Saturday, August 27, 2016

Buying canned pumpkin in the UK

I know it is far too early (and far too sunny) to mention Thanks Giving. But, I also know there are some customers getting a little concerned about their pumpkin pies already. Poor growing conditions in Illinois last year saw the pumpkin yield fall by 50%. Panic set in, with fears that there would be no Libby's Pumpkin for Thanks Giving. Fortunately everything turned out to be OK. There was enough pumpkin to go around.

However, as was inevitable, supply did subsequently run out in the new year. We have customers (mainly American's living in the UK) who visit every summer, and stock up on their Libby's Pumpkin ahead of time. Realising I've not had any for a few months, they are starting to worry. They aren't alone. It'll be September next week and there is still no news from Libby's regarding this year's harvest. How much will there be? Will there be a price increase? When will it be available? No-one seems to know.

So, to reduce the panic, I've taken a different brand of canned pumpkin, the less well-known Mississippi Belle pumpkin. It arrived this week and I'm pretty pleased with it. Mississippi Belle pure pumpkin is produced in the same factory, on the same line as Libby's and appears to be identical, with the exception of the label. It is still 100% pure pumpkin (no added salt, sugar, colours or preservatives) from Morton, Illinois. Same taste and texture. So far no-one has been able to tell the difference between them. Although it is marginally cheaper.

Hopefully that will put some minds at rest - there will be pumpkin pie for Thanks Giving. It just might not be Libby's.

Five things I've learned whilst attempting to source canned pumpkin
  1. Libby's produce 80% of the canned pumpkin in the US. 
  2. Morton, Illinois where Libby's (and Mississippi Belle) pumpkins are grown is know as the "pumpkin capital of the world". 
  3. California is the second biggest pumpkin grower in the US, but produces about 1/3 of that of Illinois. 
  4. 80% of the pumpkins grown in Illinois go into cans. 
  5. How to spell Mississippi.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Banana & Chocolate Bread & Peanut Butter Pudding

Last week the Funky Nut Company asked me to come up with a recipe for their peanut butter ebook. So I had a think about flavours that work well with peanut butter. Banana was my first choice. I do like a peanut butter banana sandwich: Take a banana. Slice in half, lengthways. Cover flat side with peanut butter. Sandwich back together and enjoy! Its not exactly a recipe though is it?

In the end I decided to see if I could combine peanut butter, bananas and chocolate chips to make a quick and easy comforting nostalgic dessert for autumn*.

So here's my recipe for a Banana & Chocolate Chip Bread & Peanut Butter Pudding.

This is a substantial pudding, which can be served hot or cold, but only small portions will be needed.

For 8 servings you will need:
  • Butter or oil to grease your pan.
  • 8 slices of day old white farmhouse bread. 
  • 120 g - 180 g peanut butter
  • 30 g - 50 g chocolate chips (I used 30 g here)
  • 450 ml milk (if you are dairy free I think this will work nicely with coconut milk instead of dairy milk).
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 extra large free-range egg
  • (optionally up to 1.5 tablespoons sugar and/or a dusting of cocoa powder)
All of which you can buy in a deli like Tastes Deli ;)

Lightly grease an ovenproof dish, roughly  20cm by 10cm.

Trim the crusts from the bread.
Spread with peanut butter of your choice, as liberally as you desire.
Cut or tear the slices into smaller pieces (4-6 pieces from each slice).

Place a layer of bread pieces in the bottom of your dish, peanut butter side up.  This should use about 1/3 of your bread.
Sprinkle with half of the chocolate chips.
Add another layer of bread, again peanut butter side up, laying the slices to cover any holes.
Sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips.
Add a final layer of bread.


Make a banana custard:
Gently warm the milk in a saucepan.
While it is warming, mash your bananas.
Add bananas to milk mixture and stir to combine.
Lightly whisk the egg with the sugar (if using - the bananas sweeten the custard so extra sugar might not be necessary).
Remove the milky banana mixture from the heat and slowly pour into the eggs, whisk again.

Pour the custard over the bread mixture making sure to cover it all.
Push down on the bread with the back of a spoon to release any pockets of air and encourage the bread to absorb the custard.

Leave the pudding to stand while you heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Put your dish into an oven or roasting dish slightly larger than the dish with your bread & butter pudding in.
Fill the outer dish with water until it is about half way up the side of your bread pudding. The water bath should help keep the custard creamy and light.

Bake for 30-35 minutes (fan assisted), or until the pudding has browned on the top.
Serve hot or allow to cool. Dust with cocoa powder if you desire.

* Although it is 28 degrees in Eton today, it was autumnal on Sunday when I made this!