Squash Puff

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Recipe Origins:
An Ontario newspaper
Probably clipped in the 1960s-1970s

The Original Recipe:

Squash Puff
(Serves six to eight)

2 ½ pounds Hubbard or pepper squash – three cups mashed.
One-half cup chopped mild onion.
Two tablespoons butter.
Two large eggs – yolks and whites separated.
One-quarter cup milk.
Three tablespoons flour.
Three teaspoons baking powder.
Three-quarter teaspoon salt.
One-eighth teaspoon pepper.
One-half cup buttered crumbs (see below).

Cut up squash with heavy knife and steam until tender on rack in large shallow pot with boiling water underneath, covered. Scoop and scrape flesh from skin and mash using electric or rotary beater. You should have three cups.

Gently saute onion in butter until limp but not brown. Add to squash. Beat in egg yolks and milk until smooth. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.

Turn into buttered six-cup baking dish. Top with buttered crumbs. (This last step is important – stir one tablespoon melted butter into one-half cup fine breadcrumbs.)

You may break it now at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned OR you may refrigerate it for 24 hours and bake it a little longer.

A couple of notes about the recipe:

As the recipe says, the buttered bread crumbs are key. If you're using a shallow dish with more surface area, make sure you use more buttered bread crumbs so it has a generous coating on top.

The recipe lists that you'll need 2 ½ lbs of squash, which will produce 3 cups of cooked & mashed squash. When I went grocery shopping, I assumed that the 2 ½ lbs was referring to raw squash. I wanted to make a double batch so we had plenty (it is VERY popular with my family), so I bought a 4 kg (almost 9 lb) squash, thinking that I'd have enough squash for a double recipe and some left over. But once it was cooked and mashed, I ended up with only 4 cups, so I showed up to my family's Thanksgiving with only a single batch. The lesson learned: buy more squash!

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If you asked anyone in my family – my Mom, brother, sister, nieces, nephews & spouses – about our traditional family recipes, probably the first dish listed by everyone would be Squash Puff. This recipe is so popular that when my family gets together for Thanksgiving or Christmas, one of the first things that is settled is "Who is making the Squash Puff?" Most of us were able to gather for Canadian Thanksgiving earlier this month, so this time I volunteered to make it.

Squash Puff is a cross between a squash pudding and souffle. It is light, fluffy and very flavourful considering it doesn't contain any onions or herbs. My Mom cut the recipe out of a newspaper at some point and it's been in her giant binder of recipe clippings ever since I can remember.

I asked my Mother about iconic moment that she clipped the Squash Puff recipe out of the newspaper at Thanksgiving. The truth is that she clipped it out of desperation. She said that she decided to save the recipe because her children hated squash and she was always on the lookout for a way to get us to eat vegetables. We hated squash, but we loved Squash Puff. That's what I remember as a child. I dreaded when squash was on the menu, but I rejoiced when I knew that Squash Puff would be on the dinner table!

I always remember Squash Puff being served at special occasions, but my oldest sister remembers Squash Puff making its debut in the early 1970s. Who knows which southern Ontario newspaper it came from, but if I had to bet I'd place my money on the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

Give Squash Puff a try at your next Thanksgiving, potluck or family gathering...or when you've got a hankering for some satisfying comfort food. And while you're enjoying it, raise a glass to the Baird family, my Mom's practically and her brood of picky eaters.