Pumpkins are for Cinderella, not for eating Liam's French grandmother replied last fall when he held out a plate of roasted petit marron for her to taste. I had gone to my first French market in Provence and fell deeply, madly in love with the orange-until-it-bursts color of this squash and had roasted it simply for dinner. Well, for American dinner.
I have always loved pumpkins and fall and sweets that come with both. In 1997, I found this recipe - and that fall, the Pumpkinwiches were born.
I have changed them a bit over the years - in the picture you can see two of the new version with an old school 'wich in the background - but not as much as I have changed them in Paris. It pains me slightly, since in a world of new things new people new friends I want everything as good as it is as home, for people to say, 'ah ha! you are the woman who brought the pumpkin cookies!' to a potluck or Thanksgiving party. But here, without Libby's packed pumpkin or her organic cousin, I figured, it can't be that hard, I'll just get the ol' Cinderella fave.
Twice now, I've tried. This last time with more success thanks to a new friend's suggestion to roast with lemon rind, honey and cinnamon (I added some ginger too), and a bit more judiciousness with the 'puree-ing.' I have warring Bittman voices in my head: "good chefs only need 10 appliances/tools" and "you'll never regret having a food mill" as I mash up roasted squash with a fork in my one bowl. They are getting there, a bit more tasty, although the pepitas I found here are from China and I worry will choke someone with their Bay leaf edges. The fresh squash gives them a 'health food' flavor that I'm not that into, but perhaps brings them back to their roots from Veggie Life magazine.
In a few weeks, we're off to Nice to make Liam's family a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Well, a 'traditional' one. I thought about making these and an apple pie, and also some vibrant sides (we vegetarians go into our own carb coma after T-day sometimes) of ginger flecked green beans and lime flavored yams and beets braised in pomegranate and orange. We even had a can of cranberry sauce (I know, but there just aren't cranberries around these parts) in our belongings from Sicily, but that too was confiscated, so I'll see what I can do with dried, which they do have here.
Yesterday, I was about to bring them to my French class when I had this sudden fear of rejection, of my multi-national class frowning or refusing or even grimacing with an unfamiliar groan when the orange cookies passed by on a plate I don't even have - like I should just come in with Starbucks and shrug and say je suis tres americaine. And then I felt terrible, sending Liam to work on his first week with all sorts of non-French foods like black bean chili and cheese biscuits and lentils with rice and onions and imagined him in his cafeteria today happily peeling back the plastic wrap on his gooey trio l'orange only to have his French colleagues snickering that the new guy not only has trouble with his French but his wife makes him some bizarre food as well.
And so, while I fancy myself an immigrant mother in a Jhumpa Lahiri story, I will stand by the cookies this week trying to make them a bit more like home. And for now, for those of you who've been asking for it again, here is the recipe:
1 Cup sugar
1 Cup canned pumpkin (or, see above)
1 lg egg
2 T vegetable oil
2 Cups unbleached white flour
1 t. ginger
1/2 t each: nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, powder, soda
1/3 Cup pumpkin seed kernels (pepitas), toasted
Filling aka Frosting
1 1/2 Cups powdered sugar (or more)
2 T canned pumpkin (or, see above)
2 T soft butter
1 t vanilla
1. preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a baking sheet. Combine pumpkin and sugar, then stir in egg and oil, mix well.
2. in another bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add to pumpkin mixture and blend thoroughly. Stir in pumpkin seeds.
3. Drop dough by small scoops or rounded t. onto sheet, about 2" apart. With a dampened finger, swirl each mound into a wider flatter disk (necessary if doing sandwich cookies, not as much if you're going to frost the top). Bake 8 min. until edges begin to brown. Put on a rack to cool.
4. While cookies cool, combine powdered sugar, pumpkin, butter and vanilla. Whip to spreadable consistency. Sandwich cookies together or frost tops.