Sunday, October 25

The Keene Pumpkin Festival 2009 and a Recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans

I love living in Southern California, except in the autumn. The weather's hot, there's no foliage, and the pumpkin population is pathetically small. That's why Jeff and I go home to New England every October. There's chilly weather, brilliant foliage, apple picking, cornstalks, scarecrows, and thousands of pumpkins to be seen and eaten.

This year there was pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, and, one of my favorites: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans. More on the pudding (along with the recipe) in a minute. But first, let's talk pumpkins.

pumpkin pie bread pudding with maple and pecans
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans; recipe below.

Walk neighborhoods in New England in October, and you'll see scores of jack 'o lanterns smiling (or grimacing) at you. They're often propped atop a big bale of hay, accompanied by some tall cornstalks and a spooky black cat. There is one New England town, in particular, that reigns supreme when it comes to jack o' lanterns: Keene, NH. This was the first year I visited, and just the festival itself was worth the cross country trip.


In 1991 the first Keene Pumpkin Festival featured 600 pumpkins downtown. It was so warmly received that it became an annual event. Now it's a pilgrimage. This year the locals, along with tens of thousands of visitors, lit a record-breaking 29,762 jack 'o lanterns!

The entire festival, which consists of setting up and lighting pumpkins, and eating funnel cakes and doughboys, is more fun than you can imagine. Oh, and there is also a Dunkin' Donuts booth (which had a hundred people lined up this year waiting for a hot cawffee).

The night was magical for kids and adults alike. We plan on going again next year. I hope you do too!

You wouldn't find this jack 'o lantern in San Diego (or New York).

Keene Pumpkin Festival 2009
Anyone want a pumpkin M & M?

How about a squash-eyed pumpkin?

I can haz cheeseburger pumpkin.

When the sun sets, everyone helps light the pumpkins.

Kids (like my 9-year-old niece) LOVE to light pumpkins. She lit 52 of them!

My other niece is deciding which pumpkin to light. These things can't be rushed. After all, this is serious business for a 7-year-old.

Two hours later, and she's still lighting pumpkins.

My niece's favorite pumpkin of the night: a pretty, petite, pale yellow pumpkin with a flower in her hair.

Doesn't he just make you smile?

Yes, this pumpkin caused thousands of kids to loudly, "Oink! Oink!" as they passed by.

This pumpkin captivates viewers on his eerie, black perch.

If you want your children to look like this, then meet us at the Keene Pumpkin Festival next year.

Then go home and enjoy some warm Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans. Serve it with hot cocoa for the kids and some spiked mulled apple cider for the adults. Trust me, everyone will be smiling, not just the pumpkins.  

pumpkin pie bread pudding with maple and pecans

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Maple and Pecans
Serves 12-14
Print recipe only here.

This dessert celebrates the flavors of autumn: Rich, moist bread pudding is laced with fragrant pumpkin pie spice and pure maple syrup while earthy pecans provide just the right crunch. 

1 (16 ounce) stale French baguette, torn into 1-inch pieces
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice 
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup pure maple syrup, plus extra for garnish
3/4 cup pecan halves
whipped cream, optional garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You will need one ungreased  9 X 13 rectangular glass or ceramic baking dish.

2. Place bread in a large bowl. Pour melted butter over it, and toss.

3. In a large bowl, whisk cream, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin, and maple syrup.

4. Place bread in the baking dish. Add pecans (saving a few to scatter on top). Pour pumpkin mixture over bread, and toss until well coated. Scatter remaining pecans over the top of the pudding. Bake for 25-30, or until the top is lightly browned and the custard is set.

Toss in 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries.
Substitute walnuts or cooked chestnuts for pecans.
Add 3 tablespoons rum.
Drizzle with hot caramel.

Here are more pumpkin desserts you might like:
Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Cranberries, Raisins, and Pecans recipe at Food Blogga
Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie recipe at Simply Recipes
Pumpkin Coconut Muffins recipe at Sarah's Bella Cucina
Pumpkin Spice Cake recipe at Pinch My Salt
Pumpkin Pie Pudding with Candied Pecans and Whipped Cream recipe at Food Blogga

Please don't forget to vote on You Tube for my oatmeal topping in the Quaker Oatmeal challenge and help me win $10,000 for my charity, Action Against Hunger.  Many thanks! More details here.


Rocquie said...

What a great post! I enjoyed your recipe, the pumpkins and your beautiful nieces.

Also, I cast a Quaker vote for you today.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Such pretty pumpkins! That pudding looks mighty scrumptious!



Katie said...

so cute! I can't wait to try this:)

Simona Carini said...

What a nice photo album! Thanks for sharing your visit to the festival. It sounds like you ate a fair share of pumpkin during your visit. I have acquired my first pumpkin of the year, but have not yet decided what to do with it. Your pumpkin bread pudding is a tempting option.

Karen said...

Our local botanical garden has a festival of lights in November every year, and one of the highlights for me (ok, and my kids too!) are the carved pumpkins that line many of the paths. And the punkin' bread pudding is something I would have thought to try. I love anything with maple syrup in it, so this works for me!

Ivy said...

Lovely bread pudding and cute pumpkins!!!

Manggy said...

Wonderful! My favorite is the super-creepy dark one and the one with the squash eyes :)
My worst fear with bread pudding is it can get mushy, but this looks absolutely delicious :)

Unplanned Cooking said...

Such sweet photos! Can't wait for Halloween ;).

