Loving pumpkin

Pumpkin-250Maybe no flavor says autumn quite like pumpkin. And these days it’s in everything from frothy coffee drinks and vodka to ravioli and soups.

But what exactly does pumpkin taste like? The answer is whatever you pair with it.

Pumpkin is a fairly neutral flavor, slightly earthy, mildly sweet. It plays as well in desserts as it does in savory dishes. The problem is cooks too often rely on sweet. Too many pumpkin soups taste like pumpkin pie filling: sweet and heavily spiced. Yes, it’s a flavor of fall; it just doesn’t belong in a soup bowl.

For savory pumpkin dishes, keep to savory flavorings such as garlic and sage, maybe even curry powder.

And for sweet pumpkin dishes, relegate them to dessert. The following recipe is one of my favorites, a mildly sweet, slightly spiced pumpkin cupcake with plenty of luscious chocolate frosting. Chocolate balances the earthy qualities of the pumpkin and makes no pretense of being anything other than a grand finale.

Makes 18 cupcakes

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten to blend
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

To make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 18 muffin cups with paper or foil liners or generously grease and flour them.

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl.

Beat butter and granulated sugar until lightly and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Blend in pumpkin. Stir in dry ingredients alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Spoon batter into prepared pans, filling about 2/3 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to racks to cool completely.

To make frosting: Beat butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Sift confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder together. Gradually add to the butter, beating well. Add the cream and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.

Spread frosting to cover tops of cupcakes.

Categories: Recipes

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