Honeynut Squash Feta Bread
I have a stupid obsession with fall. I pretty much skip down the streets through leaf piles while singing and dreaming of unicorns every year when the air turns crips.
Related to that obsession is my deep affection for gourds because, it’s decorative gourd season motherf****ers. In the South End of Boston (where I call home), people get very into their stoop decorating. On almost every stoop there is a variety of decorative gourds and evergreens once October rolls around. But you know it is really close to fall when Siena Farms farm stand starting putting out boxes and boxes of squash outside, waiting to be snatched up. Buttercup, delicata, butternut, spaghetti, and the little honeynut squashes all appear and I want to eat all of them.
Now, while I would love to continue rambling on about how much I love fall and gourds, let’s talk about the honeynut squash. It is a relatively new breed of squash from the minds at Cornell that basically takes the butternut squash and shrinks it, intensifying the sweetness and flavor. The honeynut is small but mighty (mighty tasty), so thank you Dan Barber and Michael Mazourek for this one.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to make something that was first, not pumpkin and second, something savory and third, used ingredients I could buy at my local businesses.
I love this neighborhood because of the businesses. Everyone shops small (mostly), you get to know the people who work in the shops, learn more about the products they carry and support the people who make the products sold in local shops. So this loaf is made with Cabot Butter from Vermont, Cricket Creek Farm Feta cheese from western Massachusetts, Honeynut squash from Siena Farms, eggs from western Massachusetts, Four Star Farms flour milled in Massachusetts, and nuts and spices from Formaggio, a local cheese and specialty shop.
Now, while I bought everything local, that does not mean you need to for this recipe, but try to shop small and local for your cooking and baking, it makes a difference!
Squash the Squash
While you can certainly use a store-bought canned pumpkin or butternut squash puree for this, I like to make my own. For the honeynut squash puree, it’s pretty easy to make as long as you have a food processor or a blending, cheesecloth (or paper towels), and a sieve.
I used 2 honeynut squashes for this, each about 4-5inches long. First, cut the ends off your squash and then cut them in half, from top to bottom (skinny end down to the booty of the squash). Scoop out the seeds and gunk with a spoon and place on a foil lined baking tray. Place the halved, scooped squash halves on a the baking tray and sprinkle each with a little salt. We want to draw out a little bit of moisture as they cook and salt just makes everything taste a little bit better.
Cover the squashes with more foil and seal it around the edges of the baking tray by tucking the foil under the rim of the baking tray. Bake for 45 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit or until the squash are soft to the touch.
While the squash are hot (using a dish towel to hold the squash and not burn your hands), scoop out the orange flesh of the squash into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Puree until the squash is smooth, it will take about 4 to 6 minutes depending on the power of your processor or blender.
The next step is optional, but I think it really helps. Line a wire sieve with cheese cloth or paper towel and scoop your squash puree into it. Let it sit in the cheesecloth contraption for about 15 to 30 minutes. You want to get the extra water in the squash to come out. Scoop your strained puree into a Tupperware container or a mason jar with a lid. Boom. You’re done. This will keep in the fridge for a week. If you have extra after making the bread, I highly recommend warming it up with butter, salt, pepper and tossing in some pasta (I like Banza). So good.
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup neutral oil (i used walnut oil)
1 cup pureed honeynut squash*
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut sugar
11/2 cups flour (if you are gluten-free, use a measure-for-measure GF blend)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2-1tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp ground coriander
2/3 cup feta cheese, but into 1cm cubes + 1/4 cup crumbled feta for topping
1/3 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease and line a large loaf pan with parchment paper.
Cut the feta cheese into 1 centimeter cubes and set aside. I sprinkle a little flour on mine, just to give a little coating to the feta to protect against any sinkage. (Do you hear Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry? Just me?)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the butter and oil, cover with plastic wrap and melt in the microwave. Go in 30 second spurts to avoid any butter explosions. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the squash puree and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Once it is cooled a bit, add the coconut sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each egg and until smooth.
Fold the flour mixture into the squash mixture. When the flour is mostly mixed in, but a few streaks of flour remain, add the feta cheese and pecans. Keep folding gently (you don’t want to be too vigorous and break up the feta too much) until all the flour is absorbed.
Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of feta and a few pecan pieces. Sprinkle with a little more dried rosemary and black pepper.
Bake for 30 minutes at 375, reduce the heat to 350 and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick to the middle comes out clean.
This bread is DELICIOUS sliced, toasted in a toaster oven and lathered with some butter or ricotta cheese and chili pepper (that’s right more cheese on top).