I would reather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to
myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion ~ Henry David Thorau.
It's Halloween. Here in the Netherlands, we don't really celebrate this day. We have something similar in a few weeks: Sint Maarten. I've been once in the US during Halloween. We were in Las Vegas with a group of students, do I need to say more?
Halloween is of course much more than trick-or-treating. It is carving pumpkins, eating comfort food, dressing up. But the history behind this day is very interesting as well.
According to Library of Congress' archive Halloween originated in Ireland, where the Celts called it Samhain (Sah-ween). This day was their turn of the year and it was celebrated on the 1st of November. It was the start of the winter: people moved their livestock closer to home and harvested and stored their crops. Moreover, the Celts believed that on Samhain, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living.
People used animals, fruit and vegetables as offers to keep the souls calm. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to help them on their journey, but also to keep them away from the living.
The jack-o'-latern tradition originates from this period of time. Potatoes and parsnips were used to make carvings. People would then fill them with candles and use them to lit the roads and keep the ghosts from entering their homes. Often they would carve angry faces to chase the dead away.
Samhain became Halloween when the Christians came to Ireland. They considered Samhain to be pagan and introduced their own holiday on the 1st of November: All Saints, also known as All Hallows.
It didn't mean however that the meaning behind Samhain disappeared. People still commemorated the death the evening before All Saints. The name changed however, it was called All Hallows Eve. People wore masks, gifts, food and drinks were exchanged. All Hallows Eve later turned into Hallow evening and later Halloween.
In the nineteenth century, Irish immigrants brought Halloween with them to the US. They also introduced the jack-o'-latern tradition to Americans. Soon the potatoes and parsnips were exchanged for pumpkins, which were native to Northern America.
Nowadays the pumpkin is Halloween's symbol. You see recipes with pumpkin everywhere during this time of year. It is one versatile squash. You can even use it in smoothies! I never tried it, but I did bake a pumpkin loaf last week. It's suitable both as breakfast and as a snack!
Pumpkin bread with walnuts and cinnamon
Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen
The original recipe calls for pumpkin puree. Something which is scarce in the Netherlands. So I roasted the whole thing in the oven. Just cut the squash into four pieces, remove the seeds, place them upside down on a baking tray and roast them for about 45 minutes in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the flesh from the skin and mash it. You could add a tablespoon of water if it is too dry.
To make the swirl
1 cup toasted walnuts
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
To make the batter
2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup olive oil or coconut oil
2 tbsp (nut) milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp coconut sugar to sprinkle on top of the loaf
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a loaf pan. Line it with parchment paper.
Roast the squash if you decide to make your own puree.
Make the swirl. Toast the walnuts. Then mix the walnuts, maple syrup, the coconut sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl you combine the spelt flour, baking powder and salt. Consequently you add the nutmeg and cinnamon. In a separate bowl you combine the 'wet ingredients': the squash puree, oil, milk, vanilla, egg, honey, and maple syrup.
Fold the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture and stir until just combined. Spread half the batter over the bottom of your pan. Layer the cinnamon swirl evenly over the batter and top with the rest of the batter.
To create the actual swirl, you run a knife in a zig zag manner through the batter. Sprinkle with coconut sugar. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Don't cut until ten minutes after removing from the oven. Enjoy with some coconut or real butter.