by Jolene Lamb, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
Pumpkin spice season is here! America is obsessed with all things pumpkin. I’m obsessed with pumpkin, and why shouldn’t I be? About 95% of the pumpkins processed in the U.S. are grown here in Illinois. Morton, Illinois calls itself the “Pumpkin Capitol of the World.” We not only eat and drink pumpkin, we treat it as a source of entertainment. Famers grow pumpkin patches for people to wander about, picking their perfect pumpkin. Pumpkins are carved into jack-o’-lanterns and used as decoration. There are pumpkin chunkin contests where people operate giant machines designed to fling pumpkins great distances. We watch cartoons about the great pumpkin, and Disney taught us that with a little help from our fairy godmother, we can take a magical pumpkin for a carriage ride, but only until midnight of course.
Even though a magical pumpkin ride is probably out of the question, we can still enjoy its various culinary uses. It can be baked, stewed, canned and we can even fry the blossoms and roast the seeds. Long before the pumpkin spice latte, there was traditional pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. Pumpkin is also great to use in savory dishes like soup and pasta filling. Not a coffee drinker? No worries, you can dink your pumpkin in one of the many pumpkin ales or pumpkin flavored whiskeys emerging on the culinary scene.
The pumpkin spice craze really began with Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. According to a news release statement on the Starbucks website, in fall 2003, Starbucks first brought the beverage to 100 stores in Vancouver and Washington, D.C. to test market it. Within the first few weeks the drink took off. The next fall, Pumpkin Spice Latte was available in all U.S. stores. The beverage built a loyal fan base and in the decade since its release, more than 200 million drinks have been sold. The fans even created a Facebook page to honor the spice and according to Starbucks, every fall customers express their #PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) enthusiasm with an average of more than 3,000 tweets per day!
Since then pumpkin spice has appeared everywhere. Doughnuts, pancakes, bagels, Oreo cookies, Hershey Kisses, Planters mixed nuts, Jell-O brand pudding and even Greek yogurt company Chobani make a pumpkin spice blend flavor. While grocery shopping the other day, I picked up a package of pumpkin spice chocolate covered pretzels and I’m pleased to report they tasted pretty good and I’m eating them as I write this.
Why is this flavor so popular? Is it the limited seasonal availability that drives us to purchase a random package of pumpkin spice flavored food? Perhaps it’s the blend of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and ginger spices which embody all that is the fall season. I wonder what a pumpkin spice latte would taste like in July. It doesn’t even sound appealing. Has the craze gone too far now that salons offer a pumpkin spice hair dye? Seriously, pumpkin spice hair color. What next, pumpkin spice tooth paste? Hopefully not. I love the flavor, but I think I’ll stick to minty fresh when it comes to my daily hygiene. Much to the dismay of the pumpkin spice haters out there, yes there are haters, I’ll continue to experiment with the flavor, and share my recipes every autumn. Here are a few of my favorites.
Yield: about 4 ½ tablespoons
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
Combine spices in a small bowl, mix well to combine. Store in a small jar or spice container
Candied Pumpkin Spice Pecans
Yield: 2 cups
Prep: 15 minutes
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice (see recipe)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecan halves
In a large heavy non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in sugar. Cook until mixture turns an amber color, about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally (mixture will separate).
Stir in pie spice and vanilla; add pecans. Reduce heat; cook and stir 3-4 minutes longer or until pecans are toasted. Spread onto foil to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Quick Bread
Yield- 2 loaves 8×4 or 2 doz muffins
3 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 ½ cups veg oil
1 ½ cup (6 oz.) chocolate chips
In a medium bowl combine flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Stir well to combine. Set aside.
In a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar until light. Add pumpkin and oil and mix on low until incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mix and stir (or use paddle attachment on mixer, on low) just until combine. Add chocolate chips and stir to just mix.
Scoop into paper lined muffin tins, or divide batter between loaf pans.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour loaf pans, 20 minutes for muffins
Pumpkin Crepes with Pumpkin Filling
1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Milk
½ Cup Water
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 cup canned Pumpkin
2 Tablespoons Melted butter
2-3 Tablespoons Canned Pumpkin
8 oz Softened Cream Cheese
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
Pumpkin Spice or Cinnamon (optional for added taste and garnishment)
Frozen Pumpkin Spice Cocktails
Yield: 2 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup pumpkin spice coffee-flavored liqueur (such as Kahlua(R))
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
8 cubes ice cubes
Combine cream, milk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin liqueur, and pumpkin pie spice together in a blender. Add ice cubes. Blend until smooth, 30 to 45 seconds.