Pumpkin-Caramel Tart With Toasted-Hazelnut Crust

Have you had your fill of pumpkin pie yet? Are we moving on to all things gingerbread and eggnog in flavor? To be fair I wouldn’t blame you if you swore off pumpkin till next September when the craze picks up again. But can I urge you to make room for just 1 more pumpkin thing? It’s a pumpkin caramel hazelnut tart and I swear it’s going to completely change the way you think about pumpkin pie. Here, take a look.

Warming up to the idea yet? Maybe it’ll make a difference that the filling is not predominantly pumpkin at all. Instead it starts with a base of homemade caramel sauce, one where you let the sugar get just to the point of almost burning before dousing it in cream. Only then does this rich and intensely flavored sauce combine with a modest amount of pumpkin and cinnamon and a good dose of freshly grated ginger.

No, still not convinced?

Well maybe I should mention that this caramel pumpkin filling is baked inside of a wonderful crumbly, shortbread-like hazelnut crust. Almost a full cup of hazelnuts go into this crust along with a good amount of butter for good measure, giving the each and every bite of the tart the slightest amount of crunch and an underlying nutty flavor.

And if you’re still hesitant, I should probably add that the entire tart is topped with a generous sprinkling of candied hazelnuts for an ultimate sweet caramel crunch.

And of course there has to be an enormous dollop of whipped cream on top.

So really, you shouldn’t even compare this to pumpkin pie, it’s in a category all to itself. But if you still refuse to have a slice, if you’re too pumpkin-ed out, I guess I can’t complain… more for me!

Pumpkin-Caramel Tart With Toasted-Hazelnut Crust
Serves 8-10
Bon Appetit Magazine


For the crust
1¼ cups hazelnuts
1 cup flour
2 Tbs granulated sugar
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into cubes

For the filling and topping
1¼ cups granulated sugar, divided
pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 Tbs light brown sugar
1 Tbs flour
1½ tsp. freshly grated ginger
¾ tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt

3 eggs
whipped cream, for serving

Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by lining the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a sheetpan and toast in the oven for 10-13 minutes, until fragrant. Remove and let cool. Once cool, use a clean kitchen towel to rub the hazelnuts together and remove most of the skins.

Transfer ¾ cup of the hazelnuts to a food processor and set the rest aside for the candied hazelnut topping. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the food processor and pulse until you have a coarse meal. Add the butter and continue pulsing until you only have a few pea-sized pieces of butter left. Transfer to a bowl and add up to 3 tablespoons of water to the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it forms a dough.

Press the dough into the pan so it goes 1½ to 2 inches up the side. Place the pan with the dough in the freezer for 10 minutes and then transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes and then let cool slightly.

To make the filling combine 1 cup of the sugar, the cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Over a medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar begins to melt. Once it is melted, stop stirring and occasionally swirl the pan to evenly distribute the caramel. The caramel is ready when it turns a deep amber color. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream. Whisk until it is smooth and set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt and the eggs until it is smooth. Slowly incorporate the caramel. Pour the filling into the hazelnut crust and bake, rotating halfway through, for 35-45 minutes until the edges are set and the center jiggles just slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the tart cooks, make the candied hazelnuts. Roughly chop the remaining ½ cup of hazelnuts. Add to a saucepan with ¼ cup of sugar and a tablespoon of water. Place over a medium heat and stir until the sugar melts and coats the hazelnuts. Pour onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper to cool. Once cool, break into pieces and scatter over the cooled tart. Serve with whipped cream.

Pumpkin Polenta

In my defense, I made this creamy, starchy, and comforting delight back in the days of 2011, before the New Year health kick charged in for its month-long (maybe two) appearance. However, in my admittance I had Chipotle, movie theatre popcorn, and chocolate covered toffee for lunch yesterday so I remain, as your first impression of this post led you to believe, guilty as charged.

This polenta is just something I could not pass up. I looked so inviting on this blog, bright orange from a hefty dose of pumpkin (and you know how much I love my pumpkin and orange foods), its flavored heightened with a touch of paprika, cayenne, and nutmeg. It’s sprinkled with a handful or two of aged cheddar cheese, and intensified with a scattering of pork.

The swelled grains of cornmeal, turned into indulgent creaminess by the mere activations of its starches, serves at a perfect nest for spicy chorizo meatballs, dark and crusted on the outside. It slid slowly into the stomach leaving a hot path along the esophagus and sat like warm steamy bath in my stomach. Its something you eat on a biting cold night. It’s also great for people who are a little upset. It has that calming tendency yet rejuvenation from the gentle heat that kicks in a while after the initial taste.

