I really love making food from scratch. There are so many great reasons to do so: a sense of accomplishment in the kitchen (that first successful pie crust, hello!), a better understanding of where your food comes from, and the slow and meditative pleasures of cooking — something I am especially fond of during colder months. But pumpkin presents an interesting conundrum: while it’s frequently employed in all kinds of sweets and baked goods, the fresh stuff just doesn’t always hold up to the canned.
It’s a little bit of a letdown to buy a fresh sugar pie pumpkin and wind up with a puree that is less pumpkin-y than a can of Libby’s. Interestingly, companies like Libby’s often use a variety of squash that we don’t think of as pumpkin. They’re more closely related to butternut squash — a distinction that would be immaterial if we referred to all squash as pumpkins. However, in the U.S, we don’t.
One solution is to go ahead and use butternut squash in your pumpkin baking adventures. They are sweeter and less pulpy than many varieties of pumpkin. They are also better suited to provide both a classic pumpkin flavor and a smooth, consistent texture. Either way, it’s time to get cozy in the kitchen, and baked goods paired with a cup of tea seems like just the ticket.
Pumpkin Buttermilk Scones
Yield: 8 scones
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup pumpkin (or squash) puree (canned pumpkin can also be substituted)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
Coarse sugar + nutmeg for dusting
To roast fresh squash:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice squash or pumpkin in half and remove seeds. (Reserve the seeds for roasting.) Place squash on a lightly greased baking pan and roast for about 45 minutes to one hour, until the squash is fork tender. Remove skin. Puree using an upright or handheld blender. If you find that the squash still has a lot of water, you may want to strain it for an hour or more (using cheesecloth) to remove excess moisture.
For the scones:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Whisk together both flours, sugar, baking powder, sea salt and spices in a larger mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, blend the pumpkin puree, buttermilk and egg.
Add the cubes of cold butter to the dry mix and work with your fingers to create a grainy mixture. Be careful to not overwork the dough.
Slowly pour the wet mix over the dry, whisking with a spoon until just combined.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Shape into a ball. Using a rolling pin or your hands, flatten the ball into a disk that is about 1 inch high. Sprinkle a light dusting of nutmeg and coarse sugar over the dough and gently press into the surface with fingers. Slice the disk into quarters, and then repeat to form 8 wedges.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Transfer the wedges to the baking sheet and bake for about 22-25 minutes, until the scones are golden and crisp at the edges.
Best served warm, fresh from the oven, with a generous slather of butter.
Note: Scones will often dry out quickly. You can freeze half the dough for future use.
Kimberley Hasselbrink is a food photographer and blogger based in San Francisco. She is the author of the blog The Year in Food, which is framed around a monthly seasonal food guide. Kimberley enjoys unusual produce, strong coffee, road trips and summer nights.