Baking With Canned Pumpkin? Here's How To Take It To A New Level

Pumpkin spice treats are practically ubiquitous come autumn but thanks to the magic of the canning process, you can harness the versatile culinary power of this winter squash any time of year. That's good news if you want to make sure you have pumpkin chocolate bread every morning, and why wouldn't you? But there is a way to elevate your baked goods to a totally new level.

There may be things you didn't know you could make with canned pumpkin but even if you're familiar with the versatility of this ingredient, it turns out that there's often some slept-on flavor potential in that can. By simply cooking down your pumpkin puree, you'll concentrate the flavor of your gourd into an even sweeter and infinitely more flavorful ingredient that will be a game changer to your treats. 

Canned pumpkin puree is about 90 percent water, so when you bake with it you bring moisture to your recipes but not much in the way of taste. This easy stovetop method allows you to intensify flavor by eliminating the naturally occurring liquid, while also ridding your puree of some of the less-than-desirable qualities that come with canning like a metal taste. Ultimately, this gives any pumpkin recipe a major upgrade.

What to consider when putting this tip to use

Many ideas often circulate about how to eliminate moisture from pumpkin puree. Common among them are straining with cheesecloth or a mesh sieve, patting with a paper towel, or simply leaving the puree out to air dry a bit. However, using the heat of your stovetop is unrivaled in terms of efficiency and speed. It can take anywhere from about six to 15 minutes over medium heat depending on your particular puree and how much moisture you're hoping to remove. You'll want to stir throughout to avoid scorching but what you're left with is a super-powered pumpkin.

It may take some trial and error to find your ideal level of concentrated winter squash which varies per application. One thing to keep in mind is that once you've reduced your puree, you'll have to replace the volume in your recipe. For instance, if it calls for one cup of puree, using 1/2 cup of reduced pumpkin risks throwing off the rest of the formula. So you may need as much as double the amount of canned puree you have on hand.

You're also working with a sweeter product — the upside is that the natural sugars will more effectively caramelize and brown, promoting all kinds of deliciousness. However, keep an eye out when you begin experimenting so you don't wind up with burnt baked goods.

The benefits of even more pumpkin

With this more pronounced flavor, it's a great opportunity to seek out supreme pumpkin pairings. The obvious go-to is that familiar blend of spices but there's more that goes with this gourd than cinnamon and clove. It may be less common to find coconut as a partner for pumpkin but these two ingredients work deliciously together. The winter squash's sweetness is also a counterpoint to spicy ingredients like cayenne or the smokiness of ancho, which make for a fun addition to great pumpkin cookies.

This trick presents another tasty opportunity — after reducing, try replacing some of the natural liquid with an alternate option. Oranges are excellent when paired with pumpkin, so stick with the color theme and restore some of that evaporated moisture with freshly squeezed OJ, adding balancing acidity and complementary tang. You can also try coconut milk to really capitalize on that combination or nut milk for a creamy, toasty take.

There are also more beneficial reasons to punch up your pumpkin content. According to WebMD, pumpkin has a host of vitamins including A, B6, C, and E, among other important elements and the canned stuff is no less potent when it comes to nutrients. By concentrating your puree, you're not only packing more flavor into each bite but your baked goods will carry even more benefits on the health front.