Mini pumpkins: not just for decoration

Custard Mini Pumpkins

Baked maple-custard mini pumpkins, December 2012

Did you realize that the miniature pumpkins that are so cute as autumn decorations are actually edible? That thought occurred to me recently when putting away fall items and getting out Christmas ones. The six little pumpkins I had bought in October were fresh and firm even after they’d served their ornamental purpose.

Prepare mini pumpkins much like you would a regular-sized pumpkin or squash: Slice off the tops, scoop out the insides, fill with savory stuffing or sweet stuffing, and bake. This recipe is a dessert version with maple custard baked right in the pumpkins. I enjoyed the taste of the custard with both the orange and white pumpkin.

Alternatively, you don’t need to stuff the pumpkins—you can just rub the hollowed-out “cups” with oil or melted butter and brown sugar for a sweet taste or garlic for savory taste. Bake at 350°F until soft, and serve as a side dish.

For a dairy-free version, I used almond milk, which set up nicely.


Baked Maple-Custard Mini Pumpkins
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Ingredients
  • 6 mini pumpkins
  • Oil
Rub:
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons oil or melted butter
Custard filling:
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups regular milk or almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Topping:
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line one large or two small rimmed baking sheets with foil.
  3. In a small container, mix together the rub ingredients (brown sugar, spices, and oil or butter).
Prepare the pumpkins:
  1. With a large knife, carefully slice tops off of pumpkins, making one horizontal cut where the pumpkin starts to widen. With a large spoon scrape any fibers and seeds from the undersides of the tops.
  2. Coat the undersides of the "caps" with a little oil and place them, stems up, on the foil-covered baking sheet.
  3. Scoop seeds and fibers out of the pumpkins. Place on foil-covered baking sheet and rub insides with brown sugar-spice-oil mixture.
Mix the custard and bake:
  1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the remaining custard ingredients. Pour mixture into the mini pumpkins.
  2. Bake pumpkins and tops 50 minutes, then insert a knife into the center of the largest pumpkin’s filling. If it comes out clean, lightly pierce the side of the largest pumpkin with a fork. If the knife doesn't come out clean or the pumpkin is not soft when pierced, bake another 10 minutes. Repeat if necessary. Bake tops the same length of time as the pumpkins.
Topping and serving:
  1. In a small container, stir together the topping ingredients. Immediately after removing pumpkins and tops from the oven, sprinkle the topping over the custard, about a tablespoon on each pumpkin. If desired, place pumpkins under the broiler for a moment to melt the brown sugar and lightly toast the pecans.
  2. Serve hot or chilled, with tops leaning against sides of pumpkin “cups.” To eat, use a spoon and scoop out a little bit of pumpkin with each bite of custard.
Serving size: 1 pumpkin. Calories: 189; Fat: 9g; Saturated fat: 2g; Carbohydrates: 23g; Sugar: 19g; Sodium: 109mg; Fiber: 3g; Protein: 6g; Cholesterol: 87mg.

 

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