With Fall fully upon us, pumpkins have been on everyone's minds. With posts like those from Gluten-free Girl and Bakingsheet, by this last weekend I was starting to really crave my own pumpkin treats. I had two small cheese pumpkins left over from the CSA and decided I was going to make a pumpkin puree with them. Envisioning the pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheese-cakes, and pumpkin pancakes I could make, I sat down on the couch and surrounded myself with all of the old Thanksgiving editions of the magazines I had in the house - I figured that this was as good of a place to begin as any. I came across recipes for sour-cream pumpkin pies, pumpkin whoopie pies, pumpkin muffins and bread, and finally, this little jewel in last year's edition of Bon Appetit: Pumpkin profiteroles with maple carmel syrup. The picture was of a crisp, flakey pastry with a deeply orange-brown caramel melting down it's side. YUM. I was sold.
First, I had to figure out what a 'profiterole' was: (from epicurous.com)
A miniature cream puff filled with either a sweet or savory mixture. Savory profiteroles are usually served as appetizers.
...and a day full of other cooking projects in the works, I decided to take the easy road, and purchase puff-pastry shells instead (yeah, yeah, I know I said a day or two ago that I wanted to make everything from scratch, but hey, only so much cooking can fit into one rainy weekend! Plus, I am currently without a beater since I accidently poured my gingerbread batter into the little openings to the motor two weeks ago...but that's another story...and a good excuse to finally order that kitchaid I've been wanting...and Loving Boyfriend won't be able to stop me...ha ha ha ha ha).
So, on to the pumpkins...pumpkins are members of the gourd family, meaning that they're related to squash and watermelons (I didn't know that!). They're a great source of vitamin A, and can be used in place of any winter squash in a variety of recipes. Smaller pumpkins will generally be more tender and have a better taste than the larger sized ones, and if you can, don't go with the jack-o-lantern variety. To roast them, chop them into large pieces, leaving the skin on, and place them in a baking sheet (with a lip) face down in about a 1/4 inch of water. Bake them at about 400F for approx. 45 minutes. Alternatively, you could place each piece in tin-foil, tightly wrapped, with a splash of water or butter too. Once it's finished, take it out of the oven and unwrap them, letting them cool. After scraping it from the skin, you can then mash the pumpkin or put it in a food processor with just a pinch of salt. Viola! No more canned pumpkin for you! Just homemade pumpkin puree...freshly made or frozen. And as always, organic and farm-fresh will always taste better.
Next, the custard: (from Bon Appetit, but 1/3)
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup of freshly made pumpkin puree
1/3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp. ground ginger
1/3 tsp. ground allspice
dash of cloves
dash of salt
1/4 cup of sugar
3 large egg yolks
Preheat the oven to 375F. Whisk cream and next six ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Whisk sugar and egg yolks together in a medium-sized bowl, and then gradually stir in the hot pumpkin mixture into the bowl. Pour into a glass baking dish (since you'll be mixing it up later, it doesn't matter how big, really), cover with foil and place in a larger dish with water up to 1/2 of the side. Bake until set in the center - about 45 minutes, and then cool completely (can be made up to 1 day ahead). This ends up tasting like a creamy, custardy pumpkin pie filling.
Now here's the yummiest part.
Maple Caramel: (this will make more than you need; you could halve it or use 1/3 and still be fine)
1 cup maple sugar (you can find it in most health food stores)
1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
I actually forgot the maple sugar at the grocery store - can you believe that? So I just added a little maple syrup to the mix - which is why my caramel came out lighter colored than it would be with the maple sugar, but it still tasted excellent. I also used rum instead of bourbon because I had it on hand.
Stir sugar and butter over medium heat until well blended and smooth. Mix in the cream and bring to a boil, stirring until caramel bits dissolve. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and add bourbon and vanilla. Return to heat and simmer 1 minute. (Can be made 3 days ahead).
Now, maybe because I didn't have all the same ingredients, or maybe I halved the recipe wrong, but I never had any caramel bits - I also let it simmer a bit longer until it turned a richer, darker caramel color, because it was really light in the beginning. It's also rather difficult re-warm because it separates.
To assemble, just bake the shells according to the package, remove the top and stuff with the custard, replace the top of the shell, then drizzle with the syrup. You could also garnish it with chopped nuts and fresh whipped cream, which would be divine...but again, I don't have a beater at the moment, so we just had them plain. These actually look and taste really elegant, so would be a unique way to serve guests a pumpkin-y end to a great autumn meal.