Thursday, February 25, 2010

Amy Cotler: Spiced Butternut Cranberry Squares

Moist, sweet, and laced with tart cranberries, these staved off my winter blues by perfuming the house with their spices. They’re a relative of pumpkin bread but with the locavore edge — local butternut squash, eggs, butter, apple, and regional cranberries — all widely available during the cold months (I even threw in some local whole wheat flour from my grain CSA!). Savor these for a rustic dessert, buffet brunch, after-school treat, or book group fare with tea.

Note: Don’t be put off by the process of roasting the squash, but if it seems daunting, see the “Tips on Butternut Squash” below.

Makes one 8 x 8-inch square.

1 two-pound (or more) butternut squash
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup melted butter (or vegetable oil)
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, ginger, and allspice (or 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 apple, unpeeled, chopped
1-1/2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast the whole unpeeled squash on a baking sheet until quite soft, 45 minutes to an hour. Slit lengthwise; remove seeds, stringy bits, and skin, and discard them. (You can save the seeds, if you like. Just rinse, dry, and toast in a dry pan until crispy. Serve salted.) Puree the orange flesh in a food processor. (If you cooked a larger squash, measure out 2 cups for the recipe and enjoy the rest for dinner.)

2. Mix the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Add the squash and eggs, stirring well until thoroughly combined. Reserve.

3. Whisk together the flours, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in another bowl.

4. Add the dry mixture to the wet squash mixture and stir just until thoroughly combined. Mix in the apples and cranberries very briefly just to combine (you can chop the apple in the food processor, if you like).

5. Pour the batter into a lightly oiled and floured 8 x 8 baking pan. Sprinkle the top with sugar. Bake until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from pan, cool, then cut into squares to serve.

Tips on Butternut Squash
For this recipe you’ll roast the butternut whole, which I much prefer to peeling it, both for its flavor and ease of preparation. But it can take up to 1 hour to cook. So if you’re short on time, roast it the day before. (If you can’t cook ahead of time, peel, seed, and steam it, then puree to make 2 cups.)

The truth is, I’m always looking for good things to do with roasted butternut. It’s a staple that I like to keep around, a winter schmoo that’s tasty for soups or as a seasoned side. My favorite is Easy Orange Mashers: Just mix the warm pureed flesh with seasonings to taste: a touch of cayenne, salt, butter, and ginger juice, made by generously grating unpeeled fresh ginger, then squeezing it through your hands or a cheesecloth.

So while you’re roasting the butternut for this recipe, why not throw a buddy squash in the oven to serve later in the week?

A longtime advocate of local eating, Amy Cotler is the author of The Locavore Way and founding director of Berkshire Grown, a food initiative that received international recognition as a model for local food advocacy. She now consults, teaches, and lectures on food and farm-to-table issues. She worked as the Web food forum host for The New York Times, and her food articles have been published in numerous periodicals, including Fine Cooking, Kitchen Garden, Cook’s, Family Fun, Self, Gastronomique, and Orion. Her five cookbooks include The Secret Garden Cookbook, My Little House Cookbook, and Fresh From the Farm: The Massachusetts Farm to School Cookbook, which is available free online. Amy has developed close to 1,000 recipes, including many for the revision of The Joy of Cooking. She’s taught at the Institute for Culinary Education and the Culinary Institute of America, where she also researched and wrote teaching text for their professional cookbook. She lives in Western Massachusetts. Reach her at

This post was originally published on her blog, Amy Cotler, The Locavore Way.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I couldn't wait to try your recipe. I had to make a couple substitutions but it turned out great and I documented it on my blog. Thanks for sharing!