The Pumpkin Series: "Baked Winter Squash I"
Baked Winter Squash I
"Cut in pieces two inches square, remove seeds and stringy portion, place in a dripping pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and allow for each square one-half teaspoon molasses and one-half teaspoon melted butter. Bake fifty minutes, or until soft, in a moderate oven, keeping covered the first
half-hour of cooking. Serve in the shell."
Fannie Farmer, Boston Cooking School, 1896
So I have to confess something.
I'm personally not a big fan of baked squash. It's something about the mushy texture and often sickeningly sweet taste that turns me off. But, for the desire to cook a variety of receipts for these pumpkins, I decided to go for it. And, if I was going to do it right, who better to explain things than Miss Fannie Farmer who's cookbook is the basis for modern day cookbook writing. Mainly because it uses proper measurements.
I decided for this dish to use the Buttercup squash, since it does very well when baked.
When I cut into this squash I was quite taken by the contrasting color inside. It was such a bright and golden yellow, quite unexpected from the color of the shell. And it had a wonderfully cucumber-like smell. It reminded me summer, surprisingly.
Once the squash was deseeded and peeled (which was fairly easy with the buttercup's thin skin) I took Miss Fannie at her word and made sure to measure that each piece was 2 inches square.
Once I had my 2-inch-square pieces of pumpkin set, I put them in a dutch oven. And preheated the oven for 350 degrees (figuring that would make a very moderate oven).
So, with the seasoning, Miss Fannie was very specific, calling for 1/2 tsp of molasses and 1/2 tsp of melted butter for each piece. I had 23 pieces, which I rounded up to 24 to make converting the measurements that much easier. So, 24 pieces, 12 tsps of melted butter and molasses for all of them. This then becomes 1/4 cup of molasses and 1/2 a stick of butter, melted. See, that math award comes in handy from time to time!
So I drizzled the molasses and melted butter over the squash pieces, stirred them to coat and then added some salt and pepper. Put the lid on and put it in the oven.
Now the receipt calls for a moderate oven and a 50 minute bake time. I had my oven at 350 degrees, and I ended up cooking them for 45 minutes, since they appeared to be well cooked, and were fork tender when tested.
Sadly I was not able to save the pumpkin shell to serve these beauties in, like how Fannie Farmer suggests. But I dished them out into a nice bowl before trying them!
It was a very smooth squash texture, much creamier than expected. And there was slight hint of sweetness but, for the most part it was a savory dish. Which I had to admit was a relief for me thinking it might be too sweet. There was a bit of bitterness at the end, which I think was the molasses. I think if I was to do this again I would take it out even sooner than 45 minutes, or turn the heat down.
Did it change my mind about baked squash?
A bit. The creamy texture and savory tones were pleasant, but it is not something I would say "Oh yes! Let's make that again soon!"
But for someone who does like baked squash, I think this is a perfect, if a bit plain, way to enjoy a more savory baked squash dish!