TBWC2C Challenge: Apple-Pumpkin Brown Betty

I’m not quite sure what possessed me to volunteer to be one of the home cooks for Zach and Clay’s Super Awesome Cover to Cover Challenge over at The Bitten Word. I actually almost passed on it. When they first posted it, I could have been somewhere in the first 20 volunteers, I suspect. However, I decided not to, as Bill and I were traveling for most of the cooking time.

When they posted their request for a few more volunteers, I looked at the schedule again. I considered that our vacation rental had a kitchen. And then I said, “Why not?”

Then I got my assignment, an Apple-Pumpkin Brown Betty (APBB). I told Angelique that when I saw the recipe, I was thrilled. You know, in a food hoarder sort of way. I was pretty sure the only thing I had to buy for the recipe was the pumpkin and the raisins, with an outside chance of the apples. You know, depending on if I got home to good apples in the fridge, or apples that needed to be sauced.

I even had the bread cubes in the freezer, because Bill and I cannot manage a whole loaf of his bread before it goes stale, or a whole loaf of store bread before it goes moldy. So I have lots of bread bits in the freezer. Bill thought this was weird at first, but I didn’t care. I had bread cubes!

Given all of that, I decided not to even try to make my dish until we got home. Then, because I wanted to grab the pumpkin at the farmers market, I knew I had a window of three days to get it done.

So, I did what any sane person would do1. I invited a couple of friends over to eat APBB with us. I also promised to roast a chicken for dinner. I mean, one thing was already going to be in the oven. Why NOT make it two?

Thankfully, the fridge, the chicken and one of my guests saved me from myself. The fridge turned out to be ridiculously efficient. This means the chicken wasn’t fully thawed when I pulled it out. Thus, we contacted Tony (who did NOT want any APBB) and asked him if he preferred pizza or Thai delivery.

His response? “Well, I could just bring over this pork shoulder I’m pulling out of the slow cooker, if you want.”

Done! Tony, you are my hero. And everyone else’s too, because it meant I could just make the APBB straight, without messing around with cooking times and temperatures and other crap. Also? It probably got finished faster, which is good, because the damn recipe says it’ll take about three hours…

I roasted the chicken the next day, at lunchtime. It came out more perfectly than ever before. Clearly, it was fated.

h2. Ingredients

1 2 – 3 lb sugar pumpkin (I used a “pie” pumpkin. I’m sure they’re the same.)
3 tbsp unsalted butter

1 c bread cubes (They ask for “a baguette”. I used an unknown mix.)

2 Gala apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 c packed light brown sugar

1/4 c golden raisins

1 tbsp rum2 (They say it’s “optional”. So I didn’t use any. Shocked you, didn’t I?)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (As always, I doubled this.)

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Kosher salt

BOILING WATER (My pet peeve remains not listing water when it’s required.)

Maple syrup, for drizzling (Ha! I used maple syrup aged in rum barrels!)

h2. Instructions

Preheat your oven to 375F. Chop off the top of the pumpkin like you’re considering making a tiny jack-o-lantern. Continue like you’re considering a tiny jack-o-lantern and scoop out all the seeds and strings. Don’t lie to yourself and get out a spoon and try – that will only dirty extra dishes. Just dive in there with your hands and grab that mess. It’s way easier, so you’ll just be doing that anyway.

Save the seeds. You don’t need them for this recipe, but they make delicious food on their own, roasted. Discard the strings. Unless you know of a delicious food they make. If so, share in the comments.

Melt 2 tbsp butter in the skillet you almost roasted your chicken in, because it’s already on the stove. Once the butter’s nice and frothy, throw in the bread cubes and toast them for a few minutes, until they’re nice and browned. Then pull them out & set aside and melt the remaining 1 tbsp butter. Once that’s frothy, throw in the apples, raisins, and sugar. Cook about 4 minutes (crisp-tender?) and then add the rum, if you’re using it, the cinnamon and the vanilla. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt, then mix it all up for a second. Once it’s to your liking, stir in the bread. Get it nice and coated.

Stuff it all into the middle of the pumpkin. Put the pumpkin in a small baking dish (I used an 8×8 square pan), put in enough boiling water to come about an inch up the sides of the pumpkin. Put the top back on the pumpkin, loosely cover the whole thing with foil (don’t burn yourself), and put it in the oven for about 2 h, or until the pumpkin flesh is soft and wonderful.

Once the pumpkin is tender, pull the whole thing out, take off the foil and the top, and put it all back in for about 10 minutes to brown the top. After 10 minutes, decide it’s 8:40 pm, everyone’s tired and it doesn’t have to be brown anyway. Pull it out of the oven, remove (if you can) to a serving plate. Drizzle with maple syrup.

Carefully mix the pumpkin flesh into the apple-bread mixture, trying to keep the now very delicate rind intact. Mix well, then serve scoopfuls to all.

h2. Cooking and Consumption Notes

h3. Cooking

I had to use a 3.5 lb pumpkin, because that was the smallest one my farmer had. It was fine.

A (slightly heaping) cup of bread cubes and two sliced apples did not look like enough stuffing for the pumpkin, but it was actually perfect. It fit just in the pumpkin, and allowed the top to fit back on like a dream. So, when you’re worried that you don’t have enough stuffing, fret not! All will be well.

Double the vanilla. Just do it.

I used the awesome Vietnamese cinnamon Bill bought for something special here. As it’s the only flavoring “spice” added, I felt it was warranted.

Moving a roasted pumpkin onto a plate is hard. Use potholders. Please don’t ask me how I know.

The filling may be enough to stuff the pumpkin, but it’s not enough to truly mix with all the flesh of the pumpkin. Or at least with mine. I ended up with enough actual mix to serve four people, I’d guess three in leftovers, plus! about a cup and a half of almost pure pumpkin puree. I’m going to use it in a pie for Thanksgiving.

h3. Consumption

Bill walked in just as I was frying the bread. He said it smelled good and he was tempted to just eat that. He didn’t, which is good for this recipe, but note that will make your house smell lovely.

The APBB was pretty darn tasty, but it could have used a bit more. I know that pumpkins sometimes fail to taste “pumpkiny”, and that was true here. I also would have liked a touch more cinnamon. The rum might have helped with the taste here. The apples were also nice, but a tarter, sturdier apple might have been a better contrast. If you make this, go that route.

It was impossible to tell that I’d used basically a mish-mosh of bread types. So I don’t know why they say to try to use a baguette, but I think it’s unnecessary. If you also have bread cubes stashed in your freezer, just use them.

Siana and Bill loved this dessert, despite my nitpicks here. I also thought it was quite good, and will probably try to make it again, soon, with those modifications. And maybe rum.

fn1. I also made yogurt at the same time. It’s very hands-off, but it takes up some counter space.

fn2. Why do these recipes never say what kind of rum? Anyone? I always assume spiced rum, oddly, because I figure the thing people are most likely to just have in the house is Capitan Morgan. Bill disagrees. He thinks it’s gold rum, and thinks Bacardi Gold is what people are most likely to have on hand. Readers, I need your thoughts!