Pumpkin Soup & Challah Knots

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The mountains and hills surrounding Denver are sprinkled with autumnal colors and while the days are still warm, the nights are noticeably cooler.  I'm loving the arrival of fall... our insane summer travel schedule has slowed and it actually feels as though the pace of life generally is slowing.  To me, fall means squash and gourds, apple picking, carving pumpkins, making soup and stew, falling leaves, wearing my Patagonia Better Sweater all the time and the return of the pumpkin spice latte.  

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 My absolute favorite soup is pumpkin.  I fell in love with pumpkin soup in college at Au Bon Pain.  Then the soup was served in a bread bowl (so healthy!) and probably contained a LOT of cream but it was still delicious.  Since I started cooking, I've been looking for a pumpkin soup recipe without cream but with strong flavors and the requisite silkiness. I've tried several (including this one from the current issue of Bon Appétit that was just wrong) and keep coming back to the same simple recipe from Fine Cooking.

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Soup alone is not enough for a meal, so I tried a new roll recipe from the October 2011 issue of Saveur.  The rolls require advance preparation but I've noted in the recipe below that you can make them to a certain point one day in advance to minimize the work you have to do the day you want to serve these.  I've made them twice and the end result is a buttery, soft, fluffy roll.  These are my new go-to roll!  The original recipe for the soup includes instructions for making croutons to accompany the soup.  Since I served it with a roll and I don't particularly like croutons, I omitted this step. 

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Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Gruyère

Adapted from Fine Cooking

Yield = 6 appetizer servings or 4 main course servings

Ingredients

2 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

6 cups 1-inch-diced peeled, seeded pumpkin

2 medium cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

4 medium fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped

4 to 6 cups lower-salt chicken broth

1/4 cup packed grated Gruyère

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Preparation

Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir in the pumpkin and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute more.  Add the wine and the sage leaves and cook, stirring, until the wine evaporates, about 5 minutes.  Stir in 4 cups of broth, cover, and simmer, adjusting the heat as needed, until the pumpkin is very tender, about 25 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup of the Gruyère and using a hand-held or standard blender, purée the soup (in batches, if necessary).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Return to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly and adding more broth as necessary to achieve a thin soup with the consistency of heavy cream.  Ladle the soup into warm bowls and serve with the croutons.

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Challah Knots

Saveur - October 2011

Yield = 12 rolls

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Ingredients

4 tsp. active dry yeast

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup canola oil

4 egg yolks

3¼ cups flour

1¼ tsp. kosher salt

1 egg, lightly beaten 

Preparation

In a bowl, stir together yeast and 1 cup water heated to 115°; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in sugar, oil, and egg yolks; add flour and salt.  Stir to form dough, and then knead on a work surface until smooth, about 8 minutes.  Cover, and let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Punch down dough, cover, and let sit for 45 minutes more.  You can also let the rolls sit overnight in the refrigerator at this point.  Remove them from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to forming them into knots as instructed below.

Preheat oven to 350°. Form dough into twelve 10″-long ropes; tie each rope into a knot, tucking ends underneath. Transfer to a greased 9″ × 13″ baking pan.  Cover the rolls and let them sit for 30 minutes.  Brush with egg; bake until browned, about 20 minutes.

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Update

on 2011-10-28 03:18 by Darcy Eden

Julie asked a great question that I should have explained in the recipe: how does one peel and prepare six cups of cubed pumpkin?  I have found with pumpkins (and squash) with very thick, hard to handle skin, the easiest way to peel them is to make a thin slice on the bottom of the pumpkin so that you have a flat side for resting on the cutting board.  Similarly cut a slice off the top of the pumpkin getting rid of the stem and skin on top.  Then use a knife to "peel" the skin in strips from top to bottom (cutting toward the board).  You are doing the same thing you would do with, say, a carrot peeler, but using a knife instead.  You might loose a bit of the pumpkin flesh, but this is the easiest way to rid the pumpkin of that pesky skin.

I've also found that the best way to get the seeds, etc. out of the middle of the pumpkin is to use a melon baller (if you have one).  The melon ballers' sharp edge scoops the seeds right out of the pumpkin!