The Great Pumpkin Experiment, part 1

Have you ever wondered whether it was really worth it to make something with fresh pumpkin (vs. canned)? To get messy with stringy pumpkin guts and slimy seeds in the name of a drool-worthy, top-notch dessert?

I did…because these are the kind of things I wonder about while lying in bed at night. (Well that, along with how I would totally win the mirror ball trophy with Maksim from Dancing with the Stars if they’d just call me….) I decided the only way to tell was to pit Mr. Fresh against Mr. Canned in a head-to-head (or stem-to-lid) dessert match-up.

But before I could commence the competition, I wanted to experiment a bit with how to cook the fresh pumpkin. The only way I’ve done it before is to roast the pumpkin in the oven. This method works well, but takes at least 90 minutes. I’d read you can also microwave the pumpkin in an earth-shattering 21 minutes for the same size (3 lb.) pumpkin.

I’ll show you both methods here, and tell you my favorite. I use pie (or sugar) pumpkins which are different from everyday field pumpkins. However, I’ve had many a baker tell me you can use field pumpkins with good results…even though most recipes say you can’t and call for pie pumpkins. Here are the two pie pumpkins I used — both were about 3 lbs.

Roasted Pumpkin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. Remove stem from pumpkin and cut in half with a sharp knife.

2. Get jiggy with those guts and seeds…scoop ‘em all out (or as much of the stringy goo as you can.) I save the seeds and roast them at the same time as the pumpkin (about 20 min.).

3. Place pumpkin halves face down in a shallow baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and cook at 375 for about 90 minutes or until tender.

(You should be able to make a finger indentation like this when they’re done.)

4. Let cool then use a spoon to scrape out the flesh. I throw it in a food processor to get it really smooth, but you don’t have to.

Microwaved Pumpkin

Follow steps 1 and 2 above to prep the pumpkin. Place in a microwave-safe dish (I used a 9×13 Pyrex.)

Microwave on high power for seven minutes per pound, or until pumpkin is tender, making sure pumpkin is on a rotating tray to cook evenly.

Follow step 4 above.

So what was the difference between the two methods? Not too much…it was really just a texture thing. The microwave-cooked pumpkin was more “stringy” than the oven-roasted pumpkin; the oven-roasted came out with a smooth consistency (similar to mashed potatoes). In the future, if I had the time I would oven-roast my pumpkins. But, in a pinch, I wouldn’t hesitate to microwave them…but you definitely need to run the pumpkin through a food processor afterwards.

So now that I have loads of fresh pumpkin puree, I’m all set for the (duh, duh, duh) Great Pumpkin experiment. I’ll be back on Friday with the results…I’ll be pitting Mr. Canned and Mr. Fresh against each other in one of my favorite retro pumpkin desserts.

What’s your hypothesis? Will fresh pumpkin smoke the competition? Or will canned pumpkin be a stealthy substitute?

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