Part 3: Desserts
While turkey usually gets top billing on Thanksgiving (though not always — check out our non-traditional main courses from yesterday), the star of the meal is often dessert. No matter how many “couldn’t eat another bite” protestations you hear, no matter what flubs or flaws precede it, no matter what silly discussion is in progress (“The Pacific is such a better ocean than the Atlantic”), we’ve got some recipes that will render it all moot. Let’s face it, dessert takes the cake.
So check out these divine desserts that will leave your guests moaning in satisfaction: maple-pecan bread pudding baked in a baby pumpkin, with Maker’s Mark crème anglaise (from Kimberly Bugler at Scala’s Bistro in San Francisco); maple-pumpkin pie with duck fat crust (courtesy of Roger Waysok at South Water Kitchen, Chicago); and date cake doused in toffee sauce (thanks to Jay Silva at Bambara in Cambridge, MA).
Maple-Pecan Bread Pudding Baked in a Baby Pumpkin, With Maker’s Mark Crème Anglaise
Kimberly Bugler, Scala’s Bistro, San Francisco
For the pumpkins:
6 Jack-be-little or other petite pumpkins
2 tablespoons soft butter
6 large eggs
3½ cups milk
1½ cups maple syrup
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup pecans
¾ cup golden raisins
4 cups cubed brioche, cinnamon rolls or croissants
Cut caps from pumpkins and hollow out. Coat caps and shells inside and out with a very thin layer of butter. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until half baked. Combine eggs, milk, spices and maple syrup together with immersion blender or whisk. Toss bread cubes with maple mixture, pecans and raisins. Fill pumpkin shells with bread mixture. Return filled shells to oven and bake until skewer inserted in pudding mix comes out clean (approximately 35–45 minutes, depending on size of pumpkins).
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
¼ cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 ounce Maker’s Mark bourbon
Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Bring milk, cream, vanilla bean and sugar to a boil in a small non-reactive saucepan. Pour a small amount of scalded milk mixture into egg yolks, whisking briskly. Pour tempered yolk mixture back into saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When sauce coats the back of the spoon, remove from fire and strain into a bowl over an ice bath. When chilled, add the bourbon.
Pool chilled crème anglaise onto serving plates. Serve with hot pumpkins. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds if desired.
Maple-Pumpkin Pie With Duck-Fat Crust, Ginger Whipped Cream and Pumpkinseed Brittle
Roger Waysok, South Water Kitchen, Chicago
Duck-fat pie dough:
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¾ stick butter, cut into small cubes (make sure it’s cold)
⅛ cup cold duck fat (used in place of shortening because it still gives a flakey texture but makes the crust more rich and savory)
Ice water as needed (about 4 tablespoons)
Using a food processor, pulse flour and salt to mix. Add butter and duck fat and pulse a few more times. Add water slowly, pulsing after each addition until dough begins to form together. Do not overmix. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. Roll out dough on floured surface to fit a 9-inch pan.
2 large eggs
1 can pumpkin purée (15 ounces)
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup real maple syrup (expensive, but worth the flavor)
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground clove
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, cream, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, salt, cloves and allspice in a large bowl until combined. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust and bake about an hour (until the middle is firm).
Ginger whipped cream:
1½ cups whipped cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
In an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat all ingredients until stiff peaks form. Keep cold.
¾ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
¼ cup water
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
Heat water, corn syrup and sugar until boiling, stirring constantly. Using a candy thermometer, monitor the temperature until it reaches 275 degrees. Add seeds and continue cooking and stirring until temperature reaches 290 degrees. Take off heat and add baking soda, vanilla and butter, continue stirring. Pour thin layer onto a buttered baking sheet (carefully, brittle is extremely hot). Let cool and break into desired size. Slice pie once cooled and serve, topped with ginger whipped cream and piece or pieces of the brittle.
Jay Silva, Bambara, Cambridge MA
½ pound dates, pitted and coarsely chopped (about 1¼cups)
½ cup water
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½cups all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat 8 (6-ounce) ramekins with butter and flour; set aside. Combine dates, water and baking soda in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and set aside. Place salt and flour in a medium bowl, whisk to combine, and set aside. Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer over high heat for a water bath.
Combine butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until light and airy (about five minutes), stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add vanilla extract then beat in eggs one at a time, just until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in date mixture until well combined, then stir in flour mixture until just incorporated (don’t overmix).
Divide batter evenly among prepared ramekins and set them in a roasting pan or baking dish (you will likely need to use both a 13-by-9-inch dish and an 8-by-8-inch dish to fit them all). Pour simmering water into the bottom of the baking dishes until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Very carefully place the baking dishes on the center rack of the oven. Bake until the center of each cake is just set and a cake tester inserted into the middle of each comes out clean (about 50 to 60 minutes). Meanwhile, prepare the toffee sauce.
Toffee sauce procedure:
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it foams, add brown sugar and vanilla extract or seeds, stir once, and heat until bubbling and the color of maple syrup (about five minutes). Carefully add cream in a slow stream while stirring, and cook until the sauce bubbles up and increases in volume (about two minutes); remove from heat. When the cakes are finished, remove the ramekins from the oven and place on a cooling rack and let them to come to room temperature. Once the cakes are cool, run a knife around the perimeter of each and invert to remove from the ramekins, then place upright on a serving plate. Serve the cakes at room temperature or slightly warmed, covered in warm toffee sauce.