I try to make it a point to never to rant, but if I see another recipe calling for a can of pumpkin I might explode.
I understand, and can sympathize, that it is a consistent product yielding consistent results wherever it is used. It's not even composed of what I grew up considering a "pumpkin" but is a balanced blend of different squashes, designed to be the exact same thing every time you put it in your mouth. For me, it's a drab muffled version of what you could otherwise accomplish with an actual squash and a little time.
Plus you should be able to score a local squash relatively easily - their durability makes their price point comparable to or better than any supermarket - not to mention usually being a far superior product.
What are your thoughts?
Pugnacious from Pumpkinville
Well Pugnacious, you do have a point. One could easily substitute canned pumpkin with an equal weight of pureed roasted butternut squash, but there are some things to keep in mind.
While it's no secret that fall and winter squash are practically imperishable, few understand that they need a significant amount of time to ripen once they're picked, as much as 14 days, and, if stored in a cool dry place, will remain good eatin' for up to a month or more. After that as long as there are no blemishes on the rind. The indicator of ripeness is the stem, it should be withered and corky, NOT tight and green.
One way winter squash has always shined for me in desserts is in a nice bread pudding. Most recipes tell you to test for doneness by looking for a clean toothpick (or the like) tester. I prefer a more moist bread pudding, so I look for a little bit of moist debris.
This dessert is outstanding as-is, but there are a few things to keep in mind if you've got an itch to take it to the next level. You can include nuts and raisins or dried fruit if you're into that sort of thing. I actually like more bourbon than I call for in the recipe below, but I thought I'd tone it down a little bit for a more family-friendly version. And finally, you can reserve the water used to cook the squash to make a great "pumpkin" caramel sauce, just cook it down until it turns a nice amber color (380 degrees for those of you with a thermometer) and stir in a half cup of cream and 2 tbsps of butter . . . and a little more bourbon . . . mmmmm.
"Pumpkin" Bread Pudding
1 lb. of Squash, cut into 1/2" cubes (any squash will do)
1 cup sugar
2 cups half and half
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed well
3 large eggs
2 1/2 tsps Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 1/2 tsps bourbon
10 cups of stale or dry egg-based bread, cut roughly into 1/2 cubes (Challah or brioche)
1. Bring two quarts of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil, drop in the cubed squash and simmer until soft, but not breaking apart, around 10-12 minutes depending on the squash. Strain out the squash.
2. In a large bowl combine the half and half, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice and bourbon. Whisk very well. (this could be done in a blender as well) This is essentially a custard. 3. Add the bread and the cooked squash to the custard and gently fold it in. Allow this to stand for at least 15 minutes and up to and hour. The bread chunks should be completely soggy. 4. Bake at 350 degrees until a tester comes out just a little bit sticky.
The final product - a la mode with caramel sauce - Dig in!