Every year I get questions from readers asking whether they should consider using fresh pumpkin in their seasonal baking. That’s understandable. It’s the gourmand’s reflex to want to prepare everything fresh and from scratch. However I have yet to meet a professional baker or pastry chef who’s ever recommended getting their pumpkin fresh out of the squash versus simply opening up a tin.
I know how that sounds…but having roasted and scooped my share of fresh pumpkin flesh over the years, I can honestly say that I can’t tell the difference in taste — and I vastly prefer the texture of canned pumpkin. More than that, canned is extremely consistent in terms of moisture content, which eliminates the risk of a watery custard or soggy bread.
I’ve known at least two prominent pastry chefs to buy their canned pumpkin a year ahead of time and let it age in their storerooms. They claim the aging gives the canned pumpkin a more developed flavor.
Now then, I’ve recently been made aware of the fact that not everyone on the face of the globe has access to canned pumpkin (notably folks in Australia and New Zealand). For them I’d say the best method for preparing fresh pumpkin for a pie or pudding is to bake it. Split a 2 (or so) pound pumpkin, remove the seeds, and place the halves face down on a buttered baking sheet. Put the sheet in a preheated 375-degree oven for about half an hour or so until the pumpkin flesh is soft. Cool, scoop and use!