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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pumpkin rocks with brown butter icing

In solidarity with our neighbours up north, in the middle of pumpkin-feasting season, I thought I'd make something to appeal to their strange practices of eating pumpkin as a sweet food. Pumpkin pies, cookies and desserts are definitely not popular here in Australia, and feel well....kinda wrong! Like announcing you enjoy having fish with strawberry jam. Down here, pumpkin is eaten roasted in chunks, next to a roast meat dinner, or in a Thai curry, or pureed into soup. Even the infamous pumpkin scones of Flo Bjelke-Petersen fame are just spread with butter and toe the line between sweet and savoury. That's not to say we're right and you're all wrong! It's just very odd to us.

Halloween is not a big deal here; it passes with barely any acknowledgment, despite the weather around now to be perfect for wandering the streets in the light of evening asking for lollies. Around this time, at least in Melbourne, there's far more popular attention showered on the
Melbourne Cup and the Spring Racing Carnival. Although, whilst the pumpkin-feasters in the north have been bunkering down iin the autumnal chill, we had one of the hottest nights on record last night with the temperature hovering around 27 degrees (80F) all night. I barely got a wink of sleep. And Melbourne is nowhere near the tropics! To think there's the possibility of this occurring anytime from now until late March fills me with dread. Gawd, I hate summer.

So, back to the pumpkin. This is another recipe from the book where I found the quick brown bread in the last post. It caught my attention, both for its seasonal ingredients, but also for its browned butter icing. Mmm...nice. I had a bit of desultory look around some gourmet supermarkets for canned pumpkin, without much hope, and not much hope was returned. It's impossible to find here. Sure, I could have gone to the David Jones Food Hall and spent $10 on one imported can, but I'm not that crazy. So, I cooked and steamed my own pumpkin.

Using your own steamed pumpkin in a baking recipe is always going to change the texture. There is much more water in the puree, which is removed from the canned pumpkin. Therefore these biscuits were definitely cakey in texture. In fact, without any crunch at all, they were similar to little patty cakes or scones. This actually wasn't a bad thing; it was nice to create something quite unexpected. I used walnuts rather than pecans, and chose not to include the raisins because.......well, bleaaaahhh! The spices work really well, and they even taste quite nice without the brown butter icing. My uncle preferred them that way. In fact, without the icing they're relatively health conscious; nuts, raisins (maybe), pumpkin, wholemeal flour... However, the icing really is excellent; a big, round, vanilla, buttery taste that works so well with the biscuits. In fact, the boss at A. work, where I sent half of the batch, claimed they were "possibly the best thing you've ever made! A definite 8 out of 10 for sure".
No, I don't know why she took off those 2 points. Maybe she likes raisins....
Read on for the recipe:

Pumpkin Rocks with Brown Butter Icing

Ingredients (Makes ~50)
125g / 4 oz butter, softened
150g / 5 oz plain flour
175 g / 6 oz soft brown sugar, lightly packed
225g / 8 oz canned pumpkin or cooked pumpkin*
1 medium egg, beaten
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
125 g / 4 oz wholemeal flour
75g /3 oz pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped
100g / 3 1/2 oz raisins
50g / 2 oz butter
225g / 8 oz icing sugar
2-3 tbsp milk

* Cutting the pumpkin into small pieces and microwaving, then pureeing with a fork works very well.

1 - Preheat the oven to 190C/375 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

2 - Using an electric beaer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the plain flour, sugar, pumpkin, beaten egg, and beat with the mixer until mixed well.

3 - Stir in the ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon on the vanilla essence and then sift in the baking powder, bicarb of soda and grated nutmeg. Beat the mixture until combined well, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

4 - Add the wholemeal flour, chopped nuts and raisins to the mixture and fold in with a metal spoon or rubber spatula until mixed thoroughly together.

5 - Place teaspoonfuls about 5 cm/2 in apart on to the baking sheet. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are firm.

6 - Remove biscuits from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat, until pale and just turning golden brown.

7 - Remove from the heat. Add the sugar, remaining vanilla essence and milk, stirring. Drizzle over the cooled cookies and serve.
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  • Niki - these sound wonderful - especially WITH the raisins!! So you're another one of those raisin haters, eh? ;) The brown butter icing sounds awesome!

    By Blogger Cathy, at 11/03/2005 04:07:00 pm  

  • the brown butter icing looks as amazing as it sounded when you first mentioned it. does it dry hard or is it more of a softer consistency? you mentioned that you drizzle it on, but in the photo it looks thicker, like it could be spread on.

    By Blogger tanvi, at 11/03/2005 05:17:00 pm  

  • Cathy - Yeah...I'm not a big fan of raisins, sultanas, currants etc. in my baked foods. It's definitely a carry-over from childhood when I'd pick every sultana out. However, I don't mind them in my Hot Cross Buns, which is odd. Evidently it runs in the family. When I told my uncle they should have contained raisins, he raised his eyebrows in horror and said "Oh thank god you didn't! I HATE raisins!"

