I love and respect canned pumpkin as much as the next fall baking enthusiast – but if you have a local source for fresh pie pumpkins to take advantage of, you can’t beat your Instant Pot for the easiest way to prep your own pumpkin from scratch. A pressure cooker can make quick work of dense vegetables like pumpkin – instead of baking in the oven for a whole hour, you can get your squash fully cooked in just 15 minutes under pressure.
I’ve seen a lot of noise online about pumpkin puree, so I must submit my Hot Take on the juicy controversies:
“fresh pumpkin puree is bland and watery and terrible for baking” … Nonsense! Don’t let Big Pumpkin tell you there’s anything you can’t accomplish with fresh ingredients in your own kitchen. It may be true that your favorite brand of canned puree is reliably flavorful/sweet/dense – but in the many articles I’ve seen urging readers to not waste their time cooking fresh pumpkin, all of them end with a comment section full of dissenters who treasure their annual fresh pumpkin pies.
On a whim last weekend, I baked sourdough pumpkin garlic knots. It then became my solemn duty to write the recipe ASAP, lest it be forgotten and my future self and family – and my fellow Keepers of the Sourdough out there – be deprived of its simple glory.
Seattle is getting colder, and predictably, my breakfasts are getting warmer. The days of raw fruit & chilled muesli have come and gone, and now my oats are getting the hot & hearty porridge treatment.
A breakfast like this can help you stay strong through the stresses of the seasonal shift. With the growing season coming to a close and colorful summer crops disappearing from the local food system, pumpkins and other winter squash persevere as a shelf-stable source of vibrantly orange vitamin power. And as the weather chills, spices become magical; we love them, and they love us back with their stimulating, grounding and warming qualities. (Don’t forget: spices are powerful plants that humans have selected, valued, and carried along with us through the history of eating. They interface with our physiology in ways that science is only beginning to understand).
The Universe has a way of keeping us humble, doesn’t it? Take for example the time I fell hard for The Great British Baking Show on Netflix, and mused contentedly about what an adept contender I could be. Naturally, my next baking session was an epic screw-up. I’m claiming distraction as the reason behind the embarrassing disaster, but seriously: it involved boxed cookie mix, BOTH of my apartment’s smoke alarms, and a full hour spent the next day scrubbing the bottom of my oven. So, right, I was not Star Baker this week.
Similarly, look what happens when I promise you a newly developed recipe. Here we are nearly a month later, and I’m just now getting back to you because of an extended string of lackluster trials in my test-kitchen. Lucky for you guys, I don’t give up too easily.
The plan was to cap off my sourdoughbakingseries with a special weekend breakfast combining the flavor/benefits of sourdough with the seasonal charm of pumpkin spice. But I soon realized that this pairing would require a bit of trial and error, as pumpkin puree and sourdough can both complicate efforts to optimize the texture and density of baked goods. After wrestling with a series of adaptations to the basic sourdough pancake formula from King Arthur Flour, I decided I might be better off seeking insight from my favorite online community of super experienced and skilled bakers at The Fresh Loaf.
Lo and behold, those good bakers know exactly what to do: I was just one blog post away from a foolproof formula. To create my perfect sourdough pumpkin pancake, I spiked the recipe with buttermilk, brown sugar and a sprinkle of spices; I also swapped in whole wheat pastry flour to take advantage of its delicate crumb. The pancakes are tender, lightly sour, subtly spiced… and we couldn’t have done it without that bubbling, fermenting colony of our favorite friendly microbes.
Nothing like a good recipe success to recover from a streak of kitchen fails… What a relief! Happy cooking, everybody. I’m off to put that sparkling clean oven to good use.
1/2 cup sourdough starter ("unfed" starter can be used)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 pinch salt
spices: 1/2 tsp. cinnamon + a hearty sprinkle each of ginger, allspice and nutmeg (or an equal amount of your favorite pumpkin pie spice blend)
1 to 1 1/3 cups buttermilk (or substitute mostly milk with a dollop of plain yogurt)
Combine the starter, eggs, brown sugar and pumpkin puree in a medium bowl. Then add the dry ingredients and whisk in just enough buttermilk to create a pourable batter (the amount can vary based on the density of your starter), mixing until just combined..
Let the batter rest at room temperature while you heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat, coated lightly with butter or oil. When the surface is hot, spoon the batter into pancakes of your desired size. When the upper surface is bubbled, and the bottom is golden-brown, flip and continue to cook the second side. Place cooked pancakes in a warmed oven, or on a plate tented with aluminum foil until all pancakes are ready.
As good as these cookies look, I have to tell you that they can look even better. The part that you’re not seeing is the impeccably crackly turbinado sugar crust that sadly dissolved in my humid kitchen in the 24 hours between the baking session and the time I managed to get the camera out. I really wanted to bake a fresh batch to give you some more true-to-life images, but I had to tackle these, and then a gluten-free version for a potluck party, and then Halloween happened… and you guys, I’m sorry, but I just can’t handle another batch of cookies in my house right now. I promise, when the occasion strikes to bake my next batch, I’ll Instagram it for you. Deal? Surely you understand that I just had to get this online, because pumpkin season is fleeting, and I don’t want you to miss out on such a great cookie. I mean, seriously: Whole-Grain. Pumpkin. Snickerdoodles.
Tis the season to enjoy pumpkin-flavored treats, so I’m dropping in with this quick Saturday post to share my simplest life-hack for satisfying those cravings when there’s no time for baking from scratch. This is the way that I cover both my seasonal craving for pumpkin spice AND my year-round need for dark chocolate in one simple snack-dessert with relatively respectful ingredients. All it takes is a Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Waffle from the freezer section, and a schmear of my favorite dark chocolate almond spread. Like you needed another reason to keep a jar of that in your fridge! Take it easy, happy weekend!