A Sweet Thanksgiving Pt.3

The third and final sweet treat of Thanksgiving was a spin on the classic Pumpkin Pie.
I find Pumpkin Pie to be a little anti-climatic, possibly because it is not part of my foodie heritage and to that end, Paul is not a big fan of our Christmas Pudding.
It is an interesting nuance of our foodie cultures that we expect certain foods at specific times of the year, otherwise it would seem as though something were missing. For example, I loath Christmas Cake, can't stand it, but I love the stiring and baking ritual of it, the smell of spices filling the kitchen as it cooks.
Likewise, I find the pumpkin/eggy mixture to be a little cloying. One slice is always more than enough. Curiously, I adore Egg Custard Tarts, with their speckly Nutmeg tops, and Pumpkin Pie is merely an orange extension of that ancient tart.
The Pumpkin Pie is steeped in history, just as our Christmas Pud is: the first European settlers (eventually deciding to live on the Plimoth Plantation in New England in 1621) discovering how the American Indians made great use of this fantastically shaped gourd, the Pumpkin, found it incredibly versatile, and used it in both sweet and savoury dishes.
The American love of pies goes back many hundreds of years so it comes as little surprise then that the settlers used simmered pumpkin flesh in a pie of sorts. In those formative days, they would not have had ovens, so they may have filled the hollowed out shells with the flesh simmered with milk, honey and spices. This would have then been baked in hot ashes and produced the earliest variations of Pumpkin Pie, albeit a pie without a crust.
The first mention of a pie crust (or paste) being filled with pumpkin, was in 1651 and not by a Settlement wife, but by French chef, Francois Pierre la Varenne:

"Tourte of pumpkin - Boile it with good milk, pass it through a straining pan very thick, and mix it with sugar, butter, a little salt and if you will, a few stamped almonds; let all be very thin. Put it in your sheet of paste; bake it. After it is baked, besprinkle it with sugar and serve."

In 1796, some 140 years later or thereabouts, the first American Cookbook was published, American Cooking by an American Orphan (actually Amelia Simmons) and she notes, not one, but two recipes for Pompkin Pudding (sic):

Pompkin Pudding No. 1. One quart stewed and strained, 3 pints cream, 9 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger, laid into paste No. 7 or 3, and with a dough spur, cross and chequer it, and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour.
Pompkin Pudding No. 2. One quart of milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust, bake 1 hour.

Her charming recipes are very similar to those we utilise today, securing the Pumpkin Pie’s place in culinary history as a true American Classic. However, being a classic simply isn’t enough for some of us and this age-old recipe has to be tweaked, primped and altered beyond all recognition. Enter Ina Garten.
I love Ina Garten and her carefree style of cooking. Her portion diagnostics occasionally leave a little to be desired for those cooking only for 2 or 4, but a little modifications usually reigns them back in.
In her latest book, Barefoot Contessa at Home, she gives us a winning alternative to Pumpkin Pie in the form of Pumpkin Parfait. Whilst she doesn't exactly sell it to me by referring to it as "...certainly not the worst dessert I'd invented," it is in fact much better than you might imagine.
A whippy, light concoction of tinned pumpkin spiced up with nutmeg and cinnamon of course, a whole cup of two different types of sugar (brown and white), whipped, sweetened cream, a good slug of rum, and for gelatin virgins, a gentle primer in the form of a sachet of, well, gelatin.
This is layered up with more whipped cream and ginger biscuits, to form a deliciously creamy dessert that deserves more than one outing a year.
Ina suggests making the Ginger Cookies (recipe in aforementioned book), but being short on time, I bought some Stem Ginger Cookies which worked really well. At a push, Ginger Nuts (Ginger Snaps) would be great too. The dessert is incredibly rich and certainly needs the bite of something crunchy so don’t be afraid to stack up the ginger biscuits.
One last proviso – if you are serving this dessert for ‘special’ guests, don’t do what I did and forget that you don’t actually have any sundae glasses. As you can see, we had to make do with a beer tankard (yes, of course we have those!), a wine glass and a plastic tumbler. We call it ‘homestyle’.
Here’s the recipe, post-Thanksgiving or not, it’s a great way to use up any old cans of pumpkin you might have lying around, or to utilise them big ol’ gourds that you wondered if you could actually manage to grow this year…