    Tanvi - I love your pic! The icing, when you use it has a consistency sort of between drizzling and spreading. It is smooth and runny, but not so much that it runs off the side of the cookies. I actually had to keep adding tiny splashed of milk because mine was setting a little too hard in the saucepan and looking like wallpaper paste. The icing does set a little more; it has the consistency of butter or a soft paste. It's very yummy!

    By Blogger Niki, at 11/03/2005 06:47:00 pm  

  • These look v yummy. What's wrong w raisins? I pick them out of everything so that I can EAT them :-D

    I was just talking about making a pumpkin pie and after reading this, I really HAVE to! YUM

    By Blogger cin, at 11/03/2005 07:19:00 pm  

  • Now Niki I hope you aren't speaking for ALL the Aussies when you say pumpkin as a sweet is wrong. I quite like it in pumpkin pie ;) However I found the store bought variety in America waaaaay to sweet for my liking. The homemade version is much nicer; and it tastes more like a nutty caramel pie.

    I'll have to get my friends Mum's recipe up one of these days.

    By Blogger deborah, at 11/03/2005 09:26:00 pm  

  • I followed your link about the Bjelke-Petersen pumpkin scones to Wikipedia and then followed the link to "recipe" - truly amazing!

    Pumpkins are like carrots, it's up to you how much you want to emphasise the sweetness. But they're a wonderful base for soup.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/04/2005 12:07:00 am  

  • I'm a raisin/sultana fan, personally, but I love pumpkin even more. I bet that these would have turned out cakey no matter what type of pumpki you used, Niki. I think about 95% (at least!) of pumpkin cookies do. They still sound delicious!

    By Blogger Nic, at 11/04/2005 02:52:00 am  

  • Cin - I don't like the squishy squashy texture of raisins, or the pockets of excessive sweetness they give when you get one in a mouthful. Yucky! Although my palate is maturing; I actually tolerate them in a hot cross bun now!

    Saffron - I think I speak for the majority of average Australians, who look at pumpkin pie as the sort of thing that makes an appearance on US sitcoms. I have actually made a pumpkin pie, from a recipe I found in the newspaper when I was at school. It was a brandied pumpkin pie, and was very rich; I remember finding it a bit too much. Definitely small slices needed, and perfect for cold weather!

    Owen - a misleading recipe link there! But the info about Flo is is interesting. She achieved notoriety for the scones by baking a batch to take a group of miners on strike against government policies (no doubt introduced by her husband). Any Google search for her name and pumpkin scones will give you a recipe. Personally I'm not a great fan of them; they can be a bit heavy and a little bland.

    Nic - Yes, I noticed what you wrote about pumpkin cookies a few weeks ago, and wasn't too surprised that these turned out soft. Nice though, but soft. They really are very tasty, and even after a week, still taste fresh. I'm surprised at how many raisin fans there are! I did actually put some in my granola a few months ago...and find myself constantly picking them out!

    By Blogger Niki, at 11/04/2005 12:13:00 pm  

  • Here's Senator Flo's famous pumpkin scone recipe, for those of you who are interested!

    Pumpkin Scones
    Chef: Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen
    This world-famous recipe is from Lady Bjelke Petersen's Classic Country Cooking book.

    You need:
    - 1 tbs butter
    - 1/2 cup sugar
    - 1/4 tsp salt
    - 1 egg
    - 1 cup mashed pumpkin
    - 2 cups self raising flour (and a little extra, just in case)


    Beat together butter, sugar and salt with an electric mixer.

    Add egg, then pumpkin.

    Finally, stir in the sifted flour by hand.

    Turn onto a floured board and cut.

    Place on a heated floured tray and cook on the top shelf of a very hot oven (225C - 250C) for 15 to 20 minutes.
    Serving Suggestion: Invite the Queen or a group of striking miners to tea and serve, split in half and spread with lots of butter.

    By Blogger Niki, at 11/04/2005 12:23:00 pm  

  • Thanks for the pumpkin scone recipe, Niki. On a completely different tack today (4 November) is Marguerite Patten's 90th birthday (she's on the radio at the moment). She's the real stuff. Have you ever tried anything of hers? Her rock-solid reliability plus your apparent inability to resist giving your own spin to everything would be a grand combination.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/04/2005 09:14:00 pm  

  • you can bake them in the oven cut side down. less watery

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/05/2005 05:09:00 am  

  • I just had to share: ever since you commented on this, I've been getting hits from people searching for things like this: "horses darryl braithwaite".

    'bout once a day...weird, eh?

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 11/07/2005 03:05:00 am  

  • American pumpkins are naturally much sweeter than the ones found in Europe and, presumably, Australia, which probably explains the American fondness for sweet pumpkin dishes...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/11/2005 04:00:00 am  

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