Pumpkin Cream Chiffon
Nary a soul can pass the autumn season without one taste of pumpkin. A fixture at the thanksgiving table, pumpkin pie assumes the holiday ideal. Baked into cakes and muffins, mixed into ice cream, filling ravioli, thick in soups, this orange gourd can be tasted anywhere and everywhere.
The quintessential autumn flavor, my November menu would not be complete without one dish centered around pumpkin. At Eva, a pumpkin cream chiffon is served on a chocolate crust along side cinnamon whipped cream and hazelnut praline. I call it a "cream chiffon" because I removed the airy, light egg-white meringue that is traditionally used to lighten a chiffon and replaced it with whipped cream. The richness of the cream tempered the slight bitterness of the pumpkin better than the egg whites, creating a more indulgent version of this light dessert.
In a recent post I boasted that Bay makes a fantastic companion for Pumpkin. This said, I have spiced my pumpkin dessert with a classic combination of cinnamon and ginger. Not only is this more aproachable for the massive hordes of diners coming in for 25 for 25, but it has allowed me to pair the pumpkin chiffon with a chocolate crust. Pumpkin and chocolate is a delicious flavor combination that I don't often see or get an excuse to use.
Now I have a confession to make. My pumpkin dessert has a secret ingredient. No it's not cool-whip, or a package of vanilla pudding mix, or anything that is better left a secret. The secret is the pumpkin. It's not pumpkin that I use in my pumpkin dessert. I use a squash called the Long Island Cheese Wheel. The pale dusty skin of this Cinderella shaped squash surrounds a denser, creamier mild flesh. I haven't seen it available at a grocery store, but have seen it lurking under piles of brighter colored squashes at the farmers market.
Whether I choose this squash, or a sugar pie pumpkin, I will follow a few extra steps to ensure a thick, dense puree. I might roast the pumpkin before pureeing, which allows for evaporation of much of the excess water. This also deepens the flavor by caramelizing some of the sugars on the surface of the squash. If I am in the mood for a simpler flavor, I will poach the squash in boiling water until tender, puree the pumpkin, and freeze it. Upon defrosting I will strain the puree, and let the water that has separated from the solids drain away.
Pumpkin Cream Chiffon
1 9-inch chocolate crumb pie crust
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
9 egg yolks
3/4 cup milk
3 1/2 tsp gelatin
1/2 cup water
2 cups whipping cream
1. In a medium sized, heavy bottom sauce pan, combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture looses some liquid and becomes glossy.
2. While this is cooking, place the water in a small sauce pan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it. Let this bloom while you cook the pumpkin.
3. When the pumpkin has cooked enough, transfer it to the bowl of a food processor. Turn the food processor on and let it spin for 2 minutes.
4. With the food processor running, add the milk. When this is blended evenly, scrape the sides of the bowl down and add the eggs. Pulse the food processor just enough to incorporate the eggs, but no more.
5. Return the pumpkin mixture to the stove and cook over a medium heat until the mixture thickens like a custard. When the mixture has thickened, remove from heat and set aside.
6. Place the small pot with the bloomed gelatin over low heat and cook until the gelatin has liquefied. Pour the liquid gelatin into the pumpkin mixture and stir well. Return the pumpkin mixture to the stove and cook over medium heat just enough to thicken the mixture again.
7. Transfer the pumpkin custard to a bowl and place over an icebath. Stir occasionally to ensure it cools evenly and the gelatin doesn't clump. If the gelatin begins to set up too stiffly around the edges, whisk it until it disolves and is redistributed. If it still won't unclump, return the custard to a saucepan and cook over medium low heat until the gelatin melts and start the chilling process again.
8. While the pumpkin custard is chilling, whip the cream to soft peaks.
9. When the pumpkin custard is cool and starting to thicken, whisk 1/3 of the soft peaked cream in. When this is even, fold in half the remaining cream carefully with a spatula until nearly all the white streaks are gone. Add the remaining whipped cream and fold gently until the pumpkin is smooth and even.
10. Transfer the custard to the prepared pie shell and smooth the top. Place plastic directly on the surface and chill the pie for 4 hours, or over night.
Garnish with cinnamon spiced whipped cream and crushed toasted hazelnuts.