Crunchy pecans drenched in maple syrup add an inviting twist to this classic autumn and wintertime dessert.
Two hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, we’re a long way from the closest pumpkin patch, and at $65.00 and up, the pumpkins brought into the Native Store for Halloween didn’t tempt us. But Jack kept his eye on them, and as predicted, the day after Halloween the price fell by half. We held out a few days beyond that and the prices dropped another 50%. One of the wonderful things about squashes and pumpkins is that they keep well, and so we purchased a 17-pound beauty no worse for the extra week or two it had spent on the store shelves for only $18.00. Jack then set to work cutting up and roasting the pumpkin, seeds and all. The seeds were tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt, and a blend of Italian seasonings. Crisp, crunchy and zesty, they were devoured immediately. The pumpkin was roasted plain and then puréed with several uses in mind.
I used the first two cups of pumpkin purée to create a pie inspired by the superb Pennsylvania maple syrup that a friend had sent to us. Along with a healthy dollop of bourbon, maple syrup is the perfect compliment to the flavors in pumpkin pie filling. The pecans in this recipe come out sweet, light and crunchy.
Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie
- pastry crust for one 9-inch pie
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups pumpkin purée
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp mace
- 2 tbsp bourbon (optional)
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup pecan halves
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry crust.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until frothy.
- Add pumpkin, whipping cream, maple syrup, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and mace. Beat well to mix. Pour mixture in the pastry-lined pie pan.
- Bake for 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make pecan topping. Combine butter, sugar, syrup, and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly.
- Add pecan halves to topping mixture. Stir well.
- After pie has baked for 40 minutes, arrange pecan topping on top of pie.
- Cover edges of pie with foil to prevent burning and return pie to oven. Continue baking for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of pie comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
- Cover and refrigerate within 2 hours.
Adapted from The Baking Pan
Sweetened dried cranberries and white chocolate chips pair up in a dessert especially appropriate to the winter holidays.
People in our generation sometimes still flinch a little when cranberries are mentioned – as they invariably are here in America – around holiday time. Gloppy canned cranberry sauce heated (or not) and served alongside such tasty items as turkey dressing, rutabaga with raisons and mashed potatoes with giblet gravy were, for many of us, the original “I don’t want any of that touching the rest of my food” item. It was always something of a puzzle to me. The packages of whole, fresh cranberries at the grocery store looked so pretty. Why didn’t the grownups use those? It seemed that the advent of mass-produced, mass-marketed food had caused generations of Americans to forget what real cranberries taste and look like, and a debased form of the fruit was kept on menus as a nod to tradition rather than gustatory pleasure.
Years later, we discovered the pleasure of cooking with whole, fresh cranberries in our own kitchens, and dishes such as cranberry sauce with tangerines became a much anticipated Thanksgiving and Christmas-time tradition. The tart, bright-red berries sweetened with sugar and cooked on the stovetop are the perfect accompaniment to a holiday bird that has been brined overnight and roasted to perfection.
While the following dessert uses dried cranberries rather than fresh, it keeps our cranberry tradition going strong here in the Alaskan Arctic where the local grocer doesn’t carry fresh berries. If you’ve never had a really great cranberry dish, forget everything you thought you knew about these festive berries. You’ll want to save room for this scrumptious cranberry dessert!
Cranberry Bliss Bars
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries (we used Craisins, which are made from cranberries and sugar)
- 4 oz. white chocolate chips
- 5 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 5 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Butter 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.
- Beat butter and brown sugar until smooth.
- Incorporate eggs, one at a time, into butter mixture.
- Mix in ginger and vanilla.
- Gradually mix in flour and baking powder.
- Fold in craisins and white chocolate chips.
- Pour batter into baking pan. Even out batter so that it is uniformly on bottom of pan.
- Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
- Let cake cool in pan on wire rack.
- Make frosting by mixing cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until smooth.
- When cake has cooled, spread frosting evenly over the top of the cake.
- Sprinkle 1/4 cup craisins on frosting.
- Make drizzle icing by whisking powdered sugar and milk.
- Fill small Ziploc bag with drizzle icing. Cut off a small piece of the bottom corner of bag. Squeeze out drizzle icing over the frosted cake in zig-zags.
- Cover cake and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
- Slice the cake down the middle, lengthwise. Then slice the cake across the width, three time. You will have 8 rectangular pieces. Cut each of these pieces in half, diagonally, to make 16 decorative pieces.
Recipe adapted from topsecretrecipes.com.