Hannah Palmer Egan
Sweet delicata squash
Given the choice between sweet and savory, I'll choose savory nine times out of 10. But that ratio flips for winter squash. When faced with autumn's hardy, orange-fleshed fruit, whether it's a pumpkin, butternut, kabocha, hubbard, acorn or delicata, I prefer to embrace the crop's integral sweetness. Its creamy texture and rich, nutty flavor seem to scream for maple syrup.
So, pudding. Here's one that's a cinch to prepare, super simple and made with ingredients whose natural sugars add up to a dessert that's sweet but not cloying, smooth and rich and light as a feather. Also, it's vegan and gluten-free, so pretty much anyone can eat it.
Hannah Palmer Egan
Makes four 8-ounce jars (or eight 4-ounce jars...)
- 2 medium delicata squash
- Maple syrup
- 2 16-ounce cans of coconut milk
- 2 cinnamon sticks (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
- Cornstarch slurry (1 heaping tablespoon starch mixed with 2-3 tablespoons water, blended well)
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Cut off the stem and butt of the squash — less than half an inch on both ends — and halve it lengthwise to form two little boats. Scoop out the seeds, taking care not to pierce the ends of the seed cavities. Place the squash face-up on a baking pan or large cast-iron skillet. Sprinkle a little salt over the squash, and pour a quarter cup or so of maple syrup into each half.
- Bake for 30-45 minutes, until soft.
- While the squash is roasting, pour the coconut milk into a saucepan. Add two cinnamon sticks, and heat over medium-low flame, whisking occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick to the pan.
- When the squash is about 10 minutes away from done, prepare the cornstarch slurry. Add one teaspoon of the slurry to the coconut milk and increase heat to medium. Whisk for 30 seconds (the milk should begin to thicken right away), and add more slurry, one teaspoon at a time (3-4 teaspoons should be plenty), until the liquid is thick enough to fall in an uninterrupted stream when poured from a large spoon. Return heat to lowest setting and continue stirring now and then.
- When the squash is ready, spoon any liquid from the seed cavities into the coconut milk. Score the squash and place in the fridge to cool for a few minutes, so it's easy to handle.
- Using a metal spoon, scoop the squash away from its skin and into the pan with the coconut milk. Stir well, breaking up any large chunks with the spoon, and turn off the heat.
- Blend the mixture in a food processor until smooth — you'll probably need to do this in two batches unless you have a very large processor.
- Pour into eight-ounce jelly jars, and allow at least 10 minutes for the pudding to cool and set.
- This pudding is lovely served just warm, cool or at room temperature. Covered and refrigerated, it will keep well for a couple days.
- Serve plain or garnish with a dollop of whipped or clotted cream and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon or allspice.