Even though I don’t like winter very much, the last of autumn has to be given a proper farewell. In my opinion, there’s no better way to do it than to put a little bit of pumpkin in everything. Well, not everything, but you know, compatible things. Things like dark chocolate, hazelnuts. Yum.
I went into pumpkin overdrive lately, and bought one too many pumpkins. I made a pumpkin & walnut cake with cream cheese frosting for Halloween out of one, and the other was just sitting there on the table, sulking and looking very much neglected. It looked very handsome, nonetheless. Sunset orange, smooth, not the least bit scarred and very hard-muscled – literally. Oh well, someone’s gotta do the job and stick the knife in.
I really dread gutting a pumpkin. I’m the opposite of a gym bunny and carving a pumpkin gives me such an unpleasant and dangerous workout. The knife has to be exceedingly sharp, because the skin’s just impossible to get rid of. And I have to go in with such force, that many a times, I have almost lost a finger. Yes, gutting a pumpkin intimidates me. I spent a good half-hour wrestling this one to get to its flesh. Urgh, it was so not fun.
But once I got to the core of the problem (pun intended), I blitzed the pulp into purée, made the most complicated version of brownies I have ever baked (usually brownies are so very easy because you just dunk everything in), and made M very happy with my take on Autumn’s farewell. Admittedly, I wasn’t very happy with the brownie when I sneaked a piece fresh out of the oven, whilst it’s warm and soft. It should be good, but it tasted half-hearted, like what Deb from Smitten Kitchen said. Neither chocolatey nor pumpkin-y. I was so disappointed. I chucked it in the fridge, hoping to never see it again, not knowing that the fridge and some sort of ‘ageing’ process were about to work its magic on these brownies. M and I had it for dessert after dinner that night, and I was just picking at it absent-mindedly when M exclaimed, ‘This is some good, really moist brownie!’. I was in a bit of a disbelief, thinking that he probably wanted to make me feel better. I took a bite, and damn, he was right! They were very dense, moist, and chocolatey, with a hint of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was how the cream cheese swirl got lost in the flavours (possibly because I used medium-fat cream cheese, rather than full-fat….silly Sainsbury’s ran out of the full-fat one, and also because I made very little of the cream cheese swirl). It was still a solidly good brownie, nonetheless and I felt better about the day’s effort.
Here’s the recipe.
175g plain flour
2/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
80g unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pan
160g 70% chocolate (I used Lindt)
205g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
295g pumpkin, blitzed in food processor to form purée
80ml sunflower oil
2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
40g blanched hazelnuts, chopped
Cream Cheese Swirl part:
165g medium-fat cream cheese
50g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line 6 by 10 inch pan with baking parchment. Ensure parchment covers the sides of the pan too, so it’s easy to lift the brownie to cooling rack when everything’s done. Grease the parchment with some butter.
2. Combine plain flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Melt chocolate and unsalted butter to form a smooth mixture, and set aside.
4. Mix pumpkin purée, oil, cinnamon and nutmeg together and set aside.
5. Beat caster sugar, eggs, vanilla paste until fluffy and combined.
6. Add the flour mixture to egg mixture and beat till combined.
7. Meanwhile, beat the ingredients for the cream cheese swirl till combined and set aside.
8. Add 2 and 1/2 cups of the flour and egg mixture (from Step 6) to the chocolate mixture (from Step 3) and mix well.
9. Add the remaining (should be about 1/2 cup) flour and egg mixture (from Step 6) to the pumpkin mixture (from Step 4) and mix well.
10. Add a layer of chocolate batter (1/2 of the portion from Step 8 ) to the lined pan, followed by a layer of pumpkin batter (1/2 of the portion from Step 9). Repeat for another layer of chocolate batter. Now add the remaining pumpkin batter in blobs, alternating it with blobs of the cream cheese mixture (from Step 7). It is vital to work quickly because the chocolate batter sets pretty easily.
11. Swirl the mixture in the pan with a small spatula, making sure to work through to the bottom layer as the chocolate batter is quite dense. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the top.
12. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until set, whichever comes earlier.
13. Cool slightly in pan, then lift parchment out to cool brownie on a cooling rack.
14. Refrigerate when brownie is completely cooled, for flavours to develop and cut to serve. I think this would work well with a scoop of good vanilla ice-cream too.
Hope you will enjoy making this! Feel free to leave comments!