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How to Prepare Fresh Pumpkin Puree

When it comes to Thanksgiving desserts, does it get any more classic than pumpkin pie?? Pumpkin is the bright orange star of autumn produce. They play a leading role in Halloween celebrations and an even tastier role at Thanksgiving. As far as I’m concerned, serve whatever other desserts you’d like on Thanksgiving, as long as there’s at least one pumpkin pie. So, in honor of our Thanksgiving Week here at The Gourmand Mom, we’ll be making a pumpkin pie, using my mom’s tasty recipe for Fresh Pumpkin Coconut Pie.

Like many families, we purchased several pumpkins to adorn our front steps throughout October. They lasted out there for a month, until one afternoon, we opened the door to find the remnants of what used to be the Frankenstein pumpkin. We were all a bit flummoxed upon finding the remains. The boys were devastated. What horrific event could have caused the brutal destruction of our little pumpkin; so thoroughly ravaged on our front steps. We all felt a bit violated. But, my husband dutifully cleaned up the remains and we did our best to put the past behind us. And then, the very next day, the vicious pumpkin villian returned.

Let’s just call him Squirrely. Squirrely stood there on our front steps, staring at me with his beady little eyes, looking all cute with his fluffy tail. And then he strutted himself over to the next largest pumpkin, and shamelessly went to work. So strong was his passion for pumpkin, that he worked diligently at his task for at least an hour, as we all stood staring in awe. Squirrely was clearly a master of pumpkin. To his credit, he waited a month before devouring our decor.

Clearly, I wouldn’t be using any of those pumpkins to make my pumpkin pie. Luckily, our grocery store is well-stocked with pumpkins. For the purpose of making pumpkin puree for pies or other pumpkin desserts, your best bet is to pick up a Pie Pumpkin or Sugar Pumpkin. They are smaller and will produce a less watery, more flavorful result. When my mom prepares the pumpkin for her pies, she typically prepares the puree in a similar fashion to mashed potatoes. She cuts the pumpkin into chunks, removes the skin, boils, then mashes. It’s a technique which has always worked well for her. However, an easier alternative to chopping a hard pumpkin into pieces and removing all of the skin is to roast the pumpkins. Once roasted, the tender insides will scoop out with ease. Here is a step by step guide on how to prepare fresh pumpkin puree by roasting.

1. Thoroughly rinse the pumpkins.

2. Ideally, cut the pumpkins in half, from the stem to the base. However, if you happened to purchase the world’s hardest pumpkins or perhaps left your pumpkins in the freezing car overnight, you may have to settle for simply sawing and prying off the top. After trying every one of my very sharp knives on my stubborn pumpkins, I considered inviting Squirrely inside to help. (He clearly knows how to get inside a pumpkin.) Seriously, a hacksaw wouldn’t have cut through my pumpkins. But, eventually I managed to wrestle the tops off. Don’t worry, if you can not manage to cut your pumpkins in half, rest assured that the  pumpkins will roast just as well with only the tops removed.

3. Use a spoon or ice cream scoop to remove all of the seeds and stringy parts from the pumpkin. Save the seeds for roasting.

4. Place the pumpkin upside down on a baking sheet (cut sides down, if you were able to cut your pumpkin in half). Fill the bottom of the baking sheet with a thin (1/4 inch) layer of water.

5. Roast at 375 degrees for about 90 minutes. Test by inserting a fork into the inside of the pumpkin. It should be quite tender. Allow to cool.

6. Scoop out the tender insides.

7. Use a blender, food processor, or immersion blender to puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

** Two small Pie Pumpkins should produce about 3-4 cups pumpkin puree.

If you’re preparing fresh pumpkin puree, be sure to roast the seeds separately for a tasty snack. I seriously ate so many pumpkin seeds yesterday that I’m beginning to suspect I may be sprouting a pumpkin in my belly. They are a delicious and highly nutritious snack.

