Pumpkin Pavé – Spiced Pumpkin Filling on Streusel

Pumpkin Pavé - Pumpkin Filling on Streusel

Are your attempts at pumpkin pie dough getting you down? Can’t roll it out because it’s either too tough or crumbly? Is it sticking to your counter and rolling pin even with heavy dustings of flour? Did the crust turn into a soggy mess after baking?

Ditch the pie dough and bake it on streusel instead.

Baked flat and sliced into square or rectangular portions, pavé pastries are so named because of its resemblance to tiles or paving stones. The dessert itself is the farthest thing from a brick, though. In this recipe, the smooth cream cheese filling is lightly sweetened to let some of its mellow tang through. With the addition of allspice and cinnamon, pumpkin pavé will be familiar even if its name and appearance are anything but.

Aside from being less finicky than pie dough, streusel is probably the ideal serving platform for the creamy pumpkin filling. Its crumbly texture provides much-needed contrast, and more importantly, because of the addition of ground pumpkin seeds, doesn’t fade into the background flavor-wise.

View Pumpkin Pavé Recipe - Spiced Pumpkin Filling on Streusel »

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Pumpkin Seed Dip of the Mayans – Ha Sikil Pak

Sikil Pak - Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip with Habanero Chile

The recent slew of pumpkin and squash posts is not some sort of misguided attempt to turn my year-round tan into a peculiar shade of orange. It’s all about collecting the slippery seeds within for making the pumpkin seed dip called ha-sikil-pak, which is Mayan for water-pumpkin seed-tomato.

I like guacamole as much as the next person but it lacks one thing that ha sikil pak has in spades — the complexity of several toasted and charred ingredients.

Raw pumpkin seeds are crisped and pulverized to serve as the pumpkin seed dip base. The chiles and tomatoes are then charred before mixing with a bit of water, herbs, and the fragrant pumpkin seed powder. Usually enjoyed with tortilla chips, ha sikil pak also serves well as a piquant condiment for grilled meat and seafood or as a substitute for fresh salsa.

View Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip - Ha Sikil Pak Recipe»

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Pan de Leche – Filipino Sweet Bread Rolls

Filipino Pan de Leche Sweet Bread Rolls

Pan de leche is a Filipino sweet bread that has many regional variations. As far as I know, any yeasted bread baked with milk and sugar can be labeled pan de leche, but I have a very specific idea of what it is supposed to be like. It will be dense and feel heavy for its size. The crumb will be dry but fluffy. The glazed soft crust will have the slightest hint of chewiness. Throwing it against a wall or forehead will cause a resounding thump.

With those attributes in mind, I tried several divergent recipes before coming up with my own. I found that making pan de leche requires the most basic bread baking techniques — pre-ferments, wild yeast starters, and soakers are unnecessary and the dough should be firm and easy to handle. It should take only a few hours of fermentation, some pantry staples, a sheet pan, and a hot oven.

The simplicity of my pan de leche recipe means that it is average bread at best. To put it bluntly, most of the other breads I’ve baked, where slow fermentation spread over a few days fully develops the flavor of the resulting loaf, will taste better.

But this is exactly how I remember it, a close approximation of a childhood favorite. After several attempts, I think I finally nailed it.

View Pan de Leche - Filipino Sweet Bread Rolls Recipe »

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Hobakjuk – Korean Pumpkin Porridge

호박죽 Hobakjuk Korean Pumpkin Squash Porridge

This version of hobakjuk, a Korean porridge made with pumpkins or squashes, is all about texture. Velvety pumpkin puree is mixed with tender azuki beans, chewy sweet rice balls, and crunchy pine nuts. And because everyone knows that pumpkins and spices go hand-in-hand, a light dusting of ground cinnamon ties everything together.

I’m just a bit confused whether hobakjuk should be served as a dessert or as a savory soup. At first glance, it seems like a dessert because it is lightly sweetened. The author then suggests serving the porridge with canisters of salt and pepper, tilting the porridge back to the middle of the sweet-savory scale.

In any case, you don’t have to be Korean to like hobakjuk. Unlike kimchi, this pumpkin porridge will seem instantly familiar even to the most unadventurous of palates. It may necessitate a visit to an Asian grocery store, risking life and limb because the possibility of slipping on errant grains of rice on aisle 7 exists, but try this recipe while pumpkins are in season and you’ll end up saving the pie for later. Much later.

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Butternut Squash Soup – Recipe from Alinea

Butternut Squash Soup Alinea Recipe

So you pick up a new cookbook and inhale that addictive new book smell. While eagerly perusing photographs and ingredient lists, you may be thinking, “I can make that,” or, “Time to pay Chinatown a visit.”

And then you somehow convince yourself that owning the Alinea cookbook is a good idea, fully intending to actually cook from it. How hard can it possibly be?

The package arrives and the familiar scent creeps up your nostrils as you flip the opening pages. You chuckle as you see “How to use this book” in the table of contents, and against your better judgment, skip to the recipes anyway.

Silence. The techniques require surgical precision. The equipment needed won’t be on sale at Sur la Table. You suddenly find yourself Googling improbable search terms such as “food-safe syringe.” Most of the ingredients are not available at Whole Foods. All of the ingredients are measured in weights, some as accurate to one-half of a gram. You can’t make anything even if everything is delineated in excruciating detail.

Until page 225, that is. Granted, this butternut squash soup is merely one component in a dish of 9 sub-recipes. In case you were wondering, the other elements are duck, curry, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, limes, and bananas. I don’t know how that works either but hopefully I’ll find out soon enough. If only I had some citric acid and soy lecithin.

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