Monday, October 4, 2010

easy pumpkin puree: it's that time of year again

Oh hello, is it autumn already? That means it's my favorite time of the year. Time for jackets and pretty scarves, for hot chocolate and cuddling, oh and of course, everything pumpkin. I have gone through yet again another year where I wasn't able to go apple picking, but I told myself that I would at least go to a farmer's market to buy some pumpkins. And I did just that. So this is my first attempt ever at home-made pumpkin puree and I have to say that the experience was quite enjoyable.

In fact, I've been experiencing a couple of new things lately in school. Yesterday, a couple of my fellow classmates and I and some of our chefs catered the desserts for a benefit gala in the Old Port. We learnt how to set up our table, arrange the plates and decorate each one by carefully arranging the fruit coulis, the cake and the fruits. It was a fantastic experience and I loved spending time with my friends and chefs outside of school. It's a great way to get to know each other in a different environment; not to mention sample some delicious creations! It's great to get to have all these opportunities and see different aspects of the pastry industry.

It really opens up your eyes to all the possibilities there are available for us beginners and I'm grateful for all our chefs' support. It's always good to know that there is someone who will support and encourage you to try new things. So it's on to new things! Just like this pumpkin puree. Be patient because I plan on actually using the puree to make things with it!

Pumpkin Puree

Directions: October 2010 Canadian Living Magazine

The best pumpkins for purees are sugar pumpkins. These are smaller than the big mama pumpkins that are grown for jack-o-lanterns, but not the teeny tiny ones for decorations. Be sure to pick ones that are as clean as possible and that don't have a rough gray skin. The only thing I forgot to do was weigh the pumpkins before cutting to give you an approximate idea as to how much puree it yields depending on weight. I used two average sized sugar pumpkins and got about 6 cups.

Remove the stems of the pumpkins with a large, sharp knife. Be sure to buy a set of muscles too because you're going to need them! My suggestion is to take your time and cut slowly with the knife away from you. Pumpkins aren't flat, therefore they have a tendency to move around, so be careful and don't cut yourself!

Halve and remove the inside of the pumpkins with a spoon or your hands (don't forget to keep the seeds! - see note below). Place halves with their cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in a 350 F oven until flesh is brown and tender, about 60-75 minutes. Prick with a fork to check tenderness. Leave to cool.

Remove the soft flesh with a spoon to puree in a food processor. I used my hand-held blender because I don't have a big processor. Now I used a trick I saw on Annie's Eats: place puree in a paper towel-lined sieve on top of a bowl to strain out all the liquid. Let in strain for a good hour, you'll see how much liquid comes out (I got almost 1 1/2 cups!). Refrigerate in an air tight container for up to 4 days or freeze up to one month.

There you go, easy home-made pumpkin puree!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Don't even think about throwing out those seeds! Roasted pumpkin se
eds make a great snack and you can season them any way you wish. I found a recipe online that said to add vegetable oil and spices, but I think next time I might put a little less oil than I did because they were a little too slippery and well...oily.

Preheat oven to 275 F and place seeds on a baking sheet. Season with a little bit of vegetable oil or melted butter and salt. (I only wanted salt but you could season with any kind of spice, such as paprika, lemon and thyme, garlic or even cinnamon and nutmeg). Roast for about 10-20 minutes. Check every 5 minutes - they burn quickly! Om nom nom!

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