In the latest of her regular baking series, Borough Market demo chef and Great British Bake Off finalist Beca Lyne-Pirkis tells us why pumpkin pie takes her back to childhood holidays
Words: Beca Lyne-Pirkis
Recently, my two-year-old has discovered the joy of walking through piles of leaves as we go about our normal daily activities. No mountain or molehill of leaves can be ignored, meaning that it is taking me much longer to get anywhere at the moment. She’s also enjoying helping me out more in the kitchen. Although by ‘help’, I mean stirring and spoon-licking!
Aroma can be an instant teleportation device that seems to take us back to when we first encountered that distinct smell. I think it’s more prevalent at this time of year, with the approach of bonfire night meaning the heavy scent of fireworks mixed with toffee apples lingers in the air. For me, aroma is usually associated with some form of food, which means that this time of year is filled with childhood memories. I wonder what my daughters will remember from their childhood. Will their memory banks be filled with scents and food associated memories too?
Sweet, aromatic cinnamon is a scent that reminds me all year round of my American family over in the mid-west. I spent many a happy childhood holiday playing and eating with my cousins across the pond, and cinnamon seemed to be there in many of the delicious delights that we ate. A recipe that I make at this time of year is cinnamon rolls drizzled heavily with sticky sweet icing. The combination of savoury bread dough filled with a mixture of sugar, butter and cinnamon finds the perfect balance on the sweet versus savoury scale. The icing will always tip the balance in favour of sweet, which is why it’s important to select a cinnamon roll that hasn’t been drizzled too much with icing. And always accompany your roll with a strong black coffee.
If we’re talking spice blends within American foods, there’s one in particular that divides its audience, but balanced correctly, there’s no taste quite like it. I’m talking of course about the most American of all pies: the pumpkin pie. One branch of my American family live in a small town called Morton in Illinois which just so happens to be the self-proclaimed Pumpkin Capital of the World. The pumpkins are harvested and pureed before being canned and sold across the globe. This local legend is obviously the star of the show when it comes to pumpkin pies in the area and one that I’ve eaten many a time.
Colour and texture
They also make pies from the fresh local pumpkins by roasting and scooping out the flesh once roasted to puree and make the pie. The spice blend uses cinnamon in abundance as well as ginger and cloves and I’ve added pecans to the pie crust to give colour and texture—a slight twist on the recipe my cousin gave me, but a good addition in my books.
With Halloween approaching, please don’t waste your pumpkins. Get the kids involved with making soups, roasted vegetables with pumpkin and of course try out my pumpkin pie. Hopefully, this time of year will evoke some fond and sweet food memories in the next generation too.