Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pumpkin Pie: Fairytale vs Pie Pumpkin vs Libby vs Costco

The first Thanksgiving DH and I shared after we were married we observed as just the two of us. I made two pumpkin pies. DH questioned my sanity, "We're only two people. We don't need two pies." I informed him, "One pie for me and one for you." Despite his disbelief, I did eat that entire pie myself (and some of his) within about 24 hours. A serving of pumpkin pie for me is a quarter of the pie, for pumpkin pie is my favorite non-chocolate dessert. :)

Of course, I had to make pumpkin pie from my roasted pumpkin I was curious if the homemade pumpkin purees would yield a superior pie.

I began by thawing 2 cups of each of my pumpkin purees: "pie pumpkin" and fairytale. Then I removed 2 tablespoons from each to bring the total volume down to 15-oz. I mixed the extra tablespoons with a little powdered ginger and a little formula to make a tasty lunch for Little Hands.

Above is a picture of each of the purees I used. I used a can of Libby's as my tried-and-true control lest the other two be awful!

A point of clarification. This is Libby's canned pumpkin. It is not Libby's canned pumpkin pie mix.

I baked the pies with identical spicing and HEB crusts. As you can see, I had difficulties gauging when the two homemade pies were baked. The Libby's starts to freckle just a bit when it's perfect, yet neither they fairytale nor the pie pumpkin freckled. I pulled both pies when the fairytale lost it's gleam. The fairytale ended up slightly over-baked and the pie pumpkin embarrassingly over-baked. They still taste fine. The real sin of over-baking is the ugly, cracked surfaces.

One of our Thanksgiving guests surprised us by bringing a Costco pumpkin pie. There was no shortage of pie at our feast! The fairytale is the prettiest: a beautiful pumpkin orange. The pie pumpkin started out an ugly yellow, but baked up to be fairly identical in color the Libby's pumpkin. The Costco color was prettier than the Libby's, but not as stunning as the Fairytale.

I considered making a pie chart of pie consumption, but I'll spare you that geekiness :)

The fairytale slices are slightly sweeter than the rest. The other three pies were fairly indistinguishable in quality of taste; however, DH did note the Costco has a touch more salt in its recipe. I feel the guests tended toward the home roasted pumpkin pies because they were politely honoring the fact they were more work to make. (This was not a blind taste test.)

Overall, my opinions:

  • Fairytale yielded the tastiest and prettiest pie. However, those advantages were so slight that I would not recommend that route! I will probably roast my own fairytale pumpkin again next year, but only because that's my brand of crazy. I do not frown upon any pie from other sources.
  • Pie Pumpkin was identical to Libby's save for being slightly more yellow. It's not worth the effort at all.
  • Libby's is just as good as home roasted pumpkin. It's a darker color prior to baking; I'd guess that to be a result of the high temperatures required in canning.
  • Costco is just as good as Libby's, and it's a bigger pie. A Costco pie is completely the way to go if you're pressed for time, have a huge crowd, or don't enjoy baking pies.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pumpkin and Marscapone Roulade

This cake is homemade on an entirely new level of effort. A pumpkin jelly roll cake made from home-roasted fairytale pumpkin with a filling of homemade mascarpone and homemade candied ginger. This cake is decadent, sweet, creamy, and luscious.

I didn't set out to make a cake from scratch short of grinding the wheat, milking the cow, and obtaining the appropriate chemicals and processes to create baking soda. It kind of happened.

About a month ago I needed candied ginger for a berry cake. I was at a grocery store which doesn't sell candied ginger. Going to a second store with Little Hands wasn't an option, so I purchased half a pound of fresh ginger. Then I followed David Lebovitz's recipe on how to candy the ginger. The whole house smelled lovely. (That is, if you like the smell of ginger.) I frequently dipped a spoon into the syrup for a lick, and I wished there had been enough syrup to attempt to make a homemade ginger ale. The candied ginger itself? A lifetime supply considering I don't like it as a candy.

Then I happened to roast my own fairytale pumpkin.. It yielded so much pumpkin that I set out to do something with the pumpkin. It just so happened that the Blue-Eyed Bakers posted a recipe called, Buche d'Halloween (aka Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream).

I happened to have pinned recipe for homemade marascapone and an appropriate amount of cream in the refridgerator. I made the cheese from scratch because it sounded interesting. (It was. I'll do it again in the future.)