I know you are probably researching salad recipes right now and other low-carb, lean-protein, veg-rich dishes. I saw the health craze every year when I headed back to college: the salad bar line was a little longer than normal, the gyms looked like a war zone after an epic battle for the elliptical machine, and every girl dresses as if she is ready to work out at the drop of a hat (oh wait, they do that year-round). But I ask you to still consider a little polenta indulgence. In fact, the more I think about it, the actual polenta part of this recipe (meatballs aside) is really not to bad in the health department. It has plenty of protein on its own and is crammed with calcium and beta rich pumpkin. Plus, with all of the add-ins and flavorings, you end up with something quite a bit more advanced than your standard polenta. Pair it with a succulent sauté of mushrooms and dark kale and I think you can end you day relatively guilt free yet filled with warming and rich food.

Pumpkin Polenta
serves 4 as a main adapted slightly from Evil Shenanigans

I’m not including the meatball recipe because it is simply ground chorizo mixed with a little onion and breadcrumbs, formed into meatballs and cooked in a frying pan until done. And it’s really more of a suggestion. You could also sprinkle over some bacon or like I said, some sautéed leafy greens or even some warmed black beans. This also reheats nicely.*

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. butter
½ onion, finely chopped
1 garlic glove, minced
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 can pumpkin puree
1 cup milk
3 cups good-quality chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup polenta
¾-1 cup shredded aged cheddar cheese
2 Tbs. cream cheese

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a Dutch oven or an ovenproof pot with a lid, heat the oil and butter over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, cayenne, paprika, salt, and nutmeg. Stir and continue to cook for another minute. Add the pumpkin puree and mix to combine. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pumpkin is slightly toasted.

Whisk in the milk and the broth, breaking any lumps in the pumpkin mixture, until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and slowly pour in the polenta, whisking constantly. Once added, give the mixture a final stir, cover with the lid and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Stir every ten minutes, adding more broth, milk, or water if it starts to look dry.

Meanwhile, cook any additions you plan to eat with your polenta, whether it be chorizo meatballs, bacon, or vegetable/beans.

When the polenta is finished cooking, remove from the oven and add the grated cheese and the cream cheese. Stir until completely combined and add any more liquids if necessary until you reach you desired consistency. Serve immediately.

*Pour any excess into a glass or ceramic dish, spread even, and refrigerate. To prepare leftovers, you can cut the set polenta into wedges and pan-fry them or mash a portion of it in a bowl into fine crumbles, add some water and/or milk and microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring vigorously every 30 seconds, until creamy and hot.

Halloween Soufflé

Halloween. I’m not sure what to say about Halloween without offending a large number of people. But I think its safe to say that it is a holiday I could do without.

I don’t particularly like wearing costumes. People in costumes (i.e. Ronald McDonald) were the objects of terror to me as a child and I cried and hid whenever I saw them. This fear kind of stuck around as I aged and even now I run away from costumed people. I don’t like not being able to see their faces. I’m not fond of the idea of wearing a barely-there costume outside in 40-degree weather. I know I should be celebrating but on a cold night I’d rather stay cuddled with my hot chocolate indoors. To me, Halloween is just another one of our “made in China holidays where we are forced to eat disgusting candy that tasked like amoxicillin.

That is why I liked Halloween so much last year, when I was in London. There, the holiday was treated as an excuse to celebrate the season’s bounty and spend time with each other, enjoying good food and fun, fall activities. Last Halloween I walked amongst changing leaves, bought a purple and turquoise hydrangea from the flower market, visited the peter pan statue in Hyde Park, ate the most delicious lavender and honey ice cream cone, and attended and festive Bompas and Parr jelly-making session at Fortnum and Mason. I had butternut squash for dinner with a cup of warm tea and called it the best Halloween ever. So this year I want to celebrate similarly despite the cheap and typically American craziness that will occur around me. And I will most definitely treat myself to this dish again.

This is a Halloween Soufflé.  I made it two weeks ago…for lunch on a Monday…at 3:00 in the afternoon. It is a recipe I’ve had marked for a while in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. The recipe note says, “try something scary today, by scary I mean soufflé.” So that Monday afternoon, on the brink of a serious case of the hunger shakes, I decided on a spur of the moment decision to forgo eating for another two hours and try something scary: my first soufflé.

