Some American Baking
Over the years I’ve read a lot of American fiction and watched many American television programmes and have often found myself salivating over many of the food descriptions. So with the USA’s Thanksgiving approaching (Canadian Thanksgiving takes place in October) I thought I would try out some recipes at home. I decided to opt for the traditional Thanksgiving staple of pumpkin pie and the non-traditional peach cobbler, which is normally a summer dish using fresh peaches but is such a warming, comforting dish that I thought it could work well on these cold, blustery evenings.
Before I tried pumpkin pie I was unsure what to expect and thought it may be rather bland, however, this is not the case. It’s not the easiest flavour to describe but if you like sweet potato and butternut squash you will more than likely enjoy pumpkin as it has a similar but less sweet taste. If, like me, you enjoy puddings but don’t have an overly sweet tooth this is a great desert to try out.
If you’re not keen on the idea of using a pumpkin recipes I found did state that you can alternatively use butternut squash if that’s more to your taste. I have previously made pumpkin pie with the larger ones used for Halloween but this time I opted for the smaller, sweeter culinary pumpkin which can be picked up at your local supermarket (mine came from Tesco for £1.50). The culinary ones also make an easier job of peeling and dicing – you are going to need a sturdy, sharp knife and a good strong peeler for this job.
I used this pumpkin pie recipe from the BBC Good Food website for the filling and another from the same website for the pastry (basic sweet pastry). If pastry-making leaves you nervous you can always use a shop-bought crust and save yourself the worry of warm hands and overworking the dough.
I discovered that, for the first time in a very long time, I did not have any ground cinnamon so used a dash of ground ginger and about a teaspoon of ground allspice to season which added a nice warm kick of spice to the overall flavour.
The steps were easy to follow but this recipe did fail to mention that it’s best to remove as much moisture as possible from the cooled pumpkin pieces before you puree them. I myself did not remember this step until I took the completed pie from the oven and discovered that the mixture had split due to the moisture mixing with the dairy. While it still had a lovely taste, the texture was very off-putting so if you’re making one make sure the pumpkin pieces are cool and that you pat out as much of the moisture as you can with kitchen towel, before you puree and combine with the other ingredients.
I was really disappointed that this didn’t turn out as well as the last time I made it but, hey, baking is all trial and error and I know how to improve it for next year!
For those who don’t know, cobbler consists of fruit cooked in a batter that rises in the oven, sort of like a sweet toad-in-the-hole. If you’re not great at baking this is a really simple desert to make from fresh as there are no complicated techniques involved.
I used this Paula Deen recipe from the Food Network. I don’t own measuring cups so used a teacup to weigh everything out. If you don’t own either, don’t worry, I think the main thing is for the measurements to be equal so you could use a mug or a small jug but couldn’t use two that were of different sizes. I personally love using cups for measuring as it means I don’t have to fiddle around with scales or worry about how accurate they are.
As it’s not peach season I used tinned peaches for the recipe, I opted for those stored in juice rather than syrup as I find syrup too sweet for my liking. Using tinned fruit worked just as well and certainly saved time as peeling and de-stoning fresh peaches can be a little tricky and time consuming, not to mention sticky should they be particularly juicy. What I would suggest is that if you are using tinned fruit you can probably afford to skip the first step of the recipe as you already have the juice.
I personally found that using tinned fruit made the cobbler sweeter than I would like and meant it didn’t have the same fresh feel that it did when I made it in summertime so I think in future I will cube fresh peaches and store them in the freezer ready for winter.