pumpkin

A Twitch Of History

Growing up I hated learning history in school. Our lessons seemed to be focussed mainly on memorising dates which made history boring and devoid of life. Happily there was one place that taught history in a fun and exciting way. That place was my lounge room and the vehicle was Bewitched, one of my favourite television shows.

Throughout the eight seasons of this magical show, a bevy of historical figures were zapped into the future and forced to deal with the modern world. At other times characters were zapped back in time to experience history first hand. During the ensuing mayhem I learned so many things, not only about history, but about race relations, class prejudice and gender politics.

One historical lesson I thoroughly enjoyed was when Samantha and Darrin go for a holiday to Salem, Massachusetts. One of the places they visit is The House of the Seven Gables, an historic New England home and the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s gothic novel of the same name. This episode features a spooky bedwarmer that follows Samantha and Darrin back to their hotel room at the Hawthorne Hotel, named after Nathaniel Hawthorne.

IMG_5638a

Bedwarmer from the historic Altona Homestead in Melbourne

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born Nathaniel Hathorne in Salem on July 4th, 1804. It is believed that Nathaniel added the “w” to Hathorne to distance himself from his great-great-grandfather, John Hathorne, a notorious lead judge in the Salem witch trials. Nathaniel used his ancestors as inspiration for many of his novels which explore colonial times and puritanical beliefs. He died on May 19th, 1864.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s deathiversary this Saturday is a special one for me. Last year I fulfilled a childhood dream to visit Salem Massachusetts and The House of the Seven Gables. I did this on July 4th, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthday. It was also Independence Day which added to the magic. My trip to Salem, and other parts of America, was so inspirational that I have written a book about it. I’ll be doing the final edit on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s deathiversary.

Before visiting The House of the Seven Gables for my own spooky adventure, I stopped in a cafe called Gulu-Gulu for a fortifying steamed milk drink. My version has a touch of Halloween pumpkin because I can never think of Salem without thinking of Halloween 🙂 

Pumpkin Pie Steamer

IMG_4676a

Ingredients
I cup milk
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree, (homemade or canned)
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix*
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
whipped cream for serving (optional)

Instructions
Place the milk, pumpkin and spice mix into a blender and blend until smooth and combined.
Pour into a small saucepan.
Whisk over medium heat until warm.
Add the maple syrup and keep whisking until the milk is simmering but not boiling
Poor into a heatproof cup and top with whipped cream if desired.

*Pumpkin pie spice mix is a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and sometimes allspice.

This is my version:
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Mix the spices together in a small bowl.
Store unused spice mix in a spice container or small jar.

You can experiment with your own version but cinnamon should be the dominant spice.

Advertisements

By The Light Of A Scorpion Moon

Halloween falls between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. As an Autumn festival, many Australian Pagans and Witches celebrate Halloween on the 30th of April. I’m a bit of a traditionalist so I celebrate Halloween on the 30th of April AND the 31st of October. One Halloween a year is never enough!

April 30th is also Walpurgis Night – a night when spirits walk the Earth and witches are thought to fly through the night skies on their way to various celebrations. Bram Stoker hauntingly invokes the spirit of Walpurgis Night in Dracula’s Guest, his short but compelling prequel to the novel Dracula. This quote by Stoker always sends a delightful chill down my spine:  

“Walpurgis Night, when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad—when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel.”

Bram Stoker was born in the sign of Scorpio so it’s not surprising he wrote so beautifully of hidden secrets and creatures of the night.

To add more magic, mystery and a touch of Stoker to April 30 activities in Australia, a Full Moon in Scorpio will be shining upon our festivities.

After an evening of celebrating Halloween, Walpurgis Night and a Scorpion Full Moon, I can think of no better way to end my evening than with a bowl of soul warming soup. Pumpkins and apples are traditional Halloween fare and I never say no to a good drop of alcohol, either in a glass or in my soup!

Pumpkin & Apple Cider Soup

IMG_6046

Ingredients
1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
30g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into cubes 
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
cream for serving

Instructions
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F.
Place the pumpkin into a baking pan.
Add the oil, rosemary and salt.
Toss until combined.
Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked.
While the pumpkin is baking, prepare the soup.
Heat the butter in a large saucepan.
Add the celery and cook until soft but not browned.
Stir in the apples.
Pour in the stock and apple cider.
Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until the apple is cooked.
Add the roasted pumpkin to the soup.
Blend the soup with a stick blender until smooth.
Pour into bowls and serve with a splash of cream.

A Halloween Baker’s Dozen

For my Halloween pumpkin donuts I adapted a recipe for cinnamon cake donuts to include pumpkin puree. By adding pumpkin puree and increasing the amount of flour, I knew that my original recipe for 12 donuts would now make more. What to do with the extra batter? I hate just throwing things out so I thought of piping extra donuts onto baking paper and seeing what happened. Then it hit me – I could do a baker’s dozen. Not a conventional baker’s dozen but a quirky version that would produce 12 pumpkin donuts and one large pumpkin cupcake!

IMG_5062

The term a “baker’s dozen” is commonly used in reference to a group of 13. As the name suggests, the origin of this term comes from the world of baking. Bread has alway been an important product and since ancient times there have been some bakers who have tried to cheat their customers. Consequently there were heavy punishments for those who were caught. In a bid to avoid accidentally selling underweight goods, bakers would often add an extra loaf or loaves free of charge. A baker’s dozen specifically relates to the buying of 12 items that are the same and receiving an extra 13th one for free.

