Monday, December 23, 2019

Pumpkin Roll (and a blast from the past)

I was trying to come up with a holiday dessert and when listening to a food podcast, I was reminded of pumpkin roll

I had forgotten about pumpkin roll.   I think the last time I had it, it was at the start of my engineering career.    Back then, suppliers often had sales guys (they were always men) that were taking us out to lunch or sports events to try to get the business.   Typically it was centered around taking the male engineers to strip clubs or steak houses, but they were always at a loss  as to how to entertain women engineers such as myself.    For example, a supplier used to have a golf outing where the "caddies" were exotic dancers moonlighting from their regular gig at B.T.s, (short for Booby Trap) one of Dearborn's many strip clubs at the time.   I knew what was going on and I asked the sales guy  how come I didn't get invited to the golf outing because I liked to golf?   It was fun to watch him twist in the wind on that one.  These days, this kind of stuff doesn't happen anymore.   Back in the day, these poor sales guys just didn't know what to do with us women engineers.  They might try to enlist their wives to help by taking Andy and me out to dinner with them, instead of the strip club plan that had worked in the past.   However, this often resulted in Andy being forced to make small talk with some sales guy's stay at home wife while the sales guy would talk shop with me.    Fun times!

In those early days of my career, I was working on steering columns.  Back then, Ford made steering columns (now we just buy them premade) and I was the engineer on certain components of steering columns.  Since I was a rookie, I was assigned various and sundry fasteners  and parts that didn't change much, like small stampings and spacers and bearings.   In those days, the small companies that might make a fastener or stamping were often mom and pop shops, so they didn't really have a book of business that would be able to sustain a salesman, so they would hire an independent contractor type that would sell a "dukes mixture" of little stuff.     Their expertise might be that they had a lot of Ford business, and would represent a lot of little companies.    They would have 10 business cards, each with a different logo on them, and it would say something like:

John Q. Salesman
(Torrington was actually one of the small stuff suppliers I worked with then.  I had to google them to see what happened to them, the link.  Fascinating history)

These sales guys that were in business for themselves could best be described as "swinging dicks".  I am not sure if it is politically correct to use that term anymore, but it used to mean a "guy that thinks he is a big shot".    In the early 90s, the business was already starting to change and the swinging dicks were on their way out, and along with them, their huge expense accounts.   There used to be several restaurants in Dearborn that catered to this type of sales guy.   The Chambertin .....Topper ....the restaurant at the Dearborn Inn that everyone called the "Fatman's Club" because of the prime rib buffet and  all you can eat shrimp cocktail.  Then there was Kiernans.     The last time I had pumpkin roll, it was 1991 at Kiernan's.    The sales guy was likely wearing a double breasted suit and had perfectly coiffed silver hair.     He picked me up from my office in building 5 in what was probably a Lincoln Town Car, and we headed over to this dark wood paneled restaurant on Michigan Avenue.    Kiernan's was the kind of place that has a coat check.  I can remember the dude telling the hostess something like "Stella, take me to my regular table!" and the older, well put together lady led us to his lair where there was a gold "reserved" sign awaiting our arrival.     This was the kind of place that you ordered steak and a lot of it.   It probably came with a wedge salad with bacon bits and a baked potato with sour cream and chive.   And, for some strange reason, pumpkin roll!  I am not sure why it was pumpkin roll, perhaps it was December?  Anyway, I don't remember the steak I ate or even the name of the salesman, let alone whatever bit he was trying to sell me on.  Torx screw? Tinnerman nuts?    I spent an inordinate amount of time of my career working on fasteners....something they never tell you that will happen in engineering school because it isn't glamorous.   But I do remember the pumpkin roll.     

So I set out to make a pumpkin roll this holiday season.   Unlike with pie, if you have leftover pumpkin roll, you can bring the unsliced part to your next holiday gathering and no one will know it is your leftovers.     After much googling around, I found that every recipe required a jelly roll pan, which is 15"x10" which I don't have.   So I developed one to make in a 1/2 sheet pan, which is 16.5"x11.5".   Here's how I did it....

Pumpkin Roll

what you need for supplies
1/2 sheet pan
waxed paper
Powdered sugar
Thin cotton dish towel

Ingredients for cake
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
1.5 T pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t salt
4 eggs
2 t vanilla
1 c pumpkin puree
1 1/4 c sugar

Ingredients for filling
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for decoration)

Preheat oven to 375 F.Grease sheet pan with butter and then place a piece of waxed paper on top of the butter.   This will ensure you can get the cake out of the pan without cracking.  Also grease the inside rim of the pan.   Liberally dust the dish towel with powdered sugar.

To make the cake, mix lour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in small bowl.  In another bowl. beat eggs  and add remaining ingredients and mix until well blended.  Slowly stir in dry ingredients.    Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly in pan.  Rap pan on counter a few times to get the air bubbles out.   Bake for for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Whisk together cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl until smooth.

Once the cake has reached room temperature, transfer the cake roll to the counter and carefully it until it is flat again (the ends curl up a bit). Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over cake, Then carefully re-roll the cake.  Tightly wrap the pumpkin roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

To serve, unwrap the roll and slice.   Sprinkle with powdered sugar.   The roll freezes well when wrapped.

The car business sure has changed in the 30 years I have worked in it.  Gone are the martini lunches, now replaced with non stop meetings and powerpoint and data reviews and a Panera boxed lunch or maybe some Subway, if you are lucky.   I wonder what the swinging dicks would think of that?