Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Acorn Squash Pudding

Mom belongs to a CSA. CSAs are awesome except when you get too much of something that you don't like to cook much. Mom had 3 acorn squashes. Do I want 'em? Dang tootin'! It's a winter squash! I Iove my winter squash! Unfortunately, one was visibly past prime. Threw it out. One looked fine, but after cooking didn't taste particularly good. I've heard too many stories of people getting sick on past prime winter squash so I tossed that one too. (On the other hand, its possible that it actually wasn't old *enough*, as I've read a fair number of anecdotes about winter squash being sweeter after chill & age.)

That left only one. I should've known there could be only one. (1) What does one do with only one acorn squash? PUDDING! (2)

While winter squashes are yummy, they are traditionally a bit of a pain to get into. One needs sharp knives and a strong arm for most of them, and then they need to roast this side of forever. I hear that acorn squash are one of the exceptions to this rule, but as I wasn't feeling particularly adventurous, I took my usual winter squash shortcut and used the microwave.

Bonus recipe: To microwave acorn squash: wash, dry, stab a few times with a sharp knife (to let the steam out) and nuke 5+ minutes on a paper towel or large microwaveable bowl (because squash juice will leak from the vents). After 5 minutes, see if the top (around the stem) will squish. If not, nuke longer. All the web instructions I saw said the total would be 10-25 minutes and to check and turn every 5 minutes. Mine took 7 & 8 minutes respectively. O.o I either have a super powered microwave, or particularly small acorn squash. (I'm hoping for the former, just in case we get gremlins.)

Anyhow, once the squash is cool enough to handle, cut in half, scrape out the seeds in one bowl, and the squash into another. Ta-Dah! Done. (3)

(I plan to try the oven route sometime to see if the roasting makes it sweeter, but I'm skeptical of this. I think acorn squash just isn't that sweet a variety of winter squash.)


  • 1 acorn squash, cooked, seeded & scraped out of skin, about 1&1/2 cups cooked (4)
  • 1 tsp gingerbread mix (cinnamon/ginger/clove mixed 4:4:1)
  • 1tsp v old nutmeg (I will be trying the second go round with fresher spice! I already bought the bottle!)
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp butter (chosen because I was going for a pumpkin pie flavor)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
The way I put it together:

1.) Put all ingredients into a small sauce pan, bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, probably over medium-low heat.

2) After five minutes, realize that just because cooking squash makes it squishy, does not mean that it self purées. It's not stirring easily and it sticking to the bottom aaaand yes, starting to burn a bit.

3) Turn off the heat, sigh dramatically, pour it all into a blender. Blend until smooth, about 45 seconds, and return it to the pot on low simmer for another 25 minutes.

How I should have put it together:

1) Realize that the microwave had pre cooked the squash for me & that I could blend it into the coconut milk right away. Blend all ingredients.

2) Pour purée into sauce pan, bring to a boil & back down to a slow simmer. Simmer on med-low heat for about a half hour, stirring every few minutes, turning it down if it seems to bubble too aggressively. (We want it to cook down, not burn.)

3) Pour into 3-4 custard cups, and refrigerate as long as you can stand to wait, or at least 45 minutes. (Have you noticed? That's usually my max patience time on pudding.)


Texture: MUY PERFECTO! 10/10. It is pudding! It is creamy! It holds its shape like pudding! It is squishy perfection. This probably has the best texture of anything I made yet - possibly because I cooked it a few minutes longer, possibly because (I think) winter squash contains a bit of starch. Pudding is traditionally thickened with a bit of starch - flour, corn starch, etc. Clearly, I won't be doing that, so I think technically all my puddings are closer to custards (which get their thickness from the fatty goodness of egg yolk). (5)

Flavor: 8/10 if you ignore the faint burnt flavor. (With burn flavor, i thought it was a bit lower.) You're not going to burn YOURS though, because I have already made that mistake for you! I am SO generous!

Sweetness note: how unsweetened this was surprised me. I had intended just to add a half tablespoon of maple syrup, just for the flavor. It wasn't sweet enough. It needed the full tbsp. (My fault for not googling the sugar content of an acorn squash before I cooked, and yes, I looked up apples, pears & mangoes before doing the other recipes.). That said, it's still unsweet enough that this would make at least as good a side dish as a dessert. (If you're just here for the gluten free & not interested in or used to eating only lightly sweetened things you may want to double the maple syrup. Or not. It's a food adventure after all!)

Then again, maybe it needed more sweet because it came out to twice as many portions as usual. Which turned out awesome upon coming home from a very long, very busy (very lunch free and hungry) day of work to find this in the fridge. Gave me SOMETHING fast to eat so that I could have enough IQ points to figure out a real meal.

"Normal" person taste buds: spouse said it was good, and when I made protest noises about the slight burnt flavor and that he didn't HAVE to eat it, he pulled the bowl closer to him and hunched over it protectively. So he was probably not just being tactful.

Improvements planned for next time: Nutmeg from this century, and any other variety of UNBURNT winter squash. I have a butternut squash begging to be puddinged. (6) In short, this is a very worthy concept, but it wants to be sweeter.


(1) I am a very, VERY big nerd. If you're not catching the reference, don't worry about it.

(2) Of course, pudding is my default answer to the question of "what do I do with" absolutely anything these days.

(3) If you're feeling crafty or frugal, you can then wash off the seeds & toast them with spices - same as pumpkin seeds. I'm told they're delicious and I always wash them. However, I never actually remember to toast the seeds before they go bad in the fridge. and cannot point you to any particular recipe. Seeds are way less motivating than pudding.

(4) If cooking up your own winter squash sounds like too much work, you can get frozen winter squash purée sometimes in the grocery store. Pumpkin in a can should work just fine too, but probably won't need to cook down as long. May even taste better. But check the ingredients carefully if you go this route - pumpkin in a can is sometimes just pumpkin, but sometimes full pie mix meaning tons of added sugar & spices.

(5) Pudding vs Custard info courtesy of Alton Brown, (video link) who is my favorite TV cooking nerd. Well, him and Ted Allen. Okay, AND America's Test Kitchen. Okay, let's face it, I'm a sucker for anyone who can be described as a cooking nerd. Food AND science! What could be better?

(6) Pudding is TOO a verb.

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