Squash this Thanksgiving: Roasted Pumpkin Cornbread and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

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A note from Maggie

Of all the things I am grateful for–and there be so many–I love those who share their food stories (whether it be recipes, memories, or small-biz ventures) with us. Katherine is no exception, and her family cornbread recipe with a bit of pumpkin is just what we all need this Thanksgiving. I like to think of it as a hug in a skillet. (If you’d like to see more of this amazing lady’s work, Katherine is featured in the holiday edition of King Arthur Flour’s Sift Magazine.)

Hold your loved ones close this holiday, break bread with those who hold opposing views, and enjoy every moment of a day that celebrates pie (among so many other wonderful things). Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Even when your host assures you and reassures you and then assures you some more that you definitely don’t need to bring anything to Thanksgiving Dinner, you should still bring something. Most people go with flowers, maybe a bottle of wine, but if I’ve learned anything in my study of family gatherings it’s that the bread basket is always the first to empty and that’s where you can save the day.

But in lieu of another kind of yeast roll or some sort of sliced bread, I like to bring along a skillet of freshly baked cornbread. My reasons are as follows: it’s portable, it’s neutral enough to be a crowd-pleaser, it can be reheated in an oven or eaten as is or even saved for another day, and best of all, it can be used to sop up gravy or saved for dessert and drenched in honey.

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This is my family cornbread recipe, one that we turn to at least once a week, but I like to dress it up for special occasions like Thanksgiving with freshly roasted pumpkin puree. The best puree is roasted from fresh sugar pumpkins, the kind still sitting on your porch after Halloween, but you can sub in canned if you’re in a pinch.

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And the best part about roasting your own pumpkin is the bonus of free pumpkin seeds, which you can toss with spices and roast alongside the squash! Cornbread for your host, and a bonus snack for you in case dinner takes longer to cook than expected.

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Roasted Pumpkin Cornbread + Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Makes: 1 8-inch skillet

Ingredients:

For the Roasted Pumpkin Cornbread
  • 1 small sugar pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
For the Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
  • Seeds from the sugar pumpkin (about 1/2 cup), rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon spices (try: cinnamon + nutmeg, cumin + chile powder, chai spice, garlic powder + dried sage)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon melted coconut oil, olive oil, or melted butter

Directions:

Make the Roasted Pumpkin Cornbread
  1. Set the oven to 350°F. Line a small sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Split the pumpkin in two. Using the sharp edge of a spoon, scoop out the pulp and seeds (set seeds aside!). Place cut-side down on the lined sheet pan and place in the middle of the oven. Roast until the pumpkin is fork-tender, about 45 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, gently pull off the skin and discard. Transfer pumpkin flesh to a food processor and puree until smooth. Depending on the size of your pumpkin, you’ll have anywhere from 2 to 4 cups of puree. Portion out 1 1/2 cups and refrigerate (or freeze!) the rest.
  4. Set the oven to 400°F.
  5. Place a cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat. Add the butter to the skillet to melt.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
  7. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and pumpkin puree. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated. Lastly, add the melted butter from the skillet.
  8. Use a brush or a crumpled paper towel to coat the bottom and sides of the skillet with the remaining melted butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and smooth the top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cornbread comes out clean. Serve with cold butter (and maybe honey or molasses!).
Make the Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
  1. Set the oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss together the pumpkin seeds, spices, sea salt, and coconut oil. Spread into an even layer on a baking sheet and place in the middle of the oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the seeds are crisp and the spices fragrant.

Materials

  • 1 clean tea towel
  • Twine or burlap ribbon
  • Wooden knife or another you don’t mind lending or gifting
  • Paper tag
  • Small waxed paper bags
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Spread the tea towel out on a flat surface. Place the cooled skillet onto the middle of the tea towel. Bring the edges of the towel around the pan, gather in the middle of the pan, and secure with a piece of twine or burlap ribbon. Tuck a knife into the ribbon and tie a handwritten tag to finish.
  2. Portion the pumpkin seeds into a couple small waxed paper bags, fold over the top to close, and seal with a piece of tape. You can gift the seeds alongside the freshly baked roasted pumpkin cornbread or keep a bag in your pocket for pre-dinner snacking.
Photos styled and taken by Katherine Hysmith.

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