The result was rich and creamy. It was a wonderful fall desert deviating from my tendencies toward pies and peppermint.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pureed Fairytale Pumpkin

I wanted to roast and puree a pumpkin for Little Hands. At Central Market I asked a produce stocker for tips on how to select a pie pumpkin. The staff at Central Market are fabulous - when you can find one; they really know their products. He gave me great advice on how to select a pumpkin, and then he suggested that what I really ought to try was the fairytale pumpkins. He said that they are sweeter than the little "pie pumpkins" we were looking at.

Did you know fairytale pumpkins are edible? I had thought that they were decorative pumpkins. I had expected them to be unappetizing like the pumpkins more commonly used for jack o' lanterns.

Fairytale pumpkins were $8 compared to the $2.50 for a pie pumpkin. I was relucant to pay that much for a pumpkin; Mama-hona kindly purchased me this beauty. This pumpkin is larger than I wanted because the pricing scheme was flat regardless of pumpkin size. I couldn't reach the smaller ones in the back of the stack, and the larger ones seemed enormous.

I followed the directions on how to roast a fairytale pumpkin this blog. Essentially: whack it up, clean it out, stick it in the oven at 400* for 2 and a half hours, puree it, drain it, et voila!

My notes to add.

  • The majority of my pumpkin was going into baking applications, so I wanted to get rid of as much water as possible. Unlike smaller squash, don't add water to the roasting pan. The liquids will be added back in at baking time; it is better to add liquid than have a soupy batter!
  • Cover the roasting pan in tin foil. Pumpkin is thick, so it needs all the help it can get!
  • Cut the pumpkin into smaller, even pieces. I unnecessarily followed the natural lines of the pumpkin and the larger pieces took 45 minutes longer to cook than the thinner pieces.

I squeezed the puree in a tea towel; the liquid was carrot-orange bright. Then I left puree in the fridge overnight to drain. The puree itself is a likewise happy, bright color.

Once I was happy with the consistancy, I divided it into 1 cup increments for freezing. One can of pumpkin is 2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons. Lucky Little Hands will get to eat the extra tablespoons :)

My ~24-lb pumpkin yielded a half gallon of pumpkin puree. In more useful statistics, a little over 4, 15-oz cans of pumpkin. That means for outright cost I broke about even if canned pumpkin isn't on sale. That's not counting the cost of running the oven for hours nor the value of my time.

For comparison, I also roasted what was labeled as a "pie pumpkin." By the time I got around to roasting it, it weighed a mere 6.5 pounds. I'm convinced it lost a few pounds while it spent two weeks as a "toy" in our living room. (So weight does not necessarily equal volume.) The pie pumpkin yielded 3 cups of puree.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Decoupaged Treat Box

October went into creative gridlock. In September I had several projects in progress, I added another work-in-progress to the pile, and I became overwhelmed and lost all creative motivation. When I had time to work on projects I instead squandered it cleaning my kitchen or, worse, playing games online.

A friend delivered a lovely, Halloween treat in a cute box. The treat was rapidly inhaled (yum). The box was cute. The trouble is I have a self-imposed rule, "All Autumn and Halloween decorations must fit in one file box." I wasn't yet willing to part with any of my current decorations to make room for the box.

My Seattle upbringing insisted that I somehow reuse the box.

So, the most obvious solution is update it to the upcoming season and regift it :)

  1. Take one cute, but out of season box. If applicable, remove the ribbon by unknotting one side. Place on a protected surface. I just used a paper bag cut open and placed over the carpet. (My kitchen table is currently buried under those gridlocked projects.)
  2. Use decoupage glue (e.g. Mod Podge) to adhere scraps of wrapping paper to the box. I used 3x3-inch squares torn into three pieces, 1x1-inch pieces, and selectively cut large pieces. First I used the torn pieces at random to coat the entire box. The torn look permitted me to mold paper around the curves without carefully tracing and crafting larger panel pieces. I then used my small squares to patch over anything I considered a mistake. Finally, I glue down a few snowmen which I had carefully cut out of the wrapping paper. Yup, I can't just do "glue down random bits of torn paper," there has to be a precise method to my brand of madness.
  3. Wait for the box to dry. Stab a toothpick through the ribbon holes. Thread the ribbon and tie a knot in the end.

All in all I'm pretty pleased with my little box. It was a fast project to restore my sense of project accomplishment. My intent was to regift the box in the upcoming season; however, in the past 24 hours it's become a good home for my camera. And when you have a baby you know you need a camera immediately at hand at all times.

How do you get yourself out of creative gridlock?