Sean Brock’s new (and first) cookbook includes recipes from his celebrated restaurants McCrady’s and Husk, but also those that he grew up with in rural Virginia. This recipe for pumpkin rolls comes from his aunt and it remains one of his favorites.
My aunt Shell can stir a mean pot, but baking is her specialty. She rarely makes this pumpkin roll, preferring to save it for special occasions, but she always serves it on Thanksgiving. I look forward to it all year.
Make sure that you select a good baking pumpkin. The round and bright orange ones grown for Halloween carving won’t taste the best. Many of the best pumpkins for cooking are ugly, grown organically and probably with warts and knobby protrusions poking out. If you can’t find a good one in your local market, an acorn or butternut squash makes a fine substitute.
1 medium heirloom pumpkin, such as Winter Luxury (about 5 pounds)
¾ cup self-rising flour, preferably White Lily
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
1½ cups heavy cream
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup finely chopped black walnuts
15-by-10-inch jelly-roll pan
For the roll:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place a rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Cut the top off the pumpkin. Scoop out all the seeds and strings and discard them. Put the pumpkin on the rack on the baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until it is fork-tender. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.
3. When it is cool, scoop the flesh from the pumpkin (discard the skin), transfer to a food processor, and process until smooth, about 3 minutes. You need ⅔ cup puree for this recipe. Freeze any extra for a later use, such as soup.
4. Spray a 15-by-10-inch jelly-roll pan with nonstick baking spray. Wipe the pan with a paper towel to remove excess spray and line it with wax paper.
5. Combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and granulated sugar until thick. If using a stand mixer, take the bowl off the stand. Add the pumpkin and lemon juice to the bowl and stir to combine. Fold in the flour mixture.
6. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared jelly-roll pan. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched and the sides have begun to pull away from the pan. (If using a dark pan, check for doneness at 10 minutes.)
7. Sprinkle a tea towel with the confectioners’ sugar. Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan and turn it out onto the towel. Peel off the wax paper. Starting from a long side, roll the cake up in the tea towel. Cool it on a baking rack for 1 hour (do not put it in the refrigerator). Rolling the pumpkin roll too tightly or cooling it for too long can cause serious breaks, but there will be some small cracks regardless.
For the filling:
8. Combine the cream and 2 tablespoons of the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a medium mixing bowl and a hand mixer. Whip on low speed, increasing the speed as the cream thickens. It is ready when it holds stiff peaks. If using a stand mixer, transfer the cream to another bowl.
9. Put the cream cheese and the remaining ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and use the paddle attachment, or use a large mixing bowl and a hand mixer. Beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the whipped cream and walnuts and beat on low speed until combined, about 10 seconds.
10. Unroll the cake. Place it on a piece of parchment. Using an offset spatula, spread the filling over the roll, leaving a ¼-inch border around the edges. Using the parchment to assist, again starting from a long side, tightly roll the cake up. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
11. To serve, cut into slices. Tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, the roll will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator.
Excerpted from Heritage by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards.