Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Butternut Squash Rolls for Thanksgiving

We had a bumper crop of butternut squash this year, which we didn't even plan.  A few volunteer plants popped up and then quickly had their way with a corner of our garden.  Luckily they keep well and are a great substitute for any dish that calls for pumpkin (with exception, perhaps, of pumpkin pie).  Mashed butternut squash is a lovely (literally!) addition to these rolls, turning them into sunny little saffron-hued pillows.  You won't taste the butternut squash in them, though I think it does add a bit of depth to the flavor.  You can, of course, substitute pumpkin or any winter squash for the butternut here.

They are adapted from a recipe that appeared in Bon Appetit Nov. 1996.

These rolls can be made ahead, cooled completely, wrapped in foil and frozen until the day you need them.  Take them out of the freezer and thaw for several hours, then heat them, covered, in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Butternut Squash Rolls
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup cooked, mashed butternut squash*

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 packet quick-rising yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 more tablespoons of butter, melted

Place the milk, butter and honey in a sauce pan and heat, stirring until the butter melts.  Whisk in the mashed butternut squash, stirring well.  Remove the liquid from the heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes (it should register between 125 and 135 degrees).

While milk is cooling, pulse the flour, yeast and salt in a food processor, combining well.  Put the milk mixture into a measuring cup (or pitcher) and, with the processor on, pour it into the flour mixture.  The dough will form a ball.  Process for about 45 seconds after that to give it a good kneading.

Butter a large bowl and put the dough in it.  Cover it and place it in a warm draft-free spot to rise for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled.  Butter two 9-inch cake pans.  When the dough has risen, turn it on to a lightly floured board and divide into 24 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball and place them in the cake pans, not touching. Brush with 1/3 of the melted butter.  Cover and let rise again for about 20 minutes until doubled.  (The rolls won't be touching each other at the end of this second rising--but they will plump up in the oven!)

While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375.  When they're ready, brush again with another 1/3 of the melted butter and place in the center of oven, baking for about 25 minutes.  You'll want to turn the pans halfway through to be sure they brown evenly.  Remove from the oven when they are nicely browned and brush again with the final 1/3 of the melted butter.  Makes 24 rolls.

*Bonus Recipe!  Whole Roasted Butternut Squash.  This is as simple as it can be.  Instead of cutting the squash in half and roasting, or slicing off the tough skin and steaming or boiling the squash to make a mash, you can just put the whole squash in the oven and roast it until it's done.  Here's how:  wash the squash if it has dirt clinging to it from the garden, dry it off and place on a lightly greased pan, cookie sheet or even a sheet of aluminum foil.  (You want something to catch any sugary drips that might sneak out while it's roasting.)   A large (3-4 pound) squash will take about 90 minutes to roast.  Smaller squash will take less time.  It's ready when a knife pierces easily all the way through the flesh. When it's cool enough to handle, you can easily peel off the skin and mash the squash for whatever you want to use it for.  When I roast a whole squash, I usually just compost the bulbous seeded end rather than try to scoop out the seeds, since the flesh is so soft, and that gets a bit tedious.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Honey Pickled Carrots

Both of my grandmothers were big proponents of relish trays on holiday tables.  When I was little, I would make a meal out of the sweet gherkin pickles and black olives that my Grandma Davis always had out.  I continue the tradition at our holiday table and this year I'm adding these lovely carrot pickles.  They are adapted from a recipe in the November 14, 2012 New York Times by David Tanis with a few changes.  I swapped the sugar in the recipe for honey, of course. Since honey is sweeter than sugar, I substituted 1/3 cup honey for the 1/2 cup of sugar.  And instead of making carrot slices, I just used a bag of baby carrots.  I also skipped the 6 dried red peppers Tanis's recipe calls for since my family isn't big on spicy foods.  These pickles are great without the heat, though next time I make them, I think I'll include that touch of zing.  My amazing great nephews, Samson (3) and Bohdan (not-yet-1) will be joining us for Thanksgiving this year and I'm hoping that they, too, will come to carry on the holiday relish plate tradition!

Honey Pickled Carrots
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
3 large garlic cloves, each cut in half
1 pound "baby" carrots

In a non-reactive (stainless steel) pot, combine the vinegar, honey, salt, cloves, bay leaf, caraway, coriander and garlic cloves.  Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a steady simmer and add the carrots.  Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes--you want the carrots to still be firm and slightly crunchy, but not raw.  Remove the carrots and spread out on a cookie sheet to cool.  Let the brine come to room temperature.  Put the carrots in a glass container and pour the brine over them.  There may be a bit left over. If so, be sure to scoop out any spices that might be at the bottom and add them to the jar.  Let the carrots marinate for at least 8 hours, refrigerated.  They can be made well in advance--up to four days.

Stay tuned for another make-ahead Thanksgiving dish:  delightful butternut squash rolls!