May 05, 2021 8 min read

Exciting times. Our garden pumpkins are almost ready for picking so I thought why not be inspired with this colourful and delicious pumpkin brownie recipe. It seems to take so long for the pumpkin vine to get going but once they do they really do take off. Now as the weather cools down, the vines are covered in huge yellow flowers and there are pumpkins of all different sizes hanging from pots, tubs and anything that's not moving. The bright green new tendrils seem to continue to reach out and latch on to anything. The vine is most definitely taking over the entire garden. 

pumpkin flower

Actually our first pumpkin this season was gifted to us by a lovely neighbour. It was a glorious grey pumpkin, shiny and so beautifully plump. We admired it on the bench for a few weeks before finally making the first cut.  Magazines at this time of the year all have at least one pumpkin recipe in the cooking section. We've made a number of meals from our "gifted" pumpkin including a great pumpkin curry with coconut milk , pumpkin soup and a lovely roast. With the last piece left it was time to get serious and make a chocolate brownie with a difference!

Pumpkin Brownie Slab with cut out slice on a timber board

This delicious dark chocolate brownie is layered with chocolate batter and pumpkin batter to create a gorgeous swirled effect. The end brownie is not a fudgy brownie like we'd normally make at Dello Mano but rather has softer texture that sits beautifully with the cream pumpkin swirl. The pumpkin swirl has a soft fudgy texture as its made with whipped cream cheese.

About some of the recipe ingredients:

fresh pumpkin leaves in the garden

Using Fresh Pumpkin

A little like making Pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkin is not as easy as using canned pumpkin. Having said that canned version of even pumpkin pie filling is very difficult to buy in Australia and besides we have all these lovely fresh pumpkins on our bench tops! I used fresh pumpkin puree prepared by boiling the pumpkin in water until softened. I used a potato masher to puree and mix it. Before mashing make sure to drain off as much water as possible. The resulting pumpkin puree should be smooth and creamy. Some types and even individual pumpkins do hold a lot of water and I would avoid using these if that is the case.

What type of Chocolate to use in the brownie mix?

Like wine I always say use the quality that you'd drink even in your cooking. I am of the same opinion when it comes to chocolate. Use a great quality Belgian Dark Chocolate for really delicious brownie results. For this recipe, I used chocolate chips as they're  are easy to melt and can be controlled well in the microwave. This brownie is particularly delicate so getting a good flavour from quality chocolate is important.

What type of Cream Cheese to use in this Cheesecake style Brownie?

I used Philadelphia Cream Cheese as it forms a beautiful silky cheesecake type texture. The recipe uses one whole pack of the small block so it is very convenient.

Considering Salted or Unsalted Butter?

In this recipe I used unsalted butter. It was actually what I had on hand. If you use unsalted butter then you may need to add some salt to your recipe. Try a little batter and add salt as desired. 

Which flour to use?

This recipe calls for plain flour. I didn't use baking powder for this recipe and I relied on the plain flour to give a lift but soft texture. Cake flour is not necessary. Many a cake recipe calls for cake flour however in this case it is sufficient to use plain flour.

About the Vanilla

Again with vanilla I like to use a really good quality vanilla. We don't use vanilla extract at Dello Mano. If the brownie or cake recipe calls for vanilla then we will always use pure vanilla bean. Again quality does matter so always choose the best vanilla bean you can afford or find.

About the Sugar

We are fans of brown sugar in our brownies however in this case the cream cheese is rich and so we opted for caster sugar. The chocolate component was mixed by hand ( because I was using the electric mixer for the pumpkin part) so I used caster sugar rather than normal granulated sugar as it was easier to mix it through.

About the Eggs

Eggs are critical to any brownie baking. You can see more information regarding eggs in brownie making but be sure to have fresh eggs at room temperature for this recipe. 

Pumpkin Spice Availability in Australia

Many American recipes call for this spice mix in various cake and brownie recipes. Pumpkin pie spice is difficult to buy in Australia (though online I did find you can buy it at Herbies Spices ) however you can make a simple version at home. I have incorporated these spices into the recipe below as individual spices and you may choose to use or leave out the spices. I do think the spice mix gives a little zest and beautifully contrasts with the creamy cheese mix.

Some Tips for perfecting this Brownie

Getting the pumpkin swirl look

I used a meat skewer turned upside down and pulled the circular top through the pumpkin batter to form a lovely and colourful swirl. I was very careful to swirl only the first centimetre or so of the mix in tin so as not to disturb the bottom of the pan. Don't over swirl or over mix. Just pull through enough to get both colours on the top of the batter. The orange colour is absolutely brilliant contrasting with the dark chocolate colour of the main batter. You want to be sure to try and keep the edges clean rather than blurred by over mixing.

Some useful brownie baking tips

This recipe is a little difficult to know when it is cooked. General tips around when the brownie is cooked can be read in previous blogs although with this recipe be sure to try and insert the skewer in the chocolate portion of the tray. 

