I’ve never felt a particular excitement for Halloween. I wasn’t a kid who did a lot of trick or treating, and my mother instilled in me a healthy dread of fancy dress parties. But it’s impossible not to feel a small swell of excitement when plump, lurid pumpkins begin to line the shelves. And more than any other produce, they really do line those shelves: so fat and squat, that stacking them is at best a logistical nightmare, and at worst an accident waiting to happen. Instead they flank all the other fruit and veg on offer, standing proudly, reminding us of harvest and the bright colours of autumn.
Of course, most of those big old pumpkins are destined not for technicolour seasonal dishes, but rather scalpel wielding children, producing wide gaping grins and candlelit eyes. But these lanterns leave an awful lot of spare pumpkin flesh. Last year, we gave you a recipe for pumpkin soup, and recommended eschewing the large carving pumpkins in favour of the (adorable and delicious) munchkin variety. But this year, it’s how to best make use of the carving pumpkins. Bake that flesh into scones – beautifully risen, savoury with cheese, golden from the pumpkin, and topped with pumpkin seeds that pop in the oven as the scones bake.
I used to have a lot of scone anxiety. Every scone recipe you see cautions against overhanding of the dough, as handling encourages gluten, which will make the dough tough rather than light and crumbly. But don’t be afraid. I was very worried this would happen to my poor little scones transforming them into sad little uprisen pucks. I skirted around the issue and the dough so much that I would end up with streaks of flour or egg, not properly mixed in. What it means is this: this is not bread dough. Do not knead the living daylights out of it. When mixing it the dough, mix it so that it forms a cohesive ball, without visible flour or butter lumps in it. And that’s it.
If you have a hankering for pumpkin scones but no real desire to care a pumpkin, simply cutting up the pumpkin into chunks, and removing the flesh from any skin once roasted.
Roasted pumpkin cheese scones
Makes: 12 scones
Takes: 10 minutes hands on time
Bakes: 45 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oli
400g self raising wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
80g butter, cold
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
100g strong cheddar cheese, plus 50g extra for topping
50ml whole milk
25g Pumpkin seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Take your pumpkin flesh and place it on a baking tray. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil, and roast until tender, `about 30 minutes.
2. Set the pumpkin to one side to cool. Once the pumpkin is no longer hot, ratchet the oven up to 220°C and line two baking trays.
3. Place the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir together. Cube the butter and rub it into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Blitz the pumpkin flesh in a food processor, and add it to the mixing bowl. Grate and add the cheese, along with the chopped sage, and bring the mixture together, first with a knife and then using your hands. You want to handle the dough as little as possible, so that the scones are light and flaky.
4. As soon as the dough comes together, pat it into a block about 2-5 cm thick. Dip your scone cutter – about 6cm in diameter – into flour and then push down into the dough without twisting.
5. Lift this scone onto the lined tray. Dip the cutter in the flour and repeat, gently pushing the leftover dough back together and cutting more scones until all the dough is used up. Brush each scone with a little milk, sprinkle a little of the extra grated cheese and top with a few pumpkin seeds.
6. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until puffed and proud and golden. Remove from the tray to cool.