Argument: the candy roaster squash is cooler than whatever squash you’re currently eating or making into pie.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what on earth is she talking about? What is this candied squash, and how is it better than my pie pumpkin?
My friends, I speak of the wonders of the candy roaster squash, a particularly sweet heirloom variety of winter squash (that is, a storage squash that will last through the winter) that, especially in my home state of North Carolina, has been through quite a lot to be around today. Some say that it’s even sweet enough to make pie without added sugar *gasp!* which I’m totally willing to try in the future.
If you have heard of or seen a candy roaster, you’ve likely stumbled across the North Georgia variety, which is what I found and used for my pie recipe below. It’s an enormous, oblong, pale orange squash with tangerine-colored flesh.
We attempted to grow some of these this past spring, but a combination of a late frost, late planting, and a very wet, cool summer yielded almost nothing in the squash department, let alone anything for an heirloom variety. Sigh.
Ahem. What appears to be coming back, thanks to seed saving largely thanks to Cherokee farmers, is the North Carolina candy roaster, which comes in many shapes, colors, and sizes (though they’re all pretty large compared to little pumpkin pie pumpkins). I’d like to grow some of my own and keep the heirloom going for the future at some point, but our semi-suburban location, and our neighbors’ penchant for growing other squashes, might make that impossible for now. Ah, well.
Anyway, for more information about the North Carolina candy roaster squash and its seed-saving journey, check out this article and radio excerpt from ASAP (our local sustainable farming organization), as well as this article from a local publication. Very cool!
But back to cooking with the candy roaster. You may now be wondering, besides its history and unique appearance, why I like the candy roaster squash so much, especially since this was the first time I’ve ever worked with it.
Let’s start with the basics. Like the sweet kabocha squash, which I discussed in my pumpkin puree post, the candy roaster has minimal strings and seeds to scoop out when using the flesh for pies, soups, and the like.
Unlike many other pumpkins and hard squashes I’ve cooked with, this one was also easier to cut through with my regular chef’s knife, thanks to a slightly thinner skin. (Regardless, I intend to get a cleaver very soon for this very purpose, as well as, y’know, having a cool cleaver.)
As I mentioned before, this bugger is BIG. With a large-ish kabocha squash, I can get about 6-8 cups of puree. With this medium candy roaster, I got 16 cups of orange gold, and it’s glorious.
And the taste? I’ve waxed poetic about how much I love pumpkin, and how much I hate when “pumpkin spice” flavoring negates that delicate taste. The candy roaster is like pumpkin x 4, with a flavor also unique to itself. Like its name suggests, it’s sweeter than a regular pumpkin, and requires less sugar for baking applications. I’m excited to try it for savory recipes in the future, too!
But I’ve bragged about this squash long enough, and owe you a recipe so you can try it for yourself. You’re not likely to find a candy roaster at your supermarket, but you may have better luck at your local farmer’s market, especially if you live in the South. If you can’t your hands on one, this recipe works for regular pumpkin (or other winter squash) pie, as well – you just may need to increase the sugar, if that’s your bag. It’s also designed for homemade puree, which usually has a bit more moisture than canned pumpkin, so adjust your liquids according to what you’re using.
Let’s make pie!
Candy Roaster (or Pumpkin) Pie
You can use this recipe for other winter squashes besides the candy roaster - adjust sweetness to your liking. This recipe is designed for homemade squash puree, but if canned pumpkin is all you’ve got, you may need to increase the amount of milk.
you will need:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You’re going to blind bake your crust first (meaning, you’ll bake it halfway by itself so it doesn’t get soggy from the custard filling). Pat cold pie crust into a pie plate, shaping the edges as desired (fluted, forked, etc.). Line the crust with foil, then use pie weights or dried beans to weigh down both the crust and the foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes minutes, or until the crust looks dry and has darkened a bit in color. Remove the foil and pie weights, bake for another 10 minutes, then remove from oven and cool briefly on a wire rack. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling (as with quiche, you can do this in a bowl or a large liquid measuring cup with a spout): beat the eggs and sugar with a whisk or electric mixer until well combined, then add the spices and salt. Mix in the squash puree, then the milk, until well combined.
- Place pie crust onto a rimmed baking sheet (this will catch any buttery drips), then carefully pour the filling into the pie crust. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45-55 minutes until the edges are set, but the center is still a little jiggly (the custard should not be liquidy, nor should it be entirely set). Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or cold. Store wrapped in the refrigerator.