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We’re going all pumpkin around here lately. I guess all that puree stored in the freezer is weighing on my mind. Here’s one of the ways I’ve been using it up. These pumpkin-pecan madeleines are flavoured with brown sugar and browned butter, which adds a richness that perfectly complements the pumpkin. It took me three tries to get this recipe down. The first time they didn’t rise high enough, the second time I added vanilla (I discovered that it just got in the way) and I forgot to butter the tins. Finally, on the third round, everything aligned. These little cakes are hardly madeleines anymore, what with the pumpkin and the brown sugar and the crunchy, candied nuts, but they’re so pretty, and I love how their edges get nice and crispy when they’re baked in a madeleine tin. I also highly recommend the browned butter method for combination with pumpkin. It’s a deep flavour that goes perfectly with brown sugar.

COOKING NOTES:

-If you don’t have a madeleine tin, I think these would work as mini-muffins instead.
-Grease your tin really, really well. If you don’t, your madeleines won’t brown nicely AND they won’t come out of your tin. -Candying (and in fact, even toasting) the pecans is optional, but I like it because the madeleine batter is not very sweet.
-If you use canned solid-pack pumpkin instead of homemade puree, I recommend mixing it with your melted butter before adding it to the batter. This should soften it enough to make it easy to incorporate.
-I added some baking powder to the recipe because my madeleines didn’t rise as much as I would have liked (as I had to cut back on butter in order to add pumpkin). If you have a way to cut the baking powder, let me know.

PUMPKIN-PECAN MADELEINES

1/4 cup butter, plus more for toasting pecans and greasing madeleine tin
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar, plus 2 tsp. for candying pecans
1/3 cup + 1Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
1/4 cup chopped pecans

First, do your preparation: preheat your oven to 350. Chop the pecans and sift the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.

Next, melt your butter in a small pan over medium heat. It will froth up, then reduce again as it begins to brown and turn a rich nutty colour. When it is brown, pour it through a fine-mesh strainer (this gets rid of any solids that might have formed) into a small bowl. Set the browned butter aside to cool as you prepare your pecans and batter.

In the same frying pan you used to brown the butter, toast the pecans with a teaspoon or so more butter. When they are getting golden, toss approximately 2 tsp. of brown sugar in and stir the pecans to coat them well. Remove them from the pan and set them aside to cool.

To prepare the batter, first beat the two eggs together with a pinch of salt. You can use a standing mixer if you’ve got one (lucky you!), a handheld electric mixer (this is what I did), or if you’re tough, do it by hand. Beat the eggs until they’re pale yellow, thick, and syrupy. They will also have gained some volume. Next, beat in your brown sugar, adding it in large pinches to the eggs while you continue beating. When all the sugar has been incorporated, continue beating until your mixture has gained even more volume and holds the marks of the beater for a few seconds (like softly-whipped cream).

After you’ve beaten the eggs, sprinkle the flour overtop and gently fold it in with a spatula. Don’t be rough and overstir, but don’t be afraid to be firm with it either. Next, fold in the butter and pumpkin, ensuring they are well-incorporated.  Finally, fold in the pecans.

Put the batter into your (well-greased!!) madeleine tin, a big tablespoon for each little mold. Most of the madeleines recipes I consulted said that the batter would spread in the heat of the oven, but I didn’t find this to be true. Instead, I used the back of a spoon to spread the batter evenly in the molds. I filled the molds approximately 3/4 full, maybe a little bit more. I had exactly enough batter for 12 madeleines.

Bake your madeleines for 12-15 minutes, turning the pan once halfway through cooking to ensure they brown evenly. They will be golden and springy when they’re ready.

Once you remove them from the oven, cool your madeleines in the tin before popping them out and eating them. Try them with tea or coffee.

I’ve got a lot of pumpkin in my freezer right now, thanks to Halloween. I also promised I was going to make a post about how to roast pumpkin. Now that I’ve done it once I won’t ever buy canned pumpkin again. It was too easy! I’ve read all over the place that sugar pumpkin is the only acceptable pumpkin for baking with, but I disagree. My mother has always roasted her plain old Halloween variety and they’ve always been delicious. They come out light and flavourful. The other complaint I’ve read is that regular pumpkins come out stringy, but I’ve never encountered this problem either. As long as you’ve taken care to scrape the pumpkin out well, you’ll be fine.

TO ROAST A PUMPKIN
Tools Needed: Rimmed baking sheet, colander or large strainer, cheesecloth (this one’s optional. I’ve done without).

Preheat your oven to 350.

While your oven is heating, disembowel your pumpkin. First, I cut the cap off, as if I’m going to make a Jack’o’lantern out of it. I find this makes it easier to cut the pumpkin in half. Then I cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the strings and the seeds in the middle. Do a thorough job of this, and remember to set aside your seeds for roasting!

Once your pumpkin is disemboweled, lay the two halves face-down on a rimmed cookie sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and pour a cup or two of water in the base to prevent sticking and burning. Roast your pumpkin for about an hour (less for a small one), or until a fork goes into it like it’s butter.

Remove your pumpkin from the oven. The skin should peel right off. Puree your pumpkin in batches in a food processor and then set your pumpkin mush in a cheesecloth-lined colander over a large bowl. Allow it to drain of excess water overnight. In the morning, you’ll have pumpkin puree! Use it for baking (pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie, the possibilities are endless) or for soup. One thing, though. I’m noticing that all of my pumpkin baking recipes use the same basic spice combos (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves….). Does anyone have any different ideas for pumpkin spicing? I’d love to try something new, but I’m not sure what. Keep an eye out, though, for our pumpkin ice cream with candied ginger, coming up soon!