It's almost the end of October! Where does the time go? For me, autumn is a time to not only enjoy the all to brief brilliant fall colours but also to play with flavours of the season!
As an unapologetic chocoholic, I am always playing with recipes that contain chocolate! That being said, Pumpkins and Pumpkin Spice seem to be everywhere! What if I could combine the two to make a mouth-watering, can't say no treat?
After a bit of web browsing, I decided to create my own version of a Chocolate Pumpkin Brownie! There are many recipes on line, but most were either a layered brownie, contained little chocolate or little pumpkin.
I tried a recipe that I thought had potential but even after baking longer than stated and cooling, it still tasted under-baked and had no zip to the flavour. Over the last couple of falls, I've played with this recipe to see if I could make it better. I tried adding a bit of baking soda, then also adding a bit of baking powder. I switched the pan size from a 9 inch square to a 9x13 inch. This gave the batter room to rise a bit but not take longer to bake - but still result in a dense, moist brownie. I also added roasted almonds and cinnamon to boost the flavour. It was almost there. I decided to go full on pumpkin spice with ginger, nutmeg and allspice as well! Yup! Just that hint of spice blend without overpowering it was what was needed!
The other major change that I made is that rather than using pumpkin puree, I used butternut squash.
Now, before you get all riled up and claim heresy you can still use pumpkin puree if you wish. I just find that butternut squash is a very reliable substitute and a very tasty vegetable on its own! I grew up eating squash. We never grew pumpkins and rarely even bought them for carving at Halloween as we lived out on a farm and didn't get many trick-or-treater's. I can only recall a couple of times that we ever bought canned pumpkin and those were when our squash didn't mature or were otherwise damaged due to weather.
Using butternut squash as a substitute for pumpkin will NOT change the flavour of the baked item! Once the spices and other ingredients are all added and baked, there is no way anyone will know the difference if you don't tell them! I've been using it forever and no one has ever said it tastes like squash!
Granted, there are many varieties of squash, but I find that butternut has the least amount of waste and is very easy to peel. They are not as watery as some varieties and also have a very similar colour and texture to pumpkin. Butternut squash have a delicious flavour all on their own as a vegetable! It is one of my fave sides in the winter! Every fall, I buy several butternut squash. I peel them, seed them and cut them into about 1 inch cubes. I fill my dutch oven about 2/3 full of the cubes, add a bit of water and a dash of salt then cover and bake in a 350F oven till tender - about 25-30 minutes. Time will vary depending on the size of cubes and quantity. Once the squash is fork tender, drain off the excess liquid and then mash the squash till smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then measure into 1/2 cup portions. Transfer the portions into zippered snack bags, flatten out the squash as you remove air from the bag and seal. Lay flat on a baking sheet to freeze. Once frozen, transfer the zipped bags to a large freezer bag and store in freezer for later use as an individual vegetable serving or for a baking recipe. Thaw required portions completely before using in any baking recipe. (Note: you will find recipes for muffins, cookies, loaves, cake and squares on my recipe page - all using butternut squash rather than pumpkin!)
Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies
1/4 cup butter or block margarine
2 oz/60 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped in small pieces
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg, at room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree or butternut squash puree (see above info)
1 cup dark or bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Add the almonds and place in the oven to roast. It will take about 5-7 minutes but you should stir them once or twice to ensure none are burning. When they are nicely golden and aromatic, remove to a cooling rack. Transfer the almonds to a small bowl to continue cooling on the rack.
.In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt together the butter/block margarine and chopped bittersweet chocolate. Depending on your microwaves power, this should take about a minute or so on half power. It may not look like the chocolate is melted but give it a stir and any remaining pieces will likely melt into the butter/margarine. Allow to cool to room temp but not enough to let it start to solidify,
Prepare the remaining ingredients while the mixture is cooling,
Combine the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg in a medium sized bowl. Set aside
In a large bowl whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Add in the cooled margarine/chocolate and mix to combine.
Add in the dry ingredients and stir just until flour mixture is combined. Then add in the chocolate chips and almonds. Stir till thoroughly combined but try not to over mix. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Batter will be very thick!
Transfer the batter to the prepared parchment lined pan and spread evenly .Bake for 23 - 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs (not wet batter) attached. DO NOT OVERBAKE!
Allow to cool in pan on cooling rack for about 30 minutes then carefully lift the corners of the parchment paper and slide the paper and brownies onto the cooling rack to cool for AT LEAST 2-3 hours MORE before cutting as they take quite awhile to cool completely and set properly. This also allows the flavours to blend a bit more.
Makes 20-24 brownies