wholemeal pumpkin scones with maple pecan butter

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I was given a pumpkin last week. An organic, home grown butternut, with white sap still oozing from its freshly cut stem. Now, in regular circumstances, gift acceptance isn’t permitted in my line of work. However, at the tail-end of a poignant home visit in the late afternoon, I’m less likely to object. Particularly if the said gift is from the garden.

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This particular pumpkin was grown by the husband of a woman with whom I’ve been working for over six months. He passed away last week, completely unexpectedly. He was his wife’s main carer; a strong, coarse man of eighty three who spent his career working as a truck driver. In his later years, he developed a passion for home-grown produce, cooking and preserving; in part, to nourish the health of his languishing wife.

Now she is here, and he is not. All that remains is a pile of matter, an empty ache, memories and a nourished garden. His name was John.

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On Wednesday afternoon, I arrived home with John’s pumpkin in my worn leather handbag. I felt a certain amount of responsibility to do it ‘justice’, seeing as it was the last of his beloved crop. I ran my hands over the smooth exterior, removing clumps of dirt with sentimental fingers before placing it in my vegetable box. There it stayed for my remaining day of work before the long weekend.

On Good Friday morning, I woke early. I poured a bowl of oats and sat, notepad in hand, as the sun illuminated the plant pots on our balcony. I chewed reflectively, jotting down baking ideas, herb combinations and general recipe thoughts. Upon emptying my bowl, I felt settled on a combination of mashed pumpkin, coconut sugar, pecans and maple, tumbled in a bowl of wholemeal flour. Scones it would be.

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bussoeggs2The following recipe was created according to my personal preference for nourishing, whole wheat baked goods* that can later be slathered in smooth nut butter. The extra pinch of baking powder ensures a sufficient, gentle rise and a fluffy, moist crumb.

If you prefer the more traditional flavour of Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen’s pumpkin scones (for those overseas, Lady Flo was the wife of a Queensland parliamentarian who was famous for her home baking), exchange the wholemeal flour for refined white self-raising and substitute the coconut sugar for white sugar. Those with a sweet tooth might also appreciate a drizzle of raw honey upon the subtly sweet, nutty maple pecan butter.

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It’s the kind of deliciousness that takes me back to my childhood days in the sunshine. I like to think that John would have approved.

*I probably would have used spelt flour if I had it, so feel free to exchange quantities if you have some residing in your cupboard (150g spelt flour is equivalent to 1 cup wheat flour; add 2 tsp baking powder per 150g).

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Wholemeal Pumpkin Scones

Makes approximately 18 round 6-cm diameter scones

  • 2 1/2 + 1 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1 cup mashed pumpkin (preferably roasted rather than boiled, cool before using)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • good pinch of sea salt
  • good pinch of baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk (almond, soy or dairy all work well)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Lightly dust two flat baking trays with plain flour.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Add the egg, milk and mashed pumpkin.

Sift the flour, baking powder, spices (if using) and salt together into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, then add your liquid ingredients.

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Mix together with your hands, adding a little more flour if required (from the extra cup listed in the ingredients) until you have a soft but workable dough.

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Turn out onto a floured surface, knead until smooth. Flour your rolling pin, then roll the dough out to a 2cm thickness. Cut into squares or rounds (I used a 6-cm diameter glass), re-rolling your dough as required.

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Place the scones onto your prepared baking trays, 1cm apart. Sprinkle tops with a little plain flour. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until risen and slightly golden. Serve hot with a generous slather of maple pecan butter (recipe to follow).

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butter

Maple Pecan Butter

I personally use 2-3 tsp maple syrup in my maple pecan butter for a gentle hint of sweetness, however during taste tests several commented that they’d like it a bit sweeter. Taste, contemplate and add a little more maple syrup if it’s your preference.

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3-4 tsp pure maple syrup (to taste)
  • 1 cup toasted organic pecans
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of cinnamon, optional

Blend 3/4 cup pecans into a fine ground using a food processor. Add the butter, blend again until smooth and fragrant. Add the maple syrup, salt and cinnamon to taste (start with 2 tsp maple syrup, taste and work your way up – I was happy with 2 tsp but most thought otherwise!). Crush the remaining pecan nuts in a mortar and pestle into a coarse ground, add to the butter mixture.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to using. Wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for a month.

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spiced pumpkin cake with cinnamon oat streusel

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It’s late on a warm Monday afternoon. The sun is slowly dipping towards the horizon, leaving weathered streaks of gold upon the sky. I’ve recently returned from work, mentally depleted and weary boned. A glass of cool, clear water sits on the kitchen bench as I move, trance-like, between the stove and the sink.

This is my wind-down space; a capsule of relaxation and creativity. My hands move on autopilot, chopping, stirring and selecting herbs as my mind slowly loosens from the demands of the day. Potatoes softly bubble in water. Steam hisses in a hot, starch-scented cloud. Garlic crackles in olive oil, fragrant gold spitting against glistening black.

oiloilwater2 I’m sure most of you would agree that there’s something beautifully organic about cooking. Something intrinsic and habitual, corporeal and instinctive, hands working in synchronicity with the subconscious mind. Most days, I can cook without thinking. In fact, my mind wanders elsewhere whilst my hands do the work. Today, I drifted by the ocean in a cloud of sea spray as sweetlip snapper crisped on the stove. When cooked, the flaky white flesh was devoured with a drizzle of lemon oil, smoked sea salt, charred asparagus, roasted potatoes and warm, tapenade-doused cherry tomatoes bursting from their skins.

