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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Pie?

Everything's coming up pumpkins and pumpkin spice.
Everything's coming up pumpkins and flaky crusts.
Everything's coming up pumpkins and hot beignets.
Beignets?
Yep.
Pie pumpkins aren't just for pie.

Pumpkin Beignets With Salted Dulce De Leche.

Pumpkin Puree.
So, canned pumpkin or fresh pumpkin? Let the debate begin. While most folks agree that there is very little taste difference between either fresh or canned pumpkin puree, fresh puree has a lighter texture compared to the compacted dense texture of canned. . When incorporating it into airy deep fried doughnuts, lightness is key.  While it might be a little more liquidy than the canned stuff, a few extra steps easily eliminates the wet factor. Obviously, canned pumpkin is a bit more convenient and accessible, but when everything's coming up pumpkins at our local farmers' markets, fresh pumpkin puree is the way to go.

After rinsing 4 Casey County pie pumpkins (about 1 1/2 pounds each), I split them in half, scooped out the stringy seeds, placed them cut side down on parchment paper-lined sheet pans, and slid them into a preheated  375 degree oven to roast for 40-45 minutes. When  knife tender, I pulled them from the oven to cool before carefully scraping the softened flesh from the wilted skins.  After picking  out a few stray wandering bits from the cooked pumpkin, I pureed it in a food processor (in batches), and spooned it into a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl to drain for 30 minutes. To help evaporate additional excess moisture, I placed the puree in a saute pan over a low flame, simmered it for 30 minutes, pulled it from the heat, and set it aside to
cool. The whole shebang netted about 3 cups pureed pumpkin.

Salted Dulce De Leche.
Again, baked canned sweetened condensed milk or the  fresher stove top version? Since I ditched the can for the pumpkin puree, I went with the fresh version.

After stirring together 4 cups milk, 1 1/4 cups sugar, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in a heavy saucepan, I brought the mix to a boil, reduced the heat, and simmered it for about 1 1/2 hours until it thickened and caramelized. I pulled the dulce de leche from the heat and added 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract along with 2 teaspoons flaked sea salt before setting it aside.

Bienets. 
Go nuts for dough.
I sprinkled 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast over 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. When the yeast proofed, I added 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons melted butter, a pinch of salt, and a 1/4 cup heavy cream. After mixing the wet ingredients on a low speed, I added 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and a pinch of ground cloves before gradually adding 4 cups all-purpose flour. When the dough pulled away from the bowl and formed a smooth pliable dough, I covered it with a clean dish towel to rise.

After the dough doubled in size, I turned it onto a floured work board, patted it down, rolled the dough 1/4" thick, cut it into diamonds, and covered it to rise again for 1 1/2 hours.

Fry.
Time to make the doughnuts.
I heated vegetable oil ( 3" deep) in a heavy dutch oven until it reached 380 degrees. Working in batches, I carefully slipped the beignet diamonds into the hot oil and fried them for about 2 minutes per side to puff up and brown before scooping them out onto paper towels to catch any excess oil. While they were still warm, I showered the pillowy beignets with powdered sugar and nestled the salted dulce de leche to the side.

Crisp.
Puffy.
Utterly messy.
Like powdery pumpkin-spiced pockets of air.

Beignets in the pumpkin patch.
Pass the dulche de leche.
Fabulous.








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