October food finds at the Oklahoma Food Cooperative are anything but dull during the fall season, with pear-shaped butternuts and glorious orange sugar pumpkins finally on the scene, as well as late-season bright yellow squash and mottled dark green zucchini providing one last sweet gasp of summer.
These squash and Mystic pumpkins are fresh from the fields of Peach Crest Farm, in Norman, who also provided part of this month's colorful egg bounty. The other eggs are from the free range acreages of Rowdy Stickhorse Wild Acres, Noble Heritage Acres, and a new producer, Happy Eggs.
Other sustainably harvested foods that I could not resist: golden local honey from the 140 hives of Honey Hill Farm north of Guthrie; reddish-hued grape jelly from the Richardsons at Persimmon Hill Farm, in Stillwater. This is an unusual jelly from the Frontenac grape, which is normally designated only for wine.
Sandy Creek Pecans offered small, sweet native pecan halves from their sustainable pecan tree orchard in the southern Oklahoma town of Milburn. They included a personal note and recipe for pecan pie. Natives' high oil content makes a superior pie.
My first reaction after arriving home with food coop treasures is "what was I thinking?", then "why didn't I clean out my refrigerator?", and then "what should I do with all of it?" These beautiful butternuts were a natural choice to use first--after all, the name alone promotes salivation--BUTTERnut.
For the first butternut recipe of the season, I chose a bread recipe from Allrecipes.com, Squash Braid. With a cup of cooked, mashed butternut and one of the organic, sunny-yellow yolked eggs, the resulting loaf is buttery yellow and rich, slightly sweet, with a tender texture like that of Hawaiian bread. It was easy to make and even easier to eat.
Here is my KitchenAid version with a few modifications:
Butternut Squash Braid
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
1 cup cooked and pureed butternut squash
1/3 cup warm milk (110 to 115 degrees F)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 3-1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water. Melt butter in warm milk and add to yeast mixture, then add squash, egg, brown sugar and salt. Using paddle attachment, mix until well blended, then add a cup of flour and mix until smooth. Switch to dough hook and keep adding flour until a soft dough is formed. Let the dough hook do most of the kneading for you, then turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 3 or 4 minutes. You may need to add a little flour to keep it from sticking. (If you don't have a KitchenAid, simply mix the ingredients in a large bowl, add flour until a soft dough is formed, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes.)
Place in a greased bowl, cover with waxed paper, and let rise in a cozy place until doubled. Punch dough down and divide into 3 parts. On a lightly floured surface or a Roulpat, shape each portion into an 18 inch strand by rolling the dough back & forth beneath your hands. Take the ropes and attach them by pinching the tops together and tucking them under. Braid until you run out of dough and finish by pinching together bottom ends and tucking them underneath the braid. Let rise until nearly doubled.
Whisk together the egg and water and brush over braid before baking. Bake in a 375-400 degree oven (depending on your oven's performance) until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Carefully remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Savor.