Embrace Autumn by pairing cheese with the season’s notorious gourd.
While both Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks start pushing pumpkin latte season into late August, the right time—botanically speaking—to buy the gorgeous orange gourds fresh from the farm in most parts of the United States starts in late September and stretches into late November. For culinary purposes, pass on the jack-o-lantern varieties and reach for sugar pie or baking pumpkins with names like Baby Bear, Early Sweet Sugar Pie, and Orange Smoothie, as they are smaller and have much sweeter flesh.
To prepare a homemade pumpkin puree consistent to canned pumpkin (over 80% of which is produced in Illinois from a cultivar called the Libby Select Dickinson Pumpkin), cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast it, cut sides down on a baking sheet in a 400-degree oven until it’s fork tender, which will take between 45 minutes and an hour depending on the size of the fruit. Cool the baked pumpkin to room temperature, scoop out the flesh, and whizz it in a food processor until very, very smooth. Depending on both the variety of the pumpkin and how much rain fell while it was growing, you may want to strain it through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth for about 30 minutes to match the consistency of canned pumpkin called for in most holiday baking recipes.
The amount of puree a pumpkin will yield varies based on the overall water content of the fruit. But as a rule of thumb, a 3-pound pumpkin will give you enough puree for a recipe that calls for a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree. If your gourd is bigger than that, freeze the resulting puree in an air-tight container for up to three months and thaw for use without any change in texture.
Five Savory Pureed Pumpkin Ideas
Whether your leftover pumpkin puree is homemade or from a can, consider these tasty and savory ideas to use it up during the holiday entertaining season.
- Slather a tablespoon of puree inside a cheddar and apple sandwich before grilling it.
- Combine ¾ cup of puree and 3 cups bechamel to create a mac and cheese base.
- Stir ¼ cup of warm puree into 1 cup of warm and spicy queso dip.
- Add ½ cup to a quart of spicy chili to round it out with a sweet undertone.
- Combine ¼ cup of pumpkin puree with ¾ hummus and top with toasted pepitas for an autumnal dip.
No Knead Pumpkin Focaccia
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1 package instant yeast
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 6 Tbsp olive oil
- Flaky sea salt
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tsp grated fresh garlic
- 1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
- In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.
- Add 1½ cups warm water and pumpkin puree to the bowl.
- Use a dough whisk or wooden spoon to mix dough until all flour is incorporated.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 3 hours, or in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours for a slower, fermented rise.
- Coat bottom and sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with three tablespoons of olive oil.
- Transfer dough to the pan, turning to fully coat with oil.
- Gently shape dough to fit pan and cover with plastic wrap.
- Let sit at room temperature until it spreads and rises to fit the pan, about 2 to 3 hours.
- Heat oven to 450˚F with rack placed in the center.
- Drizzle another tablespoon or two of oil over the dough.
- With oiled fingers, press straight down into the dough to create deep dimples, then sprinkle with sea salt.
- Transfer to the oven, and reduce heat to 425˚F.
- Bake for 22 to 28 minutes until the top is golden and the bottom is crispy.
- Remove from the oven and cool until slightly warm, about 15 minutes.
- While bread is cooling, combine butter, garlic, and chopped rosemary.
- Drizzle this mixture over the focaccia, cut it into slices, and serve.
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