From scones in the morning to bisque in the evening, expand your pumpkin-flavored horizons this fall with ideas from local chefs and bakers to enjoy pumpkin all season long.
Pick the perfect pumpkin
Before diving in with a delicious pumpkin recipe, you have to make sure you’re cooking with the right pumpkin, whether it’s fresh or a canned puree.
If you want to use a fresh pumpkin, avoid the jack o’ lantern kind because they’re very wet with minimal pulp. Instead, Liz Barbour, chef and owner of The Creative Feast in Hollis, recommends sugar pumpkins or cinderella pumpkins, which have a small water content and an intense pumpkin flavor.
Karen Car, owner and pastry chef at Just Like Mom’s Pastries in Weare, said when it comes to baking, canned is a good option.
“The canned pumpkin, it’s all ready to go and you know what you’re getting,” she said. “You don’t really know the moisture [with a fresh pumpkin].”
This time of year Just Like Mom’s Pastries pumpkin products include three kinds of pies, whoopie pies, muffins, scones, bread, dinner rolls, cheesecake, pumpkin pecan bars and even pumpkin dog biscuits.
Gluten-free chef and blogger Melanie Chavez of Manchester uses both canned and fresh, depending on what she’s making.
“[Canned] pumpkin … it’s a lot easier to do it that way, so I use a lot of that in my baked goods,” she said. “I like to roast [fresh pumpkin] and put it in my soup.”
Brittney Hooton, manager at Midtown Cafe at the Beacon in Manchester, agrees that when it comes to making soup, fresh pumpkin is the way to go.
“If I was going to do [a] pumpkin chili, it uses the whole pumpkin because there’s not really another main veggie to it,” she said.
She’ll peel, core and dice the pumpkin to add nice orange chunks to the pot.
When developing a new pumpkin-based soup, Hooton tends toward creamy recipes that highlight the thick, full flavor that many people look for, but with a unique twist added on.
Lately, she’s been toying with two new soup recipes — pumpkin chili and spicy Thai pumpkin soup. Typically she’ll scan a few recipes, combine techniques from each of them and then tweak the result to make it her own, like putting a dollop of yogurt on top or adding goat cheese to a simple pumpkin soup base.
For Barbour, a neat way to add more pumpkin to a meal is by serving chocolate black bean chili in a roasted sugar pumpkin.
“The idea of that is I roast the sugar pumpkin separately and scoop out the inside and then I make my chili and put the hot chili into this individual [sized] pumpkin,” she said.
For added flavor and texture, roast chunks of pumpkin to add to the chili (but don’t boil them because that adds to the water content).
She also makes chicken and bean enchiladas and adds her own pureed pumpkin to the enchilada sauce.
When it comes to spices and flavors to pair with pumpkin dishes, you can’t go wrong with nutmeg and cinnamon or even substituting pumpkin in recipes that call for butternut squash.
“The beauty of it is you can puree it so it can be added to anything,” Barbour said. “It’s not a super strong flavor, it just depends on what seasonings you use to accent that flavor.”
She suggests stirring a pumpkin puree into oatmeal or adding chunks of pumpkin into a risotto.
“I really enjoy using the cumin, a smoked paprika, you know along those lines if I’m going to go in a savory direction,” she said. “I think they play nicely against the slight sweetness of the pumpkin and then your salt and pepper are going to play on that as well.”
Other than a cream cheese frosting or filling, which Car said goes well with pumpkin baked goods, she likes adding in chocolate chips, coconut, orange zest, cranberries and pecans to batter.
“And of course instead of adding just cinnamon you can do it with ginger and make that more of a predominant flavor,” she said.