With the changing of leaves comes the changing of flavors — the crisp vegetable and grilled flavors of summer have made way for the flavors of rich squashes, earthy spices, and stewed meats.
But although there are many tastes associated with fall — such as the bite of a juicy, crisp Honeycrisp apple or the cinnamon spiced latte with steamed milk — for me, the flavor of pumpkin prevails as the ultimate fall flavor. Perhaps this is because I grew up where 80 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin is processed: the town of Morton, Illinois, Pumpkin Capital of the World.
At its annual harvest celebration, the Pumpkin Festival, the town boasts that over 1,700 pumpkin pies are baked by local volunteers. Despite the abundance of pie available, the festival’s food menu also features a full array of pumpkin-flavored foods ranging from pumpkin chili to pumpkin fudge to pumpkin macaroons.
So what makes pumpkin-flavored foods taste good? The key to a great pumpkin treat is not to make everything taste like pumpkin pie. Get creative with flavors, and don’t make everything taste like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Although this can be quite tasty, it doesn’t allow the true flavor of pumpkin to shine. Even in dishes where these spices are appropriate, a common mistake is to go too far with them, resulting in a cloying flavor that makes it difficult to finish.
The taste of pumpkin is easy to find locally — pumpkin lattes, scones, and cupcakes litter the menus of coffee shops all around the metro area. Many of these err on the side of being too heavily spiced, but there are a few gems to be had as well. These three treats feature creative but honest approaches to my favorite fall flavor — the pumpkin.
Pumpkin Ice Cream at Pumphouse Creamery
Sure, winter is just around the corner, but there are some nice days yet ahead. Seize the opportunity to enjoy a cone topped with ice cream from the 48th and Chicago gem — Pumphouse Creamery. Featuring all-natural products, the Pumphouse Creamery makes their ice cream from locally produced ingredients. This includes their roasted pumpkin ice cream, which is made from Minnesota-grown Long Island Cheese Squash.
Lightly sweet, this frozen treat needs no additions, like cinnamon or other spices. If you really need these, why not get a second scoop of their cinnamon ice cream on top?
Pumphouse Creamery plans to have their pumpkin ice cream available through Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin Pancakes at Longfellow Grill
The Morton Pumpkin Festival features a pumpkin pancake breakfast — high-carb food for the Saturday post-10k race crowd. And, although I love my hometown dearly, their pancakes can’t compare with the Longfellow Grill‘s cakes. (Shhh! Don’t tell!)
The key to Longfellow’s pancakes is two-fold. First is the texture — no dense hockey pucks here, these pancakes are the ultimate in light and fluffy. And second is the flavor. Lightly sweet with pumpkin as the prevailing flavor, they are complemented by a dollop of almond whipped cream.
Pumpkin pancakes are currently on special at Longfellow Grill and will last until they run out.
Pumpkin Whoopie Pie at Butter Bakery
With the gamut of pumpkin foods at the annual Pumpkin Festival, it’s tough to find something new for me to try. Or so I thought. The pumpkin whoopie pie at Butter Bakery proved me wrong.
The whoopie pie itself is an airy mix between a muffin and a cupcake and is flavored with pumpkin and spice (gasp!). The key to this spice, however, is that it’s not overwhelmingly flavored so that it maintains its pumpkin integrity. Sandwiched between these pumpkin-spiced pies is a thick, creamy frosting. Do not walk, run to Butter Bakery for this decadent treat.
Butter Bakery will feature pumpkin whoopee pies through mid-November.
Looking to make a pumpkin treat at home? Watch for our Friday recipe, where pumpkin takes the leading role in a version of a dessert favorite.