Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pumpkin Time

October is possibly my favorite month: the brilliant leaves, the return of my cashmere sweaters from the storage trunk, the Sox in the playoffs, and the arrival of pumpkins of all kinds, wherever I look. We're using a handsome pumpkin soup tureen (on sale last year at Crate & Barrel for $8.95) to store our phone and camera chargers on our kitchen counter. I have an equally roomy silver-plated pumpkin full of truffles at the moment. And we have three fresh midget pumpkins on the coffee table, and more are coming.

We'll get a hefty pumpkin at a farm stand in a week or two, and my husband will carve a striking face, using a template he'll create in Adobe Illustrator. He always surprises me with a new design and he does a great job.

The key to picking a pumpkin is to consider not just the overall shape, condition, and color, but also the stem. The stem is often the most "expressive" element of the pumpkin, and it's too bad that harvesters just hack them close to the gourd so they're generally short and uninteresting.

I'll be baking pumpkin bread with pecans and chocolate chips this week, using a recipe I begged a friend to give me back in high school. On Saturday, I found imported pumpkin gnocchi at the Salumeria Italiana on Richmond Street. Wow... but there must have been something wrong with the pricing gun — we thought it was $45, not $4.50, as it says on their site. I'll be going back.

I also have plans to roast a sugar pumkin stuffed with bread, cheese, eggs, broth, spices, and a few other yummy ingredients. The pumpkin becomes the tureen, and when it's empty, you can eat it in slices along with the filling.

But the best pumpkins — and the ones that won't linger around here — are the pumpkin cupcakes from Lyndell's.

I'm already proclaiming these the best cupcakes I've ever had, although I'll be heading over to the North End shop again this week to get a few more, just to make sure. I think their perfection lies in the way the spices temper the sweetness. Unlike many local cupcakes, this one's pumpkin cake is light and moist, with just the right amount of spice to keep it tasting like a cupcake instead of a quick bread. The frosting isn't overly sweet, either. It's not the basic Lyndell's vanilla buttercream colored orange, which is too sweet for me. I think this might be a sour cream or buttermilk frosting, and it's flavored, too. I couldn't tell what the flavor is, because I was too busy devouring it. I might figure out by Cupcake #3 or #4. This is a substantial cupcake, but you don't feel stuffed after you eat it. And it's $2.25, a small price to pay for an outstanding treat.

My photo is garish; you can't see the true color of the frosting or the heavy coating of sprinkles. Both are satisfyingly orange and loud. Be grateful that the cupcake stayed whole long enough for me to take a photo.

The green stem is some kind of gummy icing. I don't like gummy sweets, although my husband enjoyed his. I can eat around it. Just watch me....

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