Pumpkin Is My Theme

Mmm... I love my grandma's pumpkin custard with a sweet dollop of whipped cream.

While so many folks have been focused on escalating word counts for National Novel Writing Month, it’s no secret that I’ve been distracted from writing so far this month.

I wake up thinking about house projects and various spinning plates, not my protagonist. I fear that’ll only get more pronounced as we launch into the holiday season and its many joys, celebrations and family moments. Although I’m putting time in on the page every morning, the other hours of the day seem to be focused on more concrete happenings.

The point is this: pumpkin.

I thought my infatuation would end with October, but no, my desire to bake has only gotten stronger now that November is here. I’ve made a pumpkin loaf out of the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, another loaf with dried cranberries and my grandmother’s famous pumpkin custard, which calls for “a scant cup of sugar.” That was my favorite part of the recipe–hearing her voice in that typewritten directive. Of course I’ve also been enjoying cooking heirloom squash.

But right now we’re talking pumpkin. I only started baking regularly in the past year or two, but I enjoy trying new recipes and sharing the results with the neighbors. So now, instead of hashing out themes in my novel, or answering the book-changing question that I’ve asked myself, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the next can of organic pumpkin.

  • Pumpkin cookies topped my wish list–until I found my grandma’s custard recipe and gave that a shot instead. I have targeted the Perfect Pumpkin Cookies recipe from Erin Cooks. She talks about the challenge of making them chewy, which is something I like in a cookie.
  • Pumpkin pancakes. Who knew? I happened upon them at a local restaurant and have been desperate to make them  for the family some slow, relaxed morning. Maybe next weekend… I bookmarked the Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes at Epicurious because that recipe uses more pumpkin than others I perused. The restaurant ones were barely sweetened at all, and the texture and flavor really popped.
  • When my husband and I got married, we were given a friends and family cookbook full of favorite recipes and photographs. So fun! It’s one of my treasures. There’s a pumpkin muffin recipe in there that’s delicious–and long overdue for another taste test.
  • There are myriad sweet pumpkins available at our farmers’ market. I want to experiment by baking one of those, whether by itself or as part of a baked good (instead of the organic canned variety I’ve been using so far this fall).
  • I am, truthfully, more than ready for another round of my grandmother’s custard, warmed from the oven and topped with a hearty helping of fresh whipped cream. Mmm.

If I keep floundering around in this final stretch of my novel, maybe I’ll keep cooking pumpkin-themed items through December and January and… Anyone have a good recipe for pumpkin scones?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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16 Responses to Pumpkin Is My Theme

  1. Emma Burcart says:

    Two words: pumpkin waffles. They are amazing! I also really love pumpkin soup at this time of year, but I don’t know if it can be made with canned pumpkin. I don’t really use anything from a can. It’s not available in Ecuador, so I’m used to cutting up the pumpkin and baking it with cinnamon and cloves. Then I put it in the food processor and mash it up. If you are going for savory, like soup, you can bake it with garlic and basil. Yum, yum. Oh, and pumpkin flan is also super yummy. I better stop now before I get too hungry. Keep up the baking!

    • Ooh, pumpkin soup! I definitely need to add some savory recipes to my pumpkin fest. I’ve been eyeing the delicious sweet baking pumpkins at the farmers’ market. Maybe one or two will come home this weekend… Thanks for the inspiration, Emma!

  2. Leila says:

    No fair! Taunting us with Pumpkin Custard and not sharing the recipe. My mom makes this fabulous pumpkin roll with cream cheese icing all year round. I found a recipe for Savory Pumpkin Tart that I’m going to try for Thanksgiving. (I love me savory squash and sweet squash). I’ll trade recipes! 🙂

  3. Laura, I was the official holiday baker in the family. Learned from mom and aunts, saved recipes and honed my skills starting at twelve. Pumpkin pie and custard, bread and muffins, all of them are great. How can pumpkins and baking further your work? When the hands are busy, the mind is at rest. If you use that time to allow the book to “ferment” you will go back to it refreshed and ready for the next go-round. Not to mention you will have the added pleasure of eating that great custard. “Nothin’ says lovin’ as somethin’ from the oven.” And who would doubt the Dough Boy 🙂

    • Wow, Florence. What an amazing experience and a special connection with the matriarchs of your family. Thanks for sharing your story.

      “When the hands are busy, the mind is at rest.” I love that expression and totally agree about the importance of “fermentation” when writing. And you’re right–not only does baking give me that suspended consciousness, but there’s something delicious to eat after it’s all done! Talk about satisfaction. Yum.

  4. Dr. Anita Price Davis says:

    Now you need to add a pumpkin-colored puppy or kitten to your novel. Then you have a holiday feeling ensured.  Anita

  5. I’m glad to know it’s not just me! Generally, I hate to cook or bake. But come the holidays, I spend more time in the kitchen than all year collectively! 😉

    Pumpkin pancakes=AMAZING! My sister cooks them quite often. My mom used to make them when we were younger during the fall as well!

    I have an amazing recipe for Harvest pumpkin cookies with pumpkin, cranberries, and pecans. YUMMY!

    Sweet potatoes are amazing! I live a few towns away from MS’s sweet potato capital, Vardamen. My grandpa buys us a huge box every year. I think it’s like 20-30 lbs. Anyway, I have so many different sweet potato recipes I can give you if you want them! 😉

    I love this time of the year!

    Oh, and sorry about the scones. I don’t have a recipe for them, but it sounds amazing. If I come across something, I’ll let you know! 🙂

    • I’m excited to experiment with pumpkin pancakes now! And those harvest pumpkin cookies sound great, too. I’ll keep you posted if I find a good scone recipe.

      I bet getting sweet potatoes in your region must be like getting apples in Washington, or regular potatoes near Boise. How lucky you are! I tend to bake sweet potatoes (and yams) on autopilot. If you have a favorite recipe, I’d love to try it!

  6. YUMMMMM. Oh man, I’m so hungry now. If you’re looking for any excuse to make pumpkin things, you can send them my way! 🙂

  7. Pumpkins sound like a lovely focus. And your returns will be so delicious!

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