This is a building block post, meaning that the three containers you see above are pureed fall fruits and vegetables (from left to right: butternut squash, apples and pumpkin) that can be used in a variety of recipes ranging from soups to sweetbreads and muffins. I took advantage of my day off for Columbus Day to do some prep work around the kitchen, and these purees take a lot of the work out of preparing many fall dishes.
My plan is to use the bright orange butternut squash for a Thai-spiced soup with coconut milk and red curry paste. It’s a recipe from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, one of my absolute favorite food blogs.
The applesauce is great on its own, but it would also go well in a squash soup (either a cup of pumpkin or butternut puree is fine here) with 1 browned onion and about 4 cups of chicken broth. Salt to taste.
The pumpkin is for a super healthy bread I’m planning to have for breakfast this week, and I’m going to use the reserve to make pumpkin spice lattes, pancakes and muffins. The applesauce actually plays a role in the bread, as it functions as a fat substitute. It’s such a wondrous thing that you can use a fat-free item like apples in the place of the bulk of the oil or butter in your baking recipes. It doesn’t work in everything, but in a bread, especially one with pumpkin, the texture and flavor of the apples is perfect. Recipe for purees and bread after the jump.
First, how to make the purees. There are several techniques to cook squash, including steaming and boiling, but I opted to bake my squashes and saute the apples.
Butternut squash: Cut up 1 butternut squash and take out its seeds (save them and see below!). Here is an excellent post on how to do this and keep all your fingers. Always practice safe cutting in the kitchen! Cut the squash into cubes, toss with 1 tbsp. olive oil and spread out in one layer on a baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the pieces are fork tender. Cool and puree in a blender. Since I’m using the squash in a soup, there is no need to strain it like we did with the pumpkin.
Applesauce: Peel, core and cube 3 sweet apples, then saute them in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup water and allow the apples to soften over a medium-low flame for about 40 minutes, or until they are fork tender. Add another cup of water as needed to keep the apples moist until they are soft.
Allow most of the liquid to dissolve, then transfer the apples and remaining liquid to a blender. Puree. Since we went with sweet apples, this applesauce is ready for snacking as is. You can add a touch of cinnamon if you’re going to consume it in this state, but I reserved it to make the pumpkin bread.
Pumpkin: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice 2 pie pumpkins (the giant carving ones aren’t as good for cooking) in half, spoon out the seeds (save these too!) and stringy middle, and place them cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Place the pumpkins in the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the flesh of the pumpkins is fork tender.
Cool the pumpkin, then spoon out the flesh into a blender and blend. If you will be baking with the pumpkin, then you need to strain some of the liquid out. Just place the puree in a mesh strainer lined with a folded paper towel, and let it sit over a bowl for about an hour. Discard juices. Use the puree as a substitute in any recipe calling for canned pumpkin.
Roasted seeds: Before I get to the bread, I have to make a note on the pumpkin and squash seeds. You can and should save them and roast them. They are great on their own with a little salt, or mixed into granola. Just rinse off all the stringy squash bits that are attached to the seeds, then let the seeds air dry.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss the dried seeds with 1 to 2 tbsp. olive oil, just enough to coat whatever amount of seeds you have. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake them for 20 minutes, giving them a toss halfway. Salt to taste after they are toasted to a light brown. (Be sure to clean out the seeds that pop and fall to the bottom of your oven once it’s cooled!)
On to the moist, healthy pumpkin bread!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a standard loaf pan. (I don’t own one, so I used a 7 x 7 roasting pan and baked my bread in 45 minutes since the bread was thinner.)
In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 3 tbsp. flaxseed meal, 1 tsp. baking soda, and a 1/2 tsp. each of salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. You can also add a dash of crushed cloves. After sifting, you can add the extra wheat grains and flaxseed meal into the dry mix. The point of sifting is just to evenly distribute the spices. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup applesauce, 2 tbsp. grapeseed oil, 1/4 cup agave syrup, 2 tbsp. whole milk yogurt and 2 lightly beaten room-temperature eggs.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. That means take about half the dry ingredients in a bowl, add all the wet ingredients, mix, and then incorporate the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix only long enough to bring the batter together, about 30 seconds by hand. If you overbeat it, your eggs will toughen and so will the resulting bread.
Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until a submerged toothpick comes out clean.
Note: This is a not a very sweet bread, since I wanted to have it for breakfast. If you want to make it sweeter, substitute an additional 1/4 cup of agave syrup for the yogurt.
Enjoy, and do share your favorite squash recipes in the comments section!