Pumpkin obsession

It all started a year ago when P. coming back from work brought me a half of a beautiful giant butternut squash (at that time I had no idea what it is). With a dumb expression on my face I asked him "what the hell I'm going to do with it?". The poor butternut squash - so rejected by me in the beginning - was eventually baked in the oven and devoured in the blink of an eye. A few dozen pumpkin pancakes, cheesecakes, breads, muffins and soups later I've come to a stage when I can call myself pumpkin obsessed. Thankfully, I'm not alone - a few days ago I found out about the Pumpkin Festival (Festiwal Dyni) organized by Bea. I read with pleasure her pumpkin guide, reassuring myself that cooking and baking pumpkin daily is the perfect activity for dark and gloomy November days.

For a start - a short and simple recipe for butternut squash: cottage cheese cake. The core of the recipe is Pumpkin bread from The Joy of Baking. I modified both the proportions and the spices, cutting the amount of sugar, adding more cottage cheese layers and enhancing the bread with a tiny bit of orange aroma and peel. The cake is perfect with milk or with some Christmas tea mix as a light supper or for breakfast with a cinnamon latte.

Butternut Squash - Cottage Cheese Cake

Fits one rectangular loaf pan (29cm long, 11cm wide, 7cm deep) or one round springform pan with fluted base (23cm / 9inch).

60g walnuts
225g all purpose flour (type 550 in Poland)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (with real vanilla)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of ground nutmeg
a pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of orange aroma or orange peel (I used powdered aroma for muffins and a bit of orange peel)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs (at room temp.)
150g white sugar
115g unsalted butter (melted and cooled down)
215g butternut squash puree*

cottage cheese filling:
225g cottage cheese (full fat content, at room temperature, turo in Hungary, twaróg in Poland. The best if it's already ground 3 times.)
75g white sugar
2 large eggs (at room temp.)
1 1/2 tablespoons of all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, place the rack in the middle and butter the pan. If you use the loaf pan, you can equally use baking paper.

Roast the walnuts: either in the oven by putting them on the baking paper and baking for about 10minutes until they're lightly brown or in the frying pan with a bit of butter, stirring frequently. Let them cool down and chop.

Using a blender (or food processor if you have one) blend the cottage cheese until it's smooth and creamy. Add sugar, process until it's smoothly incorporated. Add eggs, blending only for a short time and flour.

In a large bowl (bowl number 1) combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, orange peel (or orange aroma if it's powdered, if it's liquid add it to the bowl together with the pumpkin). Mix all the ingredients together.
Take one more large bowl (bowl number 2) and whisk the eggs. Then add the sugar and melted butter, whisking until all are combined. Add the butternut squash puree, vanilla and orange extracts, walnuts. Mix well. Add the bowl number to the bowl number 2 and mix gently, just as little as it's needed so that the ingredients are combined.

Take a pan and cover the base with the batter. Then pour a layer of cottage cheese, then some more batter, cottage cheese later and on top the batter again. You can make one or two cottage cheese layers. Put the pan in the warmed up oven and bake from 50 min. to 65 min. depending on the oven. When a toothpick inserted into the cake is clean, it means your cake is good. Let the cake cool down in the pan for 15min., then take it out and enjoy! The cake is at its best the second day after baking.

*Butternut Squash Purée:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Rinse the butternut squash (or any other type of pumpkin) with water to get rid of the dirt. Dry it with the paper towel. Cut the pumpkin in half alongside. With an ice-cream scoop clean out the seeds and the fibres. Place the pumpkin - cut side down - on a flat pan covered with a baking paper. Bake in the oven until the flesh is easily pierced with fork. (from 60 to 90 minutes approximately, depending on the pumpkin size and the oven). Take out the pumpkin and let it cool down a little bit, then scoop out the pumpkin flesh. Puree the pumpkin with a blender until it's smooth and creamy. It can be kept for about a week in a fridge, or it can be frozen.

In the meantime, I'm off to the market hall to get more pumpkins :)

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