What does the number 13 have to do with Halloween? Well Halloween is celebrated on October 31 which is 13 reversed! Most appropriately, both days are related to the Death tarot card which is number 13. If you celebrate Halloween in the southern hemisphere the date is the 30th of April so it’s not linked to either Friday the 13th or the Death card. However, the number 3 is linked to the concept of Birth, Life, Death so there’s still a deathly link to both Halloweens. And I’m happy about that as I celebrate both of them!

I would like to thank fellow blogger Christine for getting my creative juices flowing with her post Fun on Friday the 13th. Her post reminded me of the link between Friday the 13th and Halloween and inspired me to make my pumpkin baker’s dozen 🙂

Pumpkin Donuts

IMG_5055

Special Equipment
12 hole non-stick mini donut pan
1 silicone jumbo sized muffin liner (you could use a similar sized ramekin or mug lined with baking paper)

Ingredients
For the donuts
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup (70g) unsalted butter, melted
1 + 1/2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup caster sugar

For the cinnamon topping
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup (70g) unsalted butter, melted

Instructions
Preheat oven to 170C / 340F.
In a small bowl mix together the milk, egg, vanilla, pumpkin puree and melted butter, set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir to combine.
Make a well in the centre.
Pour in the wet ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, mix until smooth.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle.
Pipe mixture into donut pan filling each donut to just below the halfway mark. (Keep the remaining batter for the cupcake.)
Bake donuts for 10 – 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.
While donuts are cooling, mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Dunk donuts in melted butter then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture.
You can eat them warm or cold.

Pumpkin Cupcake

IMG_5060

Instructions
Once donuts are baked, increase oven temperature to 180C / 350F.
Pour remaining batter into muffin liner.
Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Pumpkin Frosting
Ingredients
60g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
60g (1/4 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon icing sugar

Instructions
Beat together the butter and cream cheese.
Beat in the pumpkin until combined.
Stir in the sugar.
Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if desired.
Pipe onto cupcake.

If there is any left over frosting you can dollop some on the donuts or just eat it with a spoon.

Pass The Pumpkins Please

Our local coffee shop makes the best coffee. I mean it’s really, really good. The only problem is everyone wants one! And they don’t take reservations on the weekends. So if you don’t get there early enough you go on a waiting list, or you order one to go. The coffee is so good that it has inspired me to roll out of bed early on the weekends and get there just after it opens – 8.00am!! And while I’m there, I sometimes have breakfast as well. My favourite breakfast? – pancakes 🙂

The walnut pancakes with side orders of bacon and hash browns were my favourite. Sadly they’ve changed the menu for summer and the latest pancake offering is okay, but not fantastic. This made me think – why don’t I make my own pancakes when I get home? I’ve made buttermilk pancakes before, which were delicious, but I wanted something different. The first flavour that came to mind was pumpkin pancakes. The only problem was my partner Paul doesn’t particularly like pumpkin. I didn’t want to make a batch just for myself because I knew I would eat them all 🙂 How could I tempt him to try pumpkin pancakes? There was only one way – add them to my cookbook. As my main taste-tester he could hardly refuse!

IMG_9063c

We wanted to make our own pumpkin puree so our preparations for Sunday pancakes began Saturday night. Here’s what we did:

Preheated our oven to 180C / 350F.
Removed pumpkin seeds from pumpkin and kept them aside to make pepitas.
Cut the pumpkin into pieces and placed in a baking tray. Sprinkled lightly with olive oil and baked until cooked. When cool enough to handle, we removed the skin from the pumpkin and discarded it. We mashed the pumpkin with a potato masher until smooth and refrigerated it for the next day.

To make pepitas, we separated the seeds from the remaining pulp surrounding them. Rather than discard this pulp, we thought we’d try baking it too.
We preheated the oven to 200C / 400F and lined two baking trays with baking paper.
We dried the seeds with paper towel, tossed them in olive oil and salt and then spread them out on one of the baking trays. We tossed the pulp in olive oil and salt and placed it on the remaining tray. We baked the seeds for about 10 minutes until they were crispy and the pulp for about 15 minutes until it was caramelised. The seeds and pulp were eaten straight away! They were so delicious I almost couldn’t wait for Sunday to make the pancakes – but I did 🙂 Here is the recipe:

Pumpkin Pancakes
Makes 4 fluffy pancakes.
IMG_9067c
Ingredients
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 + 1/4 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
extra butter for frying

Instructions
Whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin, egg and butter in a large bowl until combined.
In a separate bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix until combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Heat some butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
Pour in 1/3 cup of batter.
Cook for 1-3 minutes or until it starts to form bubbles.
Flip and cook for a further 1-3 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Repeat with remaining batter.

Well I’m happy to say that both Paul and I loved the pancakes! Paul had his with butter and maple syrup and I had mine with sour cream and crispy fried prosciutto. Naturally we tried each other’s to see which was best. I loved my savoury ones but I think Paul’s sweet ones were better.

We can’t wait to make them again. If you make them let me know which topping you prefer – sweet, savoury or both!!