By: Andrea Moyer
Turkey Day is upon us! Next week, we’ll be celebrating this day of thankfulness and feasting. Perhaps you’re a bit weary of the familiar fare. If you’re ready for something different this Thanksgiving - something that is a bit out of the ordinary, but still recognizable and delicious - then read on.
Every year I contribute to the feast by bringing a dessert. This is completely by choice, as my sister faithfully brings her much-loved green bean casserole and my other sister, who makes a mean cranberry relish, totes along that well-known classic. While everyone else might be happy to make the same dish year after year and is more or less expected to do so, I like to be a little more adventurous in the dishes I bring to the table, so I usually bring one or two dessert concoctions.
Why Plump for Desserts?
When you elect to take care of preparing and bringing the dessert, you have a wider selection from which you can choose. You can still bring everyone’s favorite pumpkin pie and complement it with a ginger pear tart. You can fry up some apple fritters and serve them warm with ice cream or whipped cream. You can even focus on the kids and do something simple and fun like caramel apples.
Healthy desserts are by no means out of the question, either. You can steer clear of anything that might cause high sugar spikes, such as pecan or rhubarb pies, and opt for a rustic cranberry crumble that’s big on flavor but low in sugar.
As the provider of unnecessary comestibles – we don’t actually need desserts – you are relieved of the dietary restrictions that cooks must consider when they compose the dinner menu. You’ll sail blissfully through several courses without concern that the gravy was made with chicken stock instead of vegetable stock and thus compromised the beliefs of your vegetarian cousin. You’ll digest your meal with ease knowing that you’re not responsible for the allergic reaction caused by the crushed pecans on the sweet potato casserole. You won’t need to worry or stress about it, because you’ve got a show-stopping frosty pumpkin cheesecake with which you plan to enhance this feast!
This brings me to the spice and seasoning that goes with just about anything: variety! When you think about the culinary creations that can be wrought with pumpkins and apples, the possibilities are endless. Instead of an apple pie, why not try an apple pandowdy? What would you say to a pumpkin maple cream trifle to replace or complement the ubiquitous pumpkin pie? I’ve made this myself and it’s delicious, so I’ve included the recipe below.
This Thanksgiving, adhere if you must to traditional dishes, but consider changing things up with the freedom that comes with serving desserts. Best of luck to you and Happy Thanksgiving!
Pumpkin Maple Cream Trifle
Maple Walnuts (listed below - optional)
1 box whole graham crackers
1/2 cup plus 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 pkg cheesecake or vanilla instant pudding and pie filling
1/2 cup milk
1 can solid pack pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 container frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
1. Prepare Maple Walnuts, if desired, and set aside. Coarsely break graham crackers into a large mixing bowl. Place 1/2 cup of the maple syrup in a small mixing bowl. Microwave on high 60-90 seconds or until hot. Pour hot maple syrup over graham crackers. Toss to coat and set aside.
2. For pumpkin filling, combine pudding mix and milk in medium mixing bowl. Whisk until mixture begins to thicken. Add pumpkin and spice blend to pudding mixture. Whisk well. Fold 2 cups of the whipped topping into pudding mixture and set aside.
3. For maple cream, combine remaining 3 Tbsp maple syrup and remaining whipped topping in small mixing bowl. Fold gently. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with 2/3 cup of the maple cream and set aside for garnish.
4. To assemble trifle, place one third of the graham cracker mixture over bottom of the trifle bowl.* Top with half of the pumpkin filling, spreading to the edges. Top with another third of the graham cracker mixture and pumpkin filling. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with Maple Walnuts, if desired, and pipe with reserved maple cream.
Combine 2 Tbsp butter and 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup in a 10-in saute pan. Stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Add 1 cup walnut halves and cook, stirring constantly, 5-7 minutes or until walnuts are evenly browned. Spread walnuts in a single layer on a sheet of wax paper and cool completely.
Yield: 24 servings
*If you don’t have a trifle bowl, use a large mixing bowl instead.