Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts with Spiced Chocolate Glaze

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Clearly, I’m a little late with my first October recipe. We were out of town for three weeks in September and the early part of October, which is a crazy time to be away from your bed (and your kitchen). We’re back now, though, just in time for the chilly weather, which means more incentive for staying in and baking! Also, even though the cold weather is hitting a little early this year, October is still my absolute favorite month for a lot of reasons: 1) It’s family history month 2) Our anniversary is this month! 3) Halloween!!! and 4) Pumpkin everything!!!

Obviously, we have PSLs now, but pumpkins themselves have been an important part of the North American diet for much longer. Pumpkins are a fruit native to the Americas. Seeds of the pumpkin family dating back to between 7000 and 5500 BC have been found in Mexico. In the beginning they were probably used to store items, due to their hearty exterior, but the pumpkin’s high nutritional value and the edibleness of the entire fruit (even the stem) meant it became an important food source. It is thought that about 10,000 years ago, pumpkins, as well as other varieties of squash, were on the verge of extinction. Luckily, the people of the time valued pumpkins enough to domesticate them, which likely led to their survival. Pumpkin, calabeza in Spanish, is still important ingredient in Mexican cuisine too, with dishes from mole to calabeza en tacha, or candied pumpkin, being created using every part of the pumpkin from the flower, to the pepitas, to the flesh.

The name pumpkin is derived from the Greek word for “large melon,” pepon. This changed to “pompon” in French (France became early importers of pumpkins from North America), then into “pumpion” in England, which eventually became the modern word “pumpkin”.

For us in the U.S., pumpkins are associated with autumn, and particularly Thanksgiving. They were likely part of the first Thanksgiving dinner, but probably as a savory dish, instead of the pumpkin pie we are used to today.  Pumpkins, already a staple in the diets of the Wampanoag at the time, were vital to the colonists, who likely wouldn’t have survived winter without them (and many didn’t–by the time of the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1621, more than half of the original colonists had died of starvation or disease).

Sweet pumpkin pies were likely first made in England with pumpkins imported from the States, then adopted by the colonists. France was an early importer of the fruit and recipes for sweet pies date to as early as the 1650’s in France. The earliest recipe for “pumpion pye” in England dates to Hannah Woolley’s The Gentlewoman’s Companion, from 1675.

In the United States, more than 50 million pumpkin pies are consumed during the Thanksgiving holiday, and there is a good chance that the pumpkin you’re eating is from Illinois. Illinois is the top grower of pumpkins in the United States. My friend Jennifer wrote a fascinating piece for Slow Food last year about the Dickinson squash, the heirloom variety of squash that is used by Libby’s, located in Morton, Illinois, for their canned pumpkin puree.

For my recipe today, I decided not to go with a traditional pumpkin pie, but to make pumpkin doughnuts instead. I love doughnuts. LOVE them. But I have noticed, in my early thirties, that I can no longer chow down on fried foods the way that I once did because I get heartburn. (Hi, I’m 100 years old.) With that in mind, these doughnuts are baked, which does mean you have to buy a doughnut pan, but also means you don’t have to deal with doughnut frying clean-up so… win?

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Baked Spiced Pumpkin Donuts with Cinnamon Chocolate Glaze
Makes 12 doughnuts.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground clove
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp unsalted butter, browned

For chocolate glaze:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz. chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne powder, optional

Instructions:

Move a rack to the top 2/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, and clove. Set aside.

In a small skillet or saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter until browned. You’ll know it’s done when it’s changed in color, it smells nutty, and it has stopped “popping”. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the buttermilk and egg together thoroughly. Stir in the pumpkin puree. Stir in only 2 tablespoons of the browned butter.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until everything is just combined. Don’t overmix, or your doughnuts could come out chewy.

Lightly grease two 6-doughnut pan, fill each indentation 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 4 minutes, turn pan 180 degrees, and continue to bake for 4 more minutes.

Allow the doughnuts to rest in the pan for about 5 minutes, before removing to a cooling rack. Repeat with additional batter.

