sugar, divided 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin 4 large eggs, separated 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon each ginger, nutmeg and allspice 1/8 teaspoon cloves 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (yellow part only) 1 cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons dark rum
Sprinkly gelatin over 1/4 cup water to soften, then dissolve by placing pan over hot water.In a medium mixing bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin, egg yolks, spices and lemon peel. Gradually add dissolved gelatin to pumpkin mixture while continuously stirring. Place egg whites in a large mixing bowl, and heat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the next 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into pumpkin mixture. Using same bowl and beaters (it is not necessary to wash them first), beat heavy cream until thick. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the rum, and continue beating until sugar is dissolved. Gently, but thoroughly, fold into the pumpkin-egg white mixture.
Carefully spoon mousse into a large (approximately 6-cup) serving dish or 6 to 8 small, individual bowls. If desired, garnish with candied ginger or sprinkle top with gingersnap crumbs. Candied violets also look very attractive. Refrigerate at least three hours before serving. May be made a day ahead.