If you’re not, step right this way and check out my entry for this week’s Foodie Fight: Battle Pumpkin and Bulghur.
The toughest part of coming up with my challenge entry was deciding between sweet and savoury, since pumpkin and bulghur can easily go either way. In the end, I opted for the sweet route because this is a Halloween-inspired challenge… and really, can you get more Halloween-esque than candied pumpkin?
Deciding what to do with the bulghur was a bit of a toughie, too. At first, I thought I might do a sweet milky porridge, which is a traditional dessert in many Middle Eastern cuisines, but that seemed a little too simple for a competition that has seen some pretty impressive entries in the past. Eventually, after spending a few days Googling for inspiration, it finally struck me… I could use the bulghur in a sweet biscuit, which I could turn into a shortcake by filling it with candied pumpkin and a dollop of spiced whipped cream. Tah-dah!
Not to brag or anything, but these turned out even better than I’d expected. The bulghur gives the shortcakes a nutty, crumbly and crunchy sort of texture, which is the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of the candied pumpkin and the soft pillow of whipped cream. These are so good, in fact, that I’ll probably be making them again (except I might use something other than pumpkin in the filling, because I’ve had my fill of pumpkin for this year).
If you haven’t heard of Foodie Fights, you ought to head over here right now and read up on it. Some of the challenge entries from previous weeks are amazingly creative and delicious-looking… all I can say is that I’m awfully glad that I didn’t get stuck with Battle Cauliflower-Raspberry. :)
Bulghur Shortcakes with Pumpkin Preserves
6 Buttermilk-Bulghur Scones, preferably warm (see below)
Pumpkin-Spiced Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream (35%)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp each ground nutmeg and cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Candied Pumpkin Preserves (see below)
Ground nutmeg, for garnish
Split scones in half and set aside.
To prepare the pumpkin-spice whipped cream, pour heavy cream into a large bowl and beat until soft peaks form (it goes without saying that this is best done with a mixer, but I suppose you could do it by hand if you’re a masochist). Add the sugar, spices and vanilla extract, beating until combined.
To assemble the shortcakes, spoon 1/4 cup of candied pumpkin, including a little of the syrup, onto the bottom half of each scone, and top with a spoonful of spiced whipped cream. Place the top half of the scone onto the filling, then finish with a generous dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of nutmeg.
1 cup fine bulghur (see Note)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, divided
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a small bowl, stir together the bulghur and 1 cup of buttermilk. Let sit for about 30 minutes or until bulghur is soft and has absorbed most of the liquid.
Preheat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Stir in the bulghur mixture, vanilla extract and remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk, mixing until ingredients are moistened and just barely combined. Turn out onto a clean surface and gently knead 5-6 times until the dough comes together (resist the urge to keep kneading if the dough is still a little loose at this point – you’ll just end up with tough scones)
Shape the dough into a 6″x4″ rectangle about 3/4″ thick, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, score the dough into six evenly-sized pieces, being careful not to cut all the way through. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before breaking up into squares.
Note: Bulghur usually comes in three varieties – coarse, medium and fine. To get the proper texture in these scones, make sure you’re using a fine-ground bulghur, which should have a texture that’s similar to cornmeal (the label will usually say “fine” or “#1”).
If you’re having trouble finding fine bulghur in your regular supermarket, try a health food store or any store that specializes in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern foods.
Weigh your pumpkin. For each 1 lb, measure out 1 cup of sugar (my pumpkin weighed 3.5 lbs, so I used 3.5 cups of sugar for this batch).
Cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the innards and discard (or save the seeds to make pepitas, if you’re thusly inclined), then cut each half into 1/2″ thick wedges. Carefully pare away the peel from each wedge, then cut into 2″ lengths. Combine the pumpkin chunks with the sugar in a large bowl. Zest and juice both of the lemons into the bowl, and stir to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to macerate overnight.
The following day, pour the pumpkin mixture into a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, along with the cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and continue simmering, skimming off any froth that forms on the surface, for 30-40 minutes or until pumpkin translucent and mostly tender. Ideally, the pumpkin pieces shouldn’t be mushy at all – you want them to be slightly al dente on the outside, and soft on the inside. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard. Pour the pumpkin pieces and syrup into sterilized glass jars.
Once cooled, preserves can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month, and up to six months in the freezer. Hot water processing isn’t recommended due to the low acid content (thanks for the feedback, Robin!).