It’s the second week of October — are you impressed by my restraint at holding off on pumpkin recipes? Some years I’ve dedicated the whole month of October to pumpkin recipes. This year I’m planning to keep it to one week.
Why? Because I’ve realized not everybody loves pumpkin. In fact, the more I’ve paid attention to what people actually eat, I’ve realized that pumpkin is one of those things that people who love it will go after with gusto, and probably 75 percent of people don’t really care about it. Few people tend to hate it though.
One year I hosted a potluck dinner for friends with a pumpkin theme, and everybody had to cook something with pumpkin in it. And you know what I learned? Pumpkin doesn’t have that much flavor. Canned pumpkin, that is. If you were to find a pie pumpkin — they’re not the same as the jack o’lantern pumpkins — and roast it and get some caramelization, it’s going to taste better than canned, but even a pie pumpkin that’s cut up and steamed at home tastes incredibly bland. And it’s a lot of work, so I declare it not worth it. Save your effort for butternut squash, which has more flavor.
For that all-pumpkin dinner, as the host, I made pumpkin lasagna with a béchamel sauce. I couldn’t find enough pumpkins so I did have to use butternut squash for one of the layers, which is how I determined, side by side, that butternut squash tastes better.
But enough being a humbug, because really, eating something pumpkin-flavored is really more about the idea of eating something pumpkin and fall-like. And with lots of sugar, and that holy grail of spice mixes, pumpkin pie spice, whatever pumpkin treat you make is going to taste pretty good. So this week I have some pumpkin desserts for us.
First up, because I’ve been craving it, pumpkin fudge. This is not a true fudge, where you start from scratch and need a candy thermometer, but the kind where you melt white chocolate chips and combine it with a can of sweetened condensed milk and mix in your flavorings. These flavorings include pumpkin spice, a measly one-third cup of pumpkin puree, a smidge of vanilla and a pinch of kosher salt. It’s a heck of a lot of sugar, it will be slightly orange, and it will taste good whether you like pumpkin or not.
Second, this one just looked too yummy to pass by, a recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookie dough. Not the kind you bake into cookies, mind you, but the kind you eat with a graham cracker, or late at night when no one is watching, with a spoon. I always like the idea of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, but the truth is they’re usually too wet and dense. This cookie dough dip is exactly the right texture, and without raw eggs, it’s safe to eat.
And finally, for some actual baking and something to take to the office party, a chai spiced pumpkin pound cake. Chai’s seasonings aren’t too different from pumpkin pie spice, but include the extra flavors of cardamom and coriander, making it a little earthier. The chai spices are used in both the cake and the glaze topping.
Easy pumpkin fudge
3 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice, plus more for dusting (optional)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt
Line an 8- by 8-inch pan with parchment paper and grease with nonstick cooking spray. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine white chocolate and sweetened condensed milk. Microwave on medium power for 1 minute intervals, stirring after each minute, until smooth.
Fold in pumpkin purée, pumpkin spice, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Pour into prepared baking pan and place in refrigerator for 3 hours, or until fudge is set. Sprinkle with more pumpkin spice if using, cut into squares, and serve.
Edible pumpkin chocolate chip cookie dough
1/2 cup butter, soft
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3-4 tablespoons milk or cream
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
Cream the butter and sugar several minutes, until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin and vanilla. Mix well for about one minute.
Add about half of the flour and all the cinnamon and nutmeg. Gradually add the rest of the flour. Add milk or cream until desired consistency is reached. Fold in milk chocolate chips and white chocolate chips.
Eat as is or serve as a dip with Oreo's or graham crackers.
Chai spiced pumpkin pound cake
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Chai spice mix:
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground clove
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon chai spice mix (reserved from above)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch (12 cup) round Bundt pan. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each one is well incorporated. Add vanilla and pumpkin and beat on low speed until just incorporated.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, clove and coriander. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the chai spice mix for the glaze and whisk the rest into the flour mixture.
Gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low speed until just blended after each addition. Spoon the batter into the prepared Bundt pan.
Bake for 60-65 minutes or until a long wooden pick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes before inverting onto the wire rack to cool completely (about 2 hours).
Once the cake is cooled, make the glaze: in a medium microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter. Whisk in the vanilla and milk. Gently whisk the powdered sugar and chai spice mix into the melted butter mixture until just combined and then quickly whisk for about 30 seconds until glaze is smooth and of drizzling consistency. If glaze is too thick, add a little more milk. If glaze is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.
Immediately drizzle glaze over the top of the cake.