Butternut squash butter
Butternut squash is easier to work with than a standard pumpkin and cheaper than smaller pie pumpkins. You can call it "pumpkin butter," if you like, though the butternut squash might be resentful at being wrongly labeled, and rightfully so.
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2.5 pounds)
- 2 cups unsweetened apple cider
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- pinch of salt
- Peel the butternut squash, making sure to peel until you reach the orange flesh. Scoop out the seeds, and chop the flesh into 1-inch pieces.
- In a saucepan with a lid, simmer the squash, covered, in 2 cups of apple cider over medium low heat until it's very, very tender, about 45 minutes, stirring more frequently as the squash breaks down and gets sticky.
- Purée with an immersion blender or in a standard blender until smooth. If the mixture is very loose or liquid (as happens sometimes if you get less flesh from the squash than you expect), return it to the saucepan and reduce it over medium heat, stirring continuously until it's thickened, and then remove from the heat. It will thicken slightly as it cools. Similarly, you can thin with more apple cider or water if it's thicker than you'd like.
- Add the other ingredients and adjust the seasonings. You may need more sweetener depending on the sweetness of the squash and cider you started with. You may also prefer more cinnamon. (I like the cinnamon to be very subtle.) Spoon into a glass jar or bowl and let it cool thoroughly before using. It will keep in the refrigerator for about three weeks.
Cheddar pecan scones
I make these in many different varieties -- dried cherry and lemon zest; Irish soda bread with caraway seeds and golden raisins; and cannoli-style with mini chocolate chips and candied orange peel, filled with sweetened ricotta cheese -- but this version is the one I make most often.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground red pepper, or a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 5 tablespoon butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
- 1½ cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup heavy cream (plus a little more to brush on the top of the scones)
- Preheat your oven to 425°. In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, garlic powder and red pepper. Pulse a few times.
- Dot the butter across the top of the flour mixture and pulse 15 times.
- Add the cheese and pecans. Pulse a few more times to mix them in.
- Pour the cream over the top and pulse briefly, until the mixture begins to come together. Dump the mixture (there will be some dry, floury bits still unmixed) onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until you can form it into a craggly ball.
- Pat into a circle that is about 8 inches across, and cut into eight wedges. Place a couple of inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or use parchment or silpat). Brush the top of each scone with a bit of cream.
- Bake for about 15 minutes. If the bottoms are brown before the tops are browned, broil the tops until they are nice and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Split in half and spread with butter and butternut squash butter.