It All Starts With a Pumpkin

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Quick! Name 3 things you can do with a pumpkin?

The 3 most common answers?

Overwhelmingly, number 1 and 2 would be…carve them, and make pies….answer number 3 would probably be divided between hundreds of lesser known but wonderful recipes from muffins to breads, cookies, bars and even soups and savory side dishes.

Truth of the matter is that the pumpkin, even though it is a winter squash like acorn squash, Hubbard squash, butternut squash and many others, it just got pigeon holed into the “dessert” category somewhere along the way.

And it does make some great desserts, even if it seems that we only choose to enjoy them this time of the year.

Pumpkin has also gained a reputation for being one of fall’s “Comfort Foods”, especially when it comes to desserts. Unfortunately for the pumpkin, most Comfort Food recipes (almost by definition), are rather simple & common “Manna for the Masses…” and don’t always show off pumpkin’s true versatility.

And Nino’s wants to change that….

Pumpkins are versatile

So we have 3 recipes for your consideration. All three are indeed desserts but each recipe gives you an opportunity to present this succulent squash in a new light.

You haven’t lost your “gourd”; you may just have liberated it.

Now a note on using fresh pumpkins for your “cooked purees” in these recipes.

First, it’s best to use “pie pumpkins”; they’re typically about 6 inches in diameter. Pie pumpkins are slightly sweeter and their pulp tends to be less fibrous and more tender when cooked.

Second, scrape out the seeds and stringy stuff until you get down to the solid pulp, then cut the pumpkin in wedges and only use the firm light orange flesh and not the outer “shell”.

Third, steaming is preferred over simmering so that you leave more flavor in the pulp and have fewer flavors drained off in the cooking water. If you choose not to steam in a basket over simmering water, another way to cook the pulp is to place it on a non-stick cookie sheet with a small amount of water then cover. Cover the pan first with plastic film, then over-wrap with foil and bake in a 300 F oven for about 1 hour. The foil will protect the plastic film from melting if there is sufficient steam inside the pan AND you bake at 300 F.

Lastly, puree the pumpkin pulp in a food processor (most blenders have difficulty pureeing pumpkin) and then strain to ensure your pumpkin is smooth and creamy.

Now, on with our recipes!

Pumpkin Panna Cotta

Serves 8 – 4 ounce portions

Panna Cotta, (the Italian words for cooked cream) is an Italian, custard-like dessert which is often flavored with caramel. Not to be confused with Crème Caramel or Crème Brulé, it is often prepared and served in a shallow dish with additional toppings or sauce garnishes. This particular Panna Cotta, is NO BAKE, uses NO eggs, and is, as a result, tender, light and has a very clean, pumpkin taste.

1 ½  Cups           Milk

1 envelope          Unflavored Gelatin

1 Cup                   Heavy Cream

1 Cup                   Cooked Pumpkin, Pureed

½  Cup               Granulated Sugar

½   tsp               Pumpkin Pie Spice

¼  tsp                Vanilla Extract, Pure

 

  1. Put ½ cup of the milk in a 6 or 8 cup saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, blend together the remaining milk, cream, pumpkin, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla. The mixture should be perfectly smooth, so it is best to use a blender.

  2. Turn the heat under the saucepan to low, and cook the milk, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin dissolves.

  3. Pour in the cream/pumpkin mixture, and turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until steam rises.

  4. Turn off the heat and ladle or pour the mixture into 8 4-ounce ramekins or other containers.

  5. Chill the Panna Cotta until firm, and serve.

 

Gingersnap Pumpkin Soufflé

Serves 6

Ok, we admit it, soufflés are show offs…but no vegetable is more deserving of its day in the sun (or a soufflé ramekin) than the pumpkin. This recipe is about as simple as soufflés get and paired with a warm, vanilla sauce…mmmmm, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Grandma’s pumpkin pie recipe isn’t in danger of extinction but this delicious fancy-schmancy recipe will give it a run for its money!

Begin by buttering and coating the insides of 6 – 3” diameter (8 ounce) porcelain soufflé dishes with melted butter and finely crushed gingersnap cookies. (Alternately, you can use granulated sugar in place of the gingersnap cookies.)

1   Cup            Gingersnap Cookies, crushed (optional

                        for coating ramekins)

6                     Ex. Large Eggs, Separated

3/4 tsp           Cream of Tartar

½  Cup           Granulated Sugar

½  Cup           Canned Solid Pack Pumpkin

½  tsp             Pumpkin Pie Spice

 

  1. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored then thoroughly fold in pumpkin and spice.

  2. In large bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, beating constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are glossy and stand in soft peaks.

  3. Gently fold yolk mixture into beaten whites. Spoon into prepared dishes. Place cups in baking pan then add a ½” depth of very hot water.

  4. Bake in preheated 375°F oven until puffy and delicately browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.

  5. Top with additional crushed gingersnaps, if desired.

 

Awesome Pumpkin Baked Alaska

Serves 8

Although Ice Cream was “invented” earlier and even encased in a pastry, the term Baked Alaska was coined by New York City’s Delmonico Restaurant in 1876 to commemorate the purchase of the Alaska Territory by the United States. Its frozen interior and snow white meringue are reminiscent of Alaska’s wilderness beauty. This recipe isn’t the simplest, but the results are WELL worth the trouble and a dramatic end to a Thanksgiving meal.

1 – 8”            Yellow Layer Cake

2 Cups           Canned Pumpkin

1 Cup             Granulated Sugar

1 tsp               Salt

1 TBSP           Pumpkin Pie Seasoning

1 Cup             Chopped Pecans (Optional)

½  Gallon      Vanilla Ice Cream, Softened

1 Cup            Egg Whites

2 Cups            Granulated Sugar

2 TBSP            High Proof Alcohol (of Choice)

 

  1. Cut layer cake in ¼” thick slices and line the interior of a 6” diameter dome shaped bowl. (Stainless steel, plastic or any freezable bowl)

  2. Mix together canned pumpkin, 1st quantity of granulated sugar, salt and pumpkin pie seasoning and whisk until all the sugar has fully dissolved and mixed in.

  3. Stir pumpkin mixture into the vanilla ice cream and pecans (optional), then, fill the cavity of the cake lined bowl to the top and place an additional slice of vanilla cake over the top surface of the ice cream to cover.

  4. Re-freeze until firm.

  5. Pre-heat oven to 450 F or have a blow torch (recommended) available to brown finished Alaska.

  6. In a medium size mixing bowl, over a double boiler, dissolve the 2 cups of granulated sugar into the 1 cup of egg whites. Stir with hand or whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved into the whites. It will appear syrupy and slimy.

  7. Remove warmed egg white mixture and whip on high speed until VERY stiff.

  8. Remove frozen ice cream dome and turn out (flat side down, onto a round platter that is capable of being baked in an oven).

  9. With a flexible spatula, ice the frozen dome of cake and ice cream with the stiff meringue to a thickness of at least 1” all the way around. Decorate with additional meringue if desired. For an additional flair, insert an empty ½ egg shell “cup” at the very top of the dome which you can pour warmed high proof liquor in after baking to create a dramatic flame!

  10. Place iced Alaska in a 450 F oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes or blow torch with a medium flame until golden brown all the way around. The Meringue and cake will insulate the ice cream and prevent it from melting.

  11. Remove Alaska from oven and present on a service platter. If you have used an egg shell for garnishment, warm liquor and pour into egg shell and ignite for a dramatic effect. (Use extreme caution when handling any flambéed food product.)

  12. Cut into wedge like portions and serve.

 

Looking for more great Thanksgiving dessert recipes? Check out these suggestions!