To roast the pumpkin seeds: Rinse the seeds and separate from the stringy pumpkin pieces. Discard the stringy pieces. Lay the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a paper towel to dry. Spread the seeds onto a baking sheet. Toss with a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Bake in a 375 degrees oven for about 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for the recipe for Fresh Pumpkin Coconut Pie, coming up next!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie

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Like Batman spotting the bat-signal in the starry night sky or Spiderman sensing the tingle of his spidey-sense, I’ve been beckoned to help a family being torn apart by a culinary crisis. The trouble centers around a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie, a current featured dessert from our local grocery store, Wegmans. According to my sister-in-law, several battles have already ensued over the last piece of this dreamy, creamy pie. Even worse, there will come the day when Wegmans switches over to its seasonal pumpkin pie, leaving this poor family sorrowfully crying over the supermarket dessert case. No, no. This will not do. I must devise a suitable recipe to replicate this family’s beloved treat.

First, I need to know what we’re going after. So, I went down to the grocery store to purchase one of these battle-worthy pies. According to my son, who is a master of imagination, the grocery store is ridden with wolves. Luckily his younger brother was around to save his day and we left unharmed with the pie in hand.

Hmmm… Chocolate wafer crust, smooth moussey peanut butter filling, a layer of chocolate pudding (that was a surprise), fluffy whipped cream, peanut butter drizzle, peanut butter cup, chocolate curls…

Better taste it again, to make sure I’m not missing some important detail.

Is that a bit of vanilla? Let me just check…

Alright, I think I’ve got it. Seriously, I deserve some sort of hazard pay for this stuff.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 2 cups Chocolate Wafer Cookies, crushed*
  • 1 stick Unsalted Butter, melted

For the Dark Chocolate Pudding

  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 3 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 cup Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 3 oz Semisweet or Bittersweet Baking Chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

For the Peanut Butter Filling

  • 3/4 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1 8 oz. bar Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup Confectioner’s  Sugar, divided
  • 2 1/2 cup Heavy Cream

For the Peanut Butter Drizzle

  • 1/8 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1/4 cup Corn Syrup

For the Garnish

  • Mini Chocolate Chips
  • Mini Peanut Butter Cups

*The easiest way to crush the cookies is to place them in a ziploc bag and roll a rolling pin over them until they are completely crushed.

Directions

For the Crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the cookie crumbs with the melted butter. Press the mixture onto the sides and bottom of a deep pie shell. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

For the Pudding:

In a saucepan, mix together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt. Whisk in 1 cup of milk, stirring until combined. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of cream. Continue whisking over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisking constantly, continue cooking for another minute or two. Be careful to whisk into the corners and along the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. Whisk in the chopped chocolate and vanilla, stirring until fully melted. Allow the pudding to cool at room temperature, stirring frequently to prevent a skin from forming. Meanwhile, prepare the peanut butter filling.

For the Peanut Butter Filling:

In a large bowl over an ice bath, beat 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream with 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar until stiff peaks form. Keep the mixture cool over the ice bath. In a separate bowl, beat together peanut butter, cream cheese, and 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar until evenly combined. Fold in 1/2 cup of the whipped cream to lighten the mixture. Then, gently fold in another 1/2 cup whipped cream, just until combined. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Keep the remaining whipped cream cool over the ice bath or in the fridge.

For the Peanut Butter drizzle:

Combine peanut butter and corn syrup. Mix to combine.

To Assemble the Pie:

Spoon the peanut butter filling into the cooled pie crust. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes to set the mixture. Pour the cooled pudding over the peanut butter filling. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes to set the pudding. Spread the remaining whipped cream over the top of the pudding. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. Drizzle with the peanut butter mixture. Garnish with a mini peanut butter cup. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the pie to cool completely.

Now, I have to be honest with you. There’s a reason why there’s not a lovely picture of a perfect slice of peanut butter heaven. When I cut the pie and tried to plate a pretty slice, it became a peanut butter, pudding, and cream mess. The pudding was the real issue. I substituted 2% milk instead of whole and as a result of a minor toddler crisis, I didn’t cook it as long as it should have cooked to properly thicken. If you follow the recipe as written, you shouldn’t have this problem. This is the same pudding recipe I wrote for the Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Squares a month or so ago. Cooked as written, it’s a thick, dark chocolate pudding, firm enough to stand up to slicing. So, do I as say, not as I did, and you should be golden.

Hey sis… You know where to find your pie! Better hurry!

Edited to add: After having that first tricky piece of pie removed and a few more hours of chilling in the fridge, it was much easier to slice and serve. Here is a pic of the chocolate-peanut-buttery treat…


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