Although every brownie has its own considerations many of the  brownie baking tips found in my previous blog about this apply for this recipe. Of particular importance with this brownie is to be very patient and allow the brownie to cool almost completely while it is still in the pan. The brownie texture is very soft while hot and removing too soon may end sadly. I have put a reminder at the end of the recipe to take care with this step.

Storing the Brownies

After the brownies have cooled store them in an airtight container in the fridge for around 3-5 days. You can also freeze these brownies usually for around 3 months. Make sure in either case the container is airtight. You may keep brownies on the bench top for a couple of days though this is not recommended given the sensitive nature of this particular brownie.

How to grow pumpkins

A little note here as we find so many people who like cooking also like gardening. And there is nothing like having a kitchen garden from which to pick and cook. According to Jeremy Coleby- Williamsrenowned Gardener and Subtropical expert, sowing Pumpkin should be harvested before the end of Autumn so seed planting should be calculated accordingly.

I know for most of us around our area most Pumpkins develop from the seed in compost so we mostly allow the seeds to germinated and fruit as the season progresses. We find as mentioned by Coleby- Williams that in subtropical conditions the plants tend to generate many more male flowers than female flowers. For this reason we hand pollinate rather than rely totally on the hardworking neighbourhood bees. We've found this year that a heavily blossomed lemon tree has been huge attraction for the bees and so there's been more activity across the pumpkin flowers.

a hand pollinating a pumpkin flower

Our crop though producing well has developed mildew on the leaves and we've try to offset that with a mix of 1:10 Cows milk to water in a spray bottle as recommended by the Sustainable Gardening Australia. It is a little bit of a struggle at the moment with the rain though still I think sometimes the mildew is easier to handle than roving deer and ever-hungry possums!

If you have plants that are producing fruits now why not try this delicious recipe. A cup of tea and a brownie is always well-deserved treat for the gardener! A scoop of ice cream on top is definitely justified :)

Pumpkin Brownie Recipe

A hand picking up a piece of Pumpkin Brownie

We took a look around at the many recipes online and came up with this version as a combination of the good ideas in a number of the recipes.

Chocolate Brownie batter

150 g Caster Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
2 large eggs
190g Plain flour
300g Dark Chocolate - good quality
160g Unsalted Butter
25g Cocoa powder
50g Sour Cream
5g Salt

Pumpkin Batter

250g Cream Cheese ( 1 packet of Philadelphia Cream Cheese) 
75g Caster Sugar
1 egg
350g Pumpkin Puree
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon powder+
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder ( optional) +
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg (optional )+
1/8 teaspoon of allspice ( optional)+

Method for the Chocolate brownie batter

  1. Preheat the oven fan forced to 160 C
  2. Line a square tray with baking paper ( spray a little oil first)
  3. Place the chocolate and butter in a microwave safe jug or dish and microwave in 30 second intervals, mixing each time to ensure even mix and no spot burning. It should take around 90 seconds ( depends on your microwave) for complete melting of the chocolate and the butter. 
  4. While continuously hand stirring add the sugar and eggs. Continue stirring and then add the eggs, flour, salt, cocoa powder and sour cream.

Method for the Pumpkin batter

  1. In an electric mixer bowl add the cream cheese and sugar. Beat until soft and creamy and there are no crystals of sugar visible.
  2. If you are using the spice mix in this recipe add it now and gently mix it through.
  3. Add the pumpkin puree and egg and mix until the mixture is just combined, consistent and creamy. Do not overmix at this stage - mix until just combined

Method for making the Brownie swirls

Once you have both batters ready. In the well greased lined square pan alternate adding chunks of the chocolate mix and the pumpkin mix into the pan. Continue to layer up the two mixes until all is used. Use the circular end of the skewer and gently pass it around in a swirling pattern on top of the brownie.
Place the brownie mix in the oven and cook until an inserted skewer (pointy end) returns clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the brownie tin. Do not remove from the tin until the brownie is completely cold ( see brownie tip above). Cut the brownie into squares when cool and enjoy!

pumpkin brownie square

Variations to this recipe

We'll take a play with this recipe when we harvest more pumpkins but some interesting additions may be to add some coconut milk powder or even to try to make some substitutions with vegan butter to create a wonderful vegan pumpkin delight. The later may take some work in terms of substitution but we'll look into that and see how it goes.

Serving Suggestions to accompany this Brownie:

Serve with vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream or maybe drizzle a little chocolate ganache and finish with a dusting of coconut flakes. Make a fudgy chocolate sauce for added decadence or if you dont have cream to make ganache just serve with melted chocolate. Time permitting you could even make a chocolate frosting.

Got a pumpkin recipe to tell us about or tips to growing pumpkin in your area then we'd love to hear from you.

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