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Beyond Pumpkin Pie

November 18, 2010

If you ask most pastry chefs what desserts they are making for Thanksgiving dinner they will include the obligatory pumpkin pie.  We make it because it is what certain family members and friends expect. We know they will be disappointed if they don’t have it. It isn’t on the top of our list and we would leave it off if we could get away with it. It’s not that pastry people don’t like pumpkin pie it’s just kind of boring, even a good one.

Native Americans grew pumpkin so it was probably on the first Thanksgiving menu but not in the pie form that we know today. The Pilgrims didn’t have flour so they couldn’t have made a crust. If their pumpkin dish was sweetened they would have had to use honey as white sugar wasn’t around either.

I know many will disagree with my ambivalent feelings about this humble pie but there are better pumpkin desserts. You can carry on the tradition of pumpkin but go outside the box. Make pumpkin bread pudding, pumpkin ice cream cake, or cranberry pecan pumpkin upside down cake. All can be made a day ahead leaving more time to stuff the bird, go for a hike or watch football on TV.

If you are cooking the whole Thanksgiving dinner and are pressed for time, don’t worry about making your own pumpkin puree. Canned will work just fine. You can even find organic puree. Make sure to get plain puree and not one with added spices. In the latter the spice balance is way off.

To help you get started branching out; here’s a recipe for cranberry pecan pumpkin upside down cake. It will be on my table this year. What are you making for Thanksgiving dessert?

 Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake

Emily Luchetti

Serves 8-10

8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 cups cranberries

4 ounces (1 cup) coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

2 large eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

 Chantilly Cream (see recipe below)

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a small saucepot over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. In a medium bowl combine the cranberries and pecans. Place them in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, and oil.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Carefully spread the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.

Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool the cake for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate or platter on top of the cake. Invert the cake and plate together. Remove the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.

Cool completely before serving. Serve with Chantilly Cream.

Chantilly Cream                                 

Makes 2 cups

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.

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4 comments

  1. Wow! That sounds delicious! I’ll definitely be trying this recipe out this weekend.


  2. 2 cups cranberries – fresh, dried, or canned?


  3. When it comes to pumpkin pie, I am a Traditionalist. I love the creaminess of pumpkin, and the mingling tastes of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.


  4. Great recipe….I introduced it as a “table decoration” for Thanksgiving, because I didn’t know the author or the recipe and hadn’t tried it before serving it! It was a SUCCESS! A five star rating loved by the whole family of 15! The combination of pecans, cranberries and pumpkin is unique….an unexpected taste and pleasing to look at before everyone “dug in”! As a result, of the success with this first time trial recipe, I’ll not hesitate to order a cookbook or two.



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