Thanksgiving is around the corner and I should probably muse on pumpkin pies but, in case you were not paying attention, there is a pumpkin puree shortage. What? I asked our purchasing agent when he informed me of the situation and, while I longingly caressed the last can in our pantry, I set out to figure out why.
Obviously I wasn’t paying attention as it’s been all over the news. Pumpkin puree gets made and canned nearly a year before it hits the shelves, which means that this year’s batch was made with last year’s pumpkins. Apparently, the weather wasn’t cooperating last Autumn and one-third of the pumpkin crop was lost, leading to this year’s shortage.
Well, if you are really hellbent on serving pumpkin pie tomorrow, you can always roast your fresh pumpkin and puree it. It will take close to 90 minutes (depending on oven) for your orange friend to become mushy. But the flavor will repay you for the afternoon spent at home. Sugar pumpkin or butternut squash will work equally well – please stay clear of the pumpkin that is still lurching around your house from Halloween…
In all honesty, I am not a big fan of pumpkin desserts but I live in the States, I cook mainly for Americans so I had to adapt and muster enthusiasm for ingredients I don’t necessarily love. Which brings me to my Venetian Pumpkin Torte.
A few years ago I was determined to improve my Passover and Roshashana dinners, which had been uninspired affairs loosely based on Ashkenazi traditions. Now, no offense to any Russian readers, but Jewish Russian food sucks (at least to this Mediterranean palate) and I was more drawn to the Sephardic tradition. From Spanish and Moroccan Jewish food I expanded to look for books of Italian Jewish cuisine and bingo! I hit the jackpot.
This is an old Jewish recipe from Veneto, most likely from Treviso, that I slightly morphed to make mine and to adapt for American palates. So, next time you find yourself with a free afternoon on your hands, roast that pumpkin and whip up this torte. And why not this Thursday?
The original recipe appears in “Cucina Ebraica” by Joyce Goldstein
4 C Pumpkin puree (or about 2 pound or raw squash)
3/4 C Sugar
1/2 C Ground Almonds (not too finely ground in food processor or chopped by hand)
1/3 C Golden Raisins
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 C All Purpose Flour
2 ts Baking Powder
1 ts Cinnamon
3 Eggs, separated
1/4 ts Salt
1. Put the raisins in a small bowl with enough brandy to cover and let rest 20 minutes.
2. Pre-heat oven to 325F and butter a 9″ cake pan – line with parchment paper and spray (or butter).
3. Place the pumpkin puree in a bowl and mix it with sugar, ground almond, lemon zest and the raisins you will have drained.
4. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
5. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix well. Add the egg yolks and mix until incorporated. This can be done by hand or with a mixer, using the paddle attachment.
6. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form (easier down with a mixer). Using a rubber or silicone spatula, carefully fold the egg whites in the pumpkin batter. Use wide and gentle strokes, in order not to deflate the whites, until fully incorporated.
7. Pour into your cake pan and bake immediately (don’t let it sit or the whites will definitely deflate and the torte will turn out chewy) for about 45 minutes or until a skewer in the center comes out clean.
8. Let cool and invert the cake onto a platter. Peel off the parchment. Serve it with whipped cream (in which you can swirl some caramel sauce for added effect and sweetness)