To make glaze, heat the whipping cream until it’s just starting to steam, but not yet boil.

Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, and pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then mix the chocolate into the cream until full combined.

Add the cinnamon, and cayenne if you don’t mind a little spice.

Dip the bottom half of each doughnut into the bowl, twisting until it is covered by chocolate.

Enjoy!

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Warning: You will be tempted to eat all of these doughnuts straight from the oven, before they’ve properly cooled, and before you glaze them. While you won’t be disappointed because the doughnuts are pretty great on their own, I highly suggest you try them with the glaze. Pumpkin-chocolate is a genius combination, maybe because both ingredients originated from the same area? On top of that, these doughnuts are not only scrumptious, they are essentially Halloween-colored. And I’m a big proponent of delicious foods, color-coordinated with my favorite holidays. I hope you are too. Happy October, and happy baking!

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Pumpkin Indian Pudding

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November 13th was Indian pudding day. Who is coming up with these days, really? Honestly, I had no idea what hasty pudding or Indian pudding were three weeks ago. New Englanders are probably more familiar with this dish than the rest of the country. Being from the Midwest, I had never seen a recipe of this dish, let alone tasted it. I studied up, though, and here’s what I learned. Hasty pudding was first brought to America by the English colonists. The original version was probably more like a “porridge,” made with flour and water, rather than cornmeal and milk. It was likely sparingly sweetened, if at all.

When the colonists arrived in North America, the dish transformed into what became known as Indian pudding or Indian mush, thanks to the substitution of New World ingredients. After the American Indians showed the colonists how to cultivate corn, cornmeal was more plentiful in the colonies than the traditional flour. Because of this “hasty pudding” became “Indian pudding.” And, because of the abundance of milk, it was used instead of water, which thickened the dish to something more like pudding or custard and less like, well, gruel.

As I was looking at several different recipes, I noticed that this dish was often referred to as “porridge” or “mush.” Not the most appetizing description. When I started looking at some of the ingredients, “eggs, milk, molasses, cinnamon,” etc., I thought, well, none of this sounds that bad. And I was right!

In honor of the colonists who changed their old recipe to work in their new land, I decided to put a spin on this traditional dish with another New World ingredient, pumpkin. (No, not pumpkin spice. Just pumpkin.)

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Pumpkin Indian Pudding
Serves 4-6

Pumpkin Indian Pudding Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Pumpkin Indian Pudding Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 1 quart baking dish. Set aside.

To a medium bowl, add the pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir until smooth. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and milk. Try to get out any large clumps before turning on the heat. Turn on stove and continue to whisk for about 5-10 minutes, until the mixture just starts to boil. Turn off the stove and continue to whisk for about a minute. Add in the butter and continue to stir until it’s completely melted.

Add the cornmeal mixture to the pumpkin mixture in the bowl. To make sure the eggs don’t scramble, add a little of the hot mixture in and stir quickly to temper the eggs. Stir together until smooth.

Pour into your baking dish and then place the baking dish on a cookie sheet.

Cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Then, turn the oven down to 325 degrees and continue baking for 1 hour and 15 minutes. This dish does best without the oven door opening and closing. If you’re really itching to check on it, try to do so only once or twice.

Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Even after that, it will still be quite hot. Once removed from the oven, the surface will look a bit dry and may even be cracking a little. That’s perfect. Once you scoop into it, you will notice that it’s actually not dry at all. Also, don’t be surprised if it deflates a little after you take it out of the oven.

I highly suggest adding some vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream, while it’s still warm.

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The amount of time you need for cooking this does not exactly make this hasty. The original flour-based dish was much hastier. With the addition of the cornmeal, a longer cooking time is needed for the cornmeal to absorb more liquid, which results in a thicker, creamier texture.

The addition of pumpkin makes this the perfect dish for fall and early (*cringe*) winter. As Alex and I were eagerly scooping it into our mouths, we came up with this description: something between pumpkin pie, without the crust, and a gingerbread cookie. Sold yet?

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