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Oh, I'm so glad you got to experience the Keene Festival (our grandkids loved it, too). Closer to home, we have the Jack O'Lantern Festival at the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence every year. I can't imagine October without foliage, pumpkins, cranberries floating in the bogs.....

The Teacher Cooks said...

I love bread pudding. Something different to try in the fall. Pumpkin phots were very good. I liked the Hamburger.

Laurie said...

I have always wanted to go to the Keene Pumpkin Festival! Maybe we'll meet you there next year.

Your bread pudding looks out of this world and I have three sugar pumpkins on my counter right now.

Sippity Sup said...

Well this post makes up for the fact that I never bother to carve a pumpkin anymore. No kids in the house so it seems pointless. But I do want to say. I live in So Cal too and it's my favorite season here. I love the low, clear light, which makes the big cloudless sky seem so blue... GREG

Susan G said...

Too bad I didn't know you were there. I'm in Keene, and my grandchildren and son were here from Cranston RI. This was a lovely year for the Festival, but sadly may be the last, victim of the economy. Did you hear Animaterra singing at the gazebo from 7 to 8? If so, you saw me. Your niece is lovely and dedicated to light so many pumpkins. Anyone with an older Guiness Book will see the record Keene had until recently -- overtaken by Boston, with a population at least 40 times more. Ah well, we'll console ourselves with Pumpkin Bread Pudding.

Susan G said...

I must also mention that most of the food at the Keene Pumpkin festival was homemade by local organizations. Animaterra Womens Chorus made 1160 some apple turnovers (plain, with raisins, and with cranberries and crystalized ginger), sold out by 6:30. You can go to Dunkin' Doughnuts anytime!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

sage trifle-Thank you for the sweet words and the vote! I truly appreciate it.

rosa-It was scrumptious! :)


simona-We had a wonderful time. I only wished it lasted longer. I'm sure you'll come up with something delicious!

karen-There is something so magical about hundreds of jack o'lanterns on a chilly autumn night. I hope you try the pudding. It's a keeper!

ivy-Thank you!

mark-I know what you mean about soggy bread pudding, but I promise that this one isn't soggy! Hope you try it!

unplanned cooking-Me too!

lydia-Yes, we tried to go to the Roger Williams display on two different nights but were rained out on both.

teachercooks-Isn't that hamburger great? There were so many creative ones, it was hard to choose which to photograph.

laurie-See you there! :)

greg-Really? I'm surprised to hear that, but that wonderful, really. I never thought about it that way before.

susang-Oh my gosh! How funny is that? From Cranston, huh? We could have picked him up on the way. ;)
I have to tell you that the festival far exceeded my expectations. I would be heart-broken (as would 1000s more) if it were stopped because of lack of funding. Have they considered charging a nominal entry fee? Also, I didn't see a stand for donations. Do they have one? If not, they should station them around the downtown. Just some thoughts. Thanks for the note!

Abby said...

Aww, such sweet girls!

I love this time of year, too. Our crepe myrtles look like they're on FIRE they're so bright red this year!

I've never made bread pudding; this looks great!

zakkalife said...

I've never seen the hamburger pumpkin before, it made me smile.

And your pumpkin bread pudding looks delicious!

Lori said...

That pudding looks amazing!

I love the pumpkin photos :D

The Italian Dish said...

What great pumpkins! The cheeseburger one was my favorite.

And pumpkin bread pudding - oh, man! That sounds great.

Vanillaorchid said...

I am a pumkin pudding makes my mouth-watering.

I enjoyed reading all the story,the pumkin faces, you nieces made me smile :)

Here in Italy, I seldom see this kind of event.

Lisa Johnson said...

I just voted for you Susan! Best of luck!

This post is really fun. I've never been to Keene, but it looks like a really fun event. I can definitely see why you visit New England in October. I just looked outside my window, and the leaves on the trees have suddenly gotten so bright, they look like they're on fire. I guess the cold last night did it. Well, at least there's a benefit. : )

Janet said...

Terrific post!

But remember... Half Moon Bay, California IS the Pumpkin capital of the world, and their Pumpkin festival is Fantastic!

I know the weather and colors can't compare to New England, and the chill is missing from the air... But some of the most beautiful pumpkin carvings I've ever seen was in Half Moon Bay at the Pumpkin Festival!

Happy Fall! And thank YOU for this amazing recipe!

Lynda said...

Great post - great photos! From another New England girl I am in total agreement: Northern California is lovely, but nothing compares to a New England fall. The Pumpkin Bread Pudding sounds lovely, and so appropriately New England.

elsa said...

sounds terrific. I just made a wonderful pumpkin and turkey goulash.

Johanna GGG said...

those pumpkins are amazing - I'd love to develop some pumpkin carving skills (except I noticed they are starting to sell halloween pumpkins in our supermarket but they are $24 each which seems just silly) - your pumpkin bread pudding sounds great - I made one with pumpkin and chocolate recently which I can highly recommend

Susan from Food Blogga said...

abby-Aw, thanks. That's sweet.

kawaiicrafter-It made me smile too! :)

lori-They're fun, aren't they?

elaine-You're not alone. The hamburger was a BIG hit!

vanillaorchid-It's as American as apple pie. ;)

anali- I hope you make it there next year. It' really magical.

duchessofwessex-No, I didn't know that! Go figure! Thanks for letting me though cause now I'll have to see it for myself. :)

lynda-Thanks for the kind words.

elsa-Pumpkin goulash? Mmmm.... sounds delicious.

johanna-$24 does sound crazy! Yikes!