Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baked in Tradition.

     I was never very fond of squash, until I moved back to the East Coast. In fact, I don't even think I thought about it much. Winter squash around here is as common as a cold. It always adorned our Thanksgiving dinner table. I never realized how up close and personal, I would become with squash, particularly Butternut Squash. Around here in the latter part of September, we have an event called Foliage. People from up an down the East coast jam up the highways and byways to gaze at the changing leaves. This being a very tiring activity, people ultimately need to stop and refuel.
    These occasions find people on a quest for authentic New England food. Butternut squash is a part of the authenticity. Back in the day, during the pinnacle of leaf peeping season, I think I cooked over 85 pounds of the stuff. Peel, cut, steam, mix, etc,etc, over and over again.
     The thing about this squash though, is that inevitably there are many experts in the preparation. I am sure the antique recipes are passed around and around, up and down the coast. I can hear it now.."No, you don't use cinnamon, it is only nutmeg", "Maple syrup, is OK, but molasses is better", "What do you mean you used olive oil instead of butter?!" There is one thing that I know about, and that is how to cook butternut squash.
     Butternut squash is harvested in the fall after the vines start to die off, and then are stored in a cool dry place and can last for 6 months. The most annoying thing about butternut squash is the preparation, not only is it oddly shaped, it just gets worse. The nasty film that coats your hands as you peel it. You know how there are facial peels, that freshen your face. This is similar, it is a peel for your hands. If you were entertained in grammar school by Elmer's glue, then peeling butternut squash will keep you occupied. However, for me I was constantly trying to scrub the film off. Hey, you can use gloves, knock yourself out. I found it better to be able to hold it and peel, rather than use the gloves and chance it. They are slippery, and get more slippery as you peel. But I am talking about peeling cases at a time. By the way, those were some good times, peeling squash with co-workers, shooting the breeze. We got good at it for sure, so that makes us experts.
     I wanted to blog about butternut squash, but not in the traditional sense. I want to make a dessert out of it. Pie, is too easy because it is very similar to pumpkin, in fact it is in the same family. Evaporated milk, puree, spices, sugar, eggs, yada, yada, a custard. Baking with it would be similar as pumpkin would. It would lend moisture, resulting in a tender cake. The frosting would be the deal-breaker . It needs a great frosting. Something not usual, something unique.

Butternut squash layer cake with Caramel clove frosting

1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups cooked mashed butternut squash
3 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups flour
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup butter(softened)
3 cups sifted confectionery sugar
2 tablespoons Caramel topping
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsps whipping cream

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugars together. Add the eggs one at a time , mixing well after each addition. Add the butternut squash and the vanilla extract, and mix. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger and black pepper and whisk. Starting with flour mixture, add to the creamed butter and sugar, alternately with the buttermilk, until all is incorporated. Pour evenly into two well greased 9" round cake pans. Bake at 350F for about 25 to 30 minutes or until  a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, meaning no uncooked batter sticking still to toothpick. Cool completely, and remove from pans. Dome the cakes(cut them so they are level) .
For the frosting put the butter in a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, and whip on high until the butter is light and fluffy. Add the sifted powdered sugar a little at a time, until it is all incorporated. Mix on high for a few minutes. Add the caramel, vanilla extract, and cloves and beat the heck out of it. While beating add the 2 tsp whipping cream. Frost the cake to the best of your ability. p.s I am horrible at frosting cakes, it is what it is.

 Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It makes people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt.~Judith Olney


Alisa said...

I came across your site from the foodieblogroll and I'd love to guide Foodista readers to your site. I hope you could add this Foodista widget at the end of this post so we could add you in our list of food bloggers who blogged about butternut squash, Thanks!

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