PUMPKIN PARFAIT from Ina Gartens’ Barefoot Contessa at Home
¼ Cup Rum (I used Brandy, which was just as good)
1 Sachet Gelatin
1 x 15oz Can of pure Pumpkin (not pie filling)
½ Cup Granulated Sugar
½ Cup Light Brown Sugar
2 Large Egg Yolks
½ Tsp Cinnamon
¼ Tsp Ground Nutmeg
Zest of One Orange (I omitted this due to lack of oranges)
½ Tsp Salt
1 ½ Cups Double (Heavy) Cream
1 ½ Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Whipped Cream plus more for topping
Box Ginger Cookies (or use your own recipe)
Crystallised Ginger for Decoration (optional)
Place the rum/brandy in the top half of a double boiler. Sprinkle with the gelatin and leave to one side for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, half fill the bottom half with water and bring to a lively simmer.
In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, sugars, egg yolks, orange zest, spices and salt. Set to one side.
Place the pan with the rum/brandy and gelatin over the simmering water and cook until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
Whisk immediately into the pumpkin mixture.
In another bowl, whisk up the double cream with a little icing sugar and the vanilla until it peaks softly. Fold into the ochre pumpkin mix.
To assemble, put a thick layer of the pumpkin mousse into the bottom of your sundae glasses (or beer tankards), then a good gloop of whipped cream, then a couple of ginger biscuits. Continue until all of your mixtures are used up. The parfaits will look gorgeously swirled and peachy.
Cover with cling film and chill for at least four hours, preferably overnight.
To serve, top with more fresh whipped cream and crystallised ginger crumbled.


T.W. Barritt said...

I think the early American settlers would have whole-heartedly endorsed pumpkin parfait served in a beer tankard! Well done!

Lydia said...

I've made this recipe from Barefoot Contessa -- it's a wonderful way to serve pumpkin!

wheresmymind said...

Holy catz that looks SO good...I'd like 2 please :D

Shaun said...

Freya, love ~ I always love a recipe that begins with insructions on what to do with booze, however trifling the quantity. Lucky you for having pumpkin puree in England; I couldn't find any for the life of me here. You'd think it'd be around as I often hear American accents, and I assume they're not all tourists.

I wasn't entirely sold on this book in general, I have to admit. There are lots of baked goods, not many so different to those in her other (and better arranged) books. Additionally, one can only tolerate so much purple. I do like her asides on preparing the house for guests and designing one's kitchen. I haven't made anything from it yet...I think Barefoot Contessa Parties! is my favourite Ina Garten cookery book.

In saying the above, these parfaits look rich and delectable. It sounds like you made a good choice in recipe selection for an alternative to pumpking pie, though I have to say that the Martha Stewart recipe I followed last year was a real winner.

Eva said...

I think it looks lovely layered in a wine glass! Now that I've read so much about all sorts of pumpkin pies and the like (and of course collected all the recipes) I should finally make one... I've never ever had pumpkin pie so it's a bit daunting cos I've got no idea what it should taste like...

Joyce said...

Lovely presentation and the variety of serving vessels lends character to the dessert!

To top off the good looks and great taste, pumpkin is a nutritious superXfood...perhaps without horse's hooves (gelatin) but nevertheless, still beats the synthetic chemically laden packets found on many shelves!

Chris said...

Pumpkin and ginger snaps - yum! I love Barefoot Contessa recipes. This is one to add to the Christmas menu!

Anthony said...

Oh, Americans! Why exactly did I marry one again?! They serve their purposes, I suppose :-)

I'm with you on the pumpkin pie. Euw! But the parfait looks amazing. Where did you find pumpkin puree? I hunted for it last week to no avail :-(

Kelly-Jane said...

I wondered about Ina's introduction to this recipe as well! It looks great though, and I've marked it to try :)

Deborah said...

I love pumpkin pie, but I am very picky about it. Not very many people make it the way I like it. This sounds like the perfect alternative to pumpkin pie. I really need to get one of Ina Garten's cookbooks. So many of her recipes sound wonderful.

Coffee & Vanilla said...

Freya, this pumpkin pudding looks amazing!
And yes, definitely we have exchange ideas for healthier meals... but the season is quite hard... too many temptations... I just made Christmas cookies yesterday, kids enjoyed them a lot :)