For many of my generation, few aromas recall the past like that of the rich pumpkin pie that graces their Thanksgiving tables. In my childhood memories, only the stuffed, roasted turkey was a more predictable dish on this uniquely American holiday. At my mother’s Thanksgiving celebration, however, pumpkin was nowhere in evidence, as her apple pie, hand-crafted from scratch, was always the featured dessert. It was so delicious that none of us thought to ask her why she eschewed the popular pumpkin pie tradition; in fact, I never even tasted pumpkin pie until one Thanksgiving weekend in my teenage years, at a slumber party during which slumber eluded all the guests, I found myself down in the kitchen of the host’s creaky Victorian house with the other girls, tasting slivers of leftover pie. I was disappointed then and to this day, I haven’t sampled a pumpkin pie that I thought was worthy of the dessert crown on Thanksgiving Day.
But I’m not suggesting that pumpkin has no place in a tasty and seasonally-based menu. In fact, over the years I’ve come to appreciate pumpkin for its mellow flavor and for the many and varied ways in which it can be used.
While I was first creating recipes for my new cookbook, Tasting the Seasons, pumpkin was trending as a popular ingredient. I was adding it to muffin, pancake, waffle and coffeecake batter, with great results. I was surprised to discover that including a few spoonfuls of pureed pumpkin to our morning smoothies gave them rich and creamy decadence. I tested pumpkin in biscuits, added pureed pumpkin to soups and created one of my family’s all-time favorite desserts, pumpkin roll-up cake with cream cheese filling.
A few years later, pumpkin is trending again. In addition to its seasonal availability and versatility, a great reason to work it in to your fall menus is it nutritional benefits: It’s very high in fiber, very low in calories (just 50 calories in a ½ cup) and boasts impressive amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Potassium.
It’s almost hard to know where to start, there are so many options. Professional chefs and home cooks alike transform this versatile squash into bread, ravioli, pudding, mousse, crème brûlée, risotto -- and of course, pumpkin pie. Breweries even are turning out a variety of pumpkin beers! As Neill Howell of The Corner Pantry, says, “Pumpkin is a seasonal ingredient that is often overlooked or only used for pies, but it pairs well with many flavors. It can easily be a sweet and a savory dish all in one day.” Howell makes a Roasted Pumpkin Sandwich with local goat cheese and hazelnut pesto on fresh, crusty bread. This time of year he also makes Pumpkin Croquettes. He combines roasted pumpkin that is seasoned with nutmeg, honey, thyme and rosemary and mixes it with breadcrumbs. Once the croquettes are fried, he serves them alongside maple aioli or tomato and bacon jam for dipping.
The spirit of Thanksgiving is sharing. In that spirit, I hope that any of you who have a favorite pumpkin pie recipe will share it with me – I’m still in search of one that does justice to this wonderful autumn squash. And if you are looking for recipes and innovative menu ideas for Thanksgiving (like the one below for my pumpkin roll-up cake with cream cheese filling), let me know and I will be happy to share some with you.
PUMPKIN ROLL-UP CAKE
WITH CREAM CHEESE FILLING
This delicious, moist and creamy cake is our traditional Thanksgiving dessert, but you might like it so much you’ll be stocking cans of pure pumpkin so you can make this cake all year long. Winter Sippers Hot Buttered Rum Mix is available during the Fall/Winter season and can be found in Whole Foods Market and most specialty grocery stores or online. Make certain to purchase 100% pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling.
- ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup Winter Sippers Hot Buttered Rum Mix
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- ⅔ cup pure pumpkin
- 8 ounces light cream cheese, softened
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 17½ x 11½-inch rimmed baking sheet, and then line the pan with parchment paper. Lightly coat parchment paper with oil and then lightly dust with flour. Set prepared pan aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, Winter Sippers Hot Buttered Rum Mix and sugar.
- In a large bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer, add pumpkin and beat until well combined. Add flour mixture and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Spread batter evenly into pan (it will seem like there’s not enough batter, but there is) and bake cake for 10 minutes.
- Generously dust a kitchen cloth (the cloth should be a little larger than the size of the cake) with confectioners’ sugar.
- Immediately remove cake (lifting it up by the parchment paper) from baking pan and carefully flip cake onto prepared kitchen towel. Gently pull off parchment paper. Starting at the narrow end, roll the cake with the towel. Don’t worry if the cake breaks as you’re rolling it up, in the end, it won’t be noticeable. Cool cake on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with butter until well combined; add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes on medium speed.
- Carefully unroll cake and spread filling evenly over entire cake (while still on towel). Gently re-roll cake (without towel), and cover with plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for several hours or overnight prior to serving.
- Transfer cake to a serving platter and cut into slices about 1-inch thick.
10 to 12 servings