I suppose it’s kind of the point to be startled by Halloween. It always seems to sneak up on me. All my plans of carving up the many pumpkins that I bought seem to vaporize as the day approaches, and all I can do is, at the last possible moment, run to the grocery store to grab big bags of crap candy and simply set the pumpkins, uncut and undecorated, on the porch in some sad semblance of seasonal cheer.
Of course, it’s not all bad, being that lazy. You at least get to eat the pumpkins afterwards instead of waiting until they completely rot and attempt to get them into the yard waste before they leak all over you (nightmares of Halloweens past). So, to make use of my pumpkins this year, I thought about going with something similar to Pim’s luscious looking coconut milk and pumpkin panna cotta… but instead, settled on a simple, homey pumpkin pie with a little twist. Instead of a crust, I just used another little pumpkin… an idea I saw recently in Sunset Magazine, although those little pumpkins were filled with a garlic custard (which sounds like another great idea to try at some point.)
If you start this recipe from pumpkin puree, it doesn’t take much time… the big work is hollowing out the little pumpkin so you can fill it with your pumpkin pie mixture. If you do this, make sure you use pure pumpkin puree… not pumpkin pie filling.
However, if, like me, you want to use your own pumpkin puree be prepared for it to take a little while. You can speed the process by first peeling and cubing the pumpkin, so that it roasts in about 40 minutes. My pumpkin was nearly impossible to peel though, so I first roasted it whole for 20 minutes, and then found it simple to remove from the thick skin and scoop out… followed by cubing and more roasting until each little piece is throughly tender. It’s critical to make sure the pumpkin is well cooked before you puree if you want silky smooth filling. Once it’s practically spoonable, blend it to a fine puree. I like using a handheld immersion blender for this, but a regular blender or food processor are fine too. Then, let the pumpkin cool to room temperature before using in the recipe.
I also decided to top the pumpkins with some meringue, which I then torched to caramelize some. It’s a cute touch, but not at all necessary. Topping with whipped cream would be just as nice, if you don’t want to bother with a meringue.
So Happy Halloween everyone! Here’s your little, perhaps a bit late, treat!
Pumpkin Pie Pumpkins
Adapted from Donna Hay’s Flavors, Pumpkin and Ginger Tart
makes 3-4 filled individual, baby-sized pumpkins
3 to 4 baby pumpkins
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy (single or pouring) cream
1 T flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400F. Wash and dry the baby pumpkins. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place the pumpkins stem side up, and bake for about 15 minute. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes to cool. Cut off the tops. Spoon out the seeds and any stringy bits, which can be discarded. Wash out the insides and set aside to dry.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.
Blend all of the remaining ingredients until very smooth. I used a hand held immersion blender for this. Then pour the filling into the pumpkins, filling about 1/2 inch from the top.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the filling has set. Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving. You can replace the lids, or top with something creamy like meringue or whipped cream once they’ve cooled a bit.