It was good. It took care of itself. I just supervised the harmonious simplicity.

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But today’s post isn’t about fish or potatoes, relaxation or heavy limbs. It’s about pumpkin; specifically, ‘pumpkin in a can’ sent to me by a beautiful woman named Mackenzie who lives in Minneapolis (USA) with her husband Mike and their gorgeous pup, Abby.

Some of you might recognize Mackenzie by her blogging moniker, Susie Freaking Homemaker. If you’re not yet acquainted, I’d encourage you to visit her beautiful blog space very soon. Mackenzie is the queen of candid photography, nourishing recipe posts, real life stories, biting humour and workout inspiration. She writes from her heart, and what overflows is an obvious passion for food, life, health and humanity. She’s beautiful inside and out, and I now feel lucky enough to count her as a friend (though we’re yet to meet). I hope that you’ll soon feel the same.

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Anyway, back to the pumpkin story. Some weeks ago, Mackenzie and I had a quick ‘chat’ on one of her blog posts about unique products from our respective countries; mostly those that the other dreadfully ‘missed’ or was yet to try (Tim Tams and Australian Kettle chips for Mackenzie, Reese’s peanut butter cups and Starbucks coffee for me). What followed was a casual agreement to send each other a tailored ‘care package’ full of these delicious treats… from one bank of the Pacific ocean to the other.

One week later, my package arrived (whilst I was still gradually scrambling to put Mackenzie’s together; organization is not my strong point). It was heavy, brown and curious. After ripping off some duct tape, I caught sight of the characteristic orange and black Reese’s candy packaging. I’m pretty sure my eyes beamed like headlights at midnight. A further rummage revealed two bags of fragrant Starbucks coffee beans, a gorgeous handwritten card and four cans of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin.

I stared at the cans curiously. Australians don’t sell pumpkin in cans. Heck, we hardly even eat sweet pumpkin things, with the exception of the Queensland Premier’s wife’s pumpkin scones.

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One week after receiving my care package, I’d nibbled through some of the Reese’s candy whilst trawling the internet for recipes using canned pumpkin. There are many, particularly as Americans are currently in full autumn (fall) mode in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.

Mackenzie has some great ones on her blog, including chewy, pecan-crusted Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and a recipe for an amped-up Pumpkin Pie with a fluffy cream cheese layer and a salted pretzel crust. Both sounded delicious. However, after reading the ingredients I realized that both contained American ingredients that couldn’t be sourced in my home town. Darn it.

bowlI ended up putting the call out on facebook for favourite pumpkin recipes. I gratefully received lots of wonderful, gooey, pumpkin-y recipe links that I’ll be exploring further in the coming weeks, including this one from Stephie over at Eat Your Heart Out (yum!). However, Sunday’s bake-a-thon called for something simpler, something utilizing common ingredients in an Australian pantry: flour, oil, eggs, spices and oats.

I ended up with a dense, spicy, moist and delicious pumpkin cake based on this recipe from Food.com (however, I modified it significantly; you know me by now). It was indescribably delicious. Indescribably. I never thought that sweet pumpkin could be so good.

*Thanks Mackenzie! I hope that you get your Aussie care package soon.

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Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Oat Streusel

Makes 1 x 22cm cake or 2 medium loaves

Cake:

  • 2 cups (425g/1 can) canned pumpkin
  • 2 cups organic raw caster sugar (substitute brown sugar)
  • 1 cup water, at room temperature
  • 1 cup rice bran oil (substitute vegetable oil/other mild oil)
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 3 free-range egg yolks
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut meal
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup, to glaze (optional)

Streusel topping*:

  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup organic raw caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup rolled wholegrain oats
  • 1/4 cup crushed hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup soft butter (test for consistency)

*this recipe will make extra. I like to freeze it in plastic wrap for later use. You can also bake it on a greased tray alongside the cake for a crumbly fruit or ice cream topping.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin or two medium loaf pans. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your pumpkin, sugar, water, oil, eggs and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Sift your measured dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Add them slowly to the pumpkin mixture, whisking as you go.

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The finished mixture should be thick, smooth and glossy. Pour into your cake tin/loaf tins, then set aside whilst you prepare the streusel.

To make the streusel: Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Using your fingers, carefully rub in small chunks of butter until you have a crumbly mixture that sticks together in chunks.

streuselCrumble the mixture slightly and distribute it in small crumbles/chunks all over the surface of the cake (ensure that the layer isn’t too think or the cake won’t rise; any extra streusel can be baked alongside the cake on a greased tray and eaten with the cake or over ice cream).

Oven bake for 60-70 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges with only a few moist crumbs attached. Whilst still hot, brush with maple syrup (if desired). Cool on a wire rack.

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I baked two of these cakes, one of which was eaten on Saturday night at a friend’s house with a side of Jamie Oliver’s summer berry and yoghurt pavlova (baked by my beautiful friend Erin). So good.  cuttingcake piecetakenThis cake is wonderful on its own, at room temperature, on its own or with a thin lashing of cream cheese. However, if you’re wanting a delicious dessert, warm up a slice and serve it à la mode with ice cream and/or cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.

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