Baking Adventures: Everything Pumpkin

Wait – isn’t this site titled Chocolate and Paper? Why yes, yes it is. However, the autumnal season is juuuuust about here and I wanted to experiment with some fall recipes. The thought popped into my mind last week when we got our first shipment of pumpkins in at work. Naturally, my mind immediately went to “I can bake with those.” And while I’ve still got three cans of pumpkin puree from last year’s panic buying excursions, I decided I wanted to save those and make my own from scratch.

Now I can’t say yet if I was successful in any of these experiments, as everything is still in the process of baking or cooling. Still, I wanted to share with you all what I did on my day off from work that had absolutely nothing to do with writing. In fact, it has everything to do with this new homesteading adventure I’m on – regardless of the fact that I don’t have a farm, don’t have my own chickens, and must still buy ingredients from the store to make my own yummy goodness at home.

I am a renter. And while I rent directly from my parents (TL;DR family history – this house once belonged to my great great uncle who’s since passed), there’s still things I need to get their permission from to do. Like building a greenhouse on the property, or dramatically changing the front lawn into a giant raised bed garden. These are just pipe dreams right now, but I’m learning what I can now to hopefully make a successful garden in the future.

So. What exactly can I do now? Experiment with recipe, learn how to make more things for myself from scratch, and figure out what vegetables I’d like to grow in a baby container garden next spring. Renting instead of owning property can be a tricky business for both parties involved. I’m “homesteading” around that. This as part of that homesteading experiment.

This past summer I watched all the Collections of British Bake Off, so this inspired The Attempted Recipe section of this website. The theme for The Attempted Recipe is chocolate. But what if I wanted to bake other things? How about Baking Adventures? The name – inspired by Martina from king.kogi – can encompass more than just chocolate. So let’s call this baking post Baking Adventures. Today’s Baking Adventures: Everything Pumpkin.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Follow the link I attached to the header above to find where I got the recipe idea for this puree. For years I’ve steered clear of making certain things because I didn’t like tasting or feeling the ingredient’s texture. Pumpkin was one of those ingredients. Yes, breaking down a pumpkin is a lot of work. Yes, pumpkin feels a little funny as you work with it. And yes, pumpkin puree is absolutely delicious regardless of if you make it from scratch or use a family favorite brand.

Due to the “pumpkin spice craze” from the past decade, I actually shied away from making anything pumpkin. Not because of the work or the feels, but because it’s what was popular. I’ve never been one who follows the crowd. I try, in fact, to do quite the opposite. Let’s face it – everything comes back into style eventually. Just the other day I took a photo of a lavender-colored sweater vest at Target. Merely because I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I wore sweater vests as a ten year old and never wanted to see them again. I digress.

What were we discussing? Ah, pumpkin puree.

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Prepare your pumpkin. I used a Sugar Pumpkin from my local Home Depot. Cut the pumpkin in half, trim the stem, and remove seeds/stringies
  3. Optional: add butter or oil of choice to flesh side (just enough to coat lightly) and place cut-side down on parchment lined baking sheet
  4. Bake until skin is fork tender and can easily be pulled away from flesh
  5. Place pumpkin flesh in a bowl and mash with a fork
  6. Yield and bake time will vary depending on size of pumpkin

I do believe it can be kept in the fridge for a week. I used mine after only two days; let’s dive in!

Pumpkin Bread from Scratch

Bread. It’s not something I’ve got a whole lot of experience in. Actually, I’ve got zero experience in the art of bread. About a month ago I tried making a no-knead. Let’s just say that was a dense, uncooked mess!

This pumpkin bread was a bit more successful. I needed to substitute cloves for pumpkin pie spice, but I had everything else. The recipe, from Once Upon a Chef, wasn’t complicated at all. I always thought bread was complicated. Okay, some types of bread are. But was very happy with its simplicity.

The only time I got nervous was when the recipe called for two bread pans and I had one. And the time I – for some strange reason – had to Google: “How many hours are in 65 minutes?” *facepalm*

I checked the center of the loaf at 65 minutes (that’s an hour and five minutes, in case you had to Google it too…) and it was still a bit under-baked. Added ten more minutes and my old metal tester came out clean from the center. Yay!

I saved a quarter for myself, took two quarters over to my parents’ house, and gifted the last quarter to my grandma as thanks for using her pan. This recipe really produced a HUGE loaf! I must admit, Grandma did say it was a bit under-baked, but not enough to where it wasn’t edible. I suppose that’s still a win-win for my first loaves ever.

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

I think many families have their own collection of fall-related recipes at home. A few Christmases ago my mom and aunt compiled a Redman Family Cookbook of all the classics – along with some weird ones like a fermented cabbage jello salad (the 60s were weird) – and I could’ve sworn we had a soft pumpkin recipe. Nope. So, naturally, I turned to the internet once again for these cookies.

This recipe begins like most others in its category: combine and refrigerate three to six hours or (in my case) overnight.

Preheat your oven, scoop out into one inch balls and roll in powdered sugar. Well, I practically drenched them in sugar, but that’s okay! They do spread out just a bit (all that moisture from the pumpkin puree), so be careful with your spacing. I’m not the greatest baker, but my mom DID ask me for the recipe for this one!

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year to bake. Even with that fact, I hardly did these last few years. My fear was that I’d want to eat everything I made. You know what? If I don’t try to even hone a skill, then why do I like something such as this?

Spread your wings, test your baking skills (or learn a completely new skill), and showcase it. It doesn’t matter if you fail or not. Just give it a shot!

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