It’s that season when pumpkins and winter squash of all descriptions are featured in just about every food blog, cooking magazine and newspaper food section. I have succumbed to the allure of pumpkin desserts and here are two recipes for your consideration. Several years ago I taught a class titled “Holiday Desserts”. It was essentially a pie-making demonstration, but I included Pumpkin Semifreddo as an alternative to traditional pumpkin pie for a Thanksgiving dessert. The beauty of semifreddo is its simple preparation (no ice cream maker required) and its do-ahead versatility. And just so there is no question about what to do with the remainder of that can of pumpkin, I have included a pumpkin bread embellished with the addition of Nutella. Enjoy!
Pumpkin Semifreddo (adapted from a basic method by Sherry Yard in “The Secrets of Baking”)
1 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon rum*
2 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 cup whipping cream
Heat the milk to simmering in a medium saucepan. Whisk the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and salt in a large bowl. Temper the yolks by whisking in about half of the hot milk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and combine well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring all the while, until the custard coats a spoon thickly (an instant-read thermometer will be about 170F). Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and strain into another bowl set over a container of ice and water. Add the pumpkin, spices, and rum and blend together. Stir periodically until cooled to room temperature. In the meantime, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually add the 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat until the whites form medium peaks. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside. In the same bowl you used to whip the egg whites, combine the cream and mascarpone. Beat to a soft peak consistency. Using a large whisk or spatula, fold the meringue into the cooled pumpkin custard. When partly blended, add the cream mixture and finish folding the mixtures together. You can now freeze the semifreddo in a loaf pan, a decorative mold, or individual molds.
For textural interest, layer crushed amaretti cookies, ginger snaps, or nut brittle through the mixture as you place it in your molds. As you can see from the photo, I layered crushed gingersnaps in the middle of my semifreddo. Semifreddo will store, tightly wrapped, in the freezer for two weeks.
* If you choose to add amaretti cookies to your dessert, flavor the custard with amaretto or a few drops of almond extract. When using a loaf pan, line it carefully with plastic wrap, leaving sufficient overhang at each end to enable you to lift the frozen dessert out of the pan. Semifreddo requires about twenty minutes standing time out of the freezer to allow it to soften sufficiently to unmold. You can also wrap your mold in a hot damp towel or wave a hairdryer, set on warm, over the mold to hasten the process. I served my semifreddo with a little drizzle of rum-flavored caramel sauce, but chocolate sauce would be good as well. This recipe will serve 6-8 pumpkin dessert lovers.
Pumpkin Nutella Bread (from the blog “Two Peas and Their Pod”)
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons Nutella (2 per mini loaf)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray 4 mini loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and combined. Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Mix until ingredients are combined. Pour the batter into the mini loaf pans, dividing it evenly. Drop 2 tablespoons of Nutella onto each loaf. Swirl the Nutella into the pumpkin batter with a knife.
Place the loaf pans onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Place the loaf pans on a rack. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then carefully remove the loaves. Cool completely before slicing.
* You can make regular size loaves. This recipe should make 2 8×4 loaves. Adjust baking time to about 60 minutes.