It’s called a Halloween soufflé because the lovely mixture of eggs, butter, and flour is combined with a large dose of creamy pumpkin puree. It turned the dish a deep golden color and added a subtle hint of earthy sweetness. And despite the time-consuming aspect, the soufflé was much less scary than I’ve always thought. I created my rue without any lumping problems. I mixed it with my egg yolk and pumpkin and miraculously avoided a curdling disaster. And finally, I folded this with my perfectly whipped egg whites. It went into the oven and for a frightening 20 minutes I waited, hoping for a successful outcome.

What I pulled from the oven was a beautiful thing; it had done exactly what it was supposed to. The top rose in a crackly golden mound above the lip of the bowl. It jiggled slightly as I quickly transferred it to the table, letting me know of the fluffy, airy surprise waiting inside. And within minutes I watched as the soufflé slowly started deflating and with that, I knew it was time to eat. It was warm and silky, and flowed like cream on my tongue. The tangy goat cheese offset the pumpkin’s sweetness and a nice smoky flavor and crunchiness came from the ground hazelnuts that coated the inside of my cooking bowl. A seemingly horror story with a happy ending…and it sure beats the hell out of candy corn!

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Soufflé for One
adapted from Plenty

The ingredient amounts are a little guessed and wonky for this recipe because I cut the original in half and was also trying to convert from the metric system without a kitchen scale. But what I ended up doing worked fine so that’s all that mattered to me. Since I made it for just myself, I cooked it in a large, oven-proof soup bowl. Enjoy this with a nice green salad and a glass of white wine. Trust me, if you have this for Halloween, you won’t even miss out on the candy.

2/3 cup pumpkin puree (I used fresh roasted and pureed pumpkin but I’m sure canned would work. Refer to here for roasting instructions)
a handful of hazelnuts
15 grams melted butter for greasing
15 grams unsalted butter
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. flour
125 ml milk
2 egg whites
1 egg yolk
pinch of chili powder
1 tsp. chopped thyme
35 g strong goat cheese
sour cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put a baking sheet on the top shelf. Chill your cooking bowl in the fridge. Pulverize the hazelnuts in a food processor until you have a powder. Brush your chilled bowl with the melted butter and coat the entire inside with the ground hazelnuts. Tip out the remaining hazelnuts and set aside.

Melt the remaining 15 grams of butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook while stirring for about a minute. Slowly add in the milk and stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce is thick and free of lumps. Set aside.  In a bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, egg yolk, chili powder, thyme, goat cheese, and ½ tsp salt. Add the milk sauce and stir until smooth

Whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks but they are not dry. Gently incorporate them into the pumpkin mixture, being careful to retain as much of the air as possible. Fill up your prepared bowl and place on the preheated baking sheet for 22-24 minutes until the soufflé is puffed, the top is golden brown and the center just slightly moves when jiggled. Eat immediately with sour cream on the side.

Roasted Pumpkin and Gingersnap Ice Cream

Do you remember the pumpkin patch?

I remember walking into that carnival-esque wonderland each fall. I remember everything having this sort of shimmering golden glow to it. I don’t know if the experience was simply altered and intensified as it filtered through my child’s eyes but the pumpkin patch was certainly magical.

Where else could I romp around on teetering piles of hay bales? I’d emerge dizzy, a sloppy sort of grin on my face and stray pieces of hay sticking every which way from my hair like an unfortunate, neglected scarecrow. A sight to see I’m sure considering my parents dressed me in flannel shirts and stiff, straight legged jeans every day of my childhood.

There were petting zoos, big slides, and a country store where you could buy those sticks of colored flavored honey. I also recall having this strange irrational fear of the hay rides, refusing to step foot onto the wagon until assured that the ride would not present any scary, sudden changes in motion.

But mostly I remember picking out my pumpkin. Thanks to my dad’s neuroticism, a trait he passed onto me, the search for the perfect pumpkin was exhausting. It needed perfect roundness, symmetrical plumpness, a broad flat front for carving ease, and a good sturdy stem with a with a twisting curved handle. Back at home we’d make a day of mucking up the kitchen with strings of pumpkin goo and then giving funny faces to our new gourd friends. I always gave mine buck teeth. Always.

I went to the pumpkin patch this past weekend with some friends hoping for transportation into childhood. Instead we were asked to pay ten dollars to take a hayride to the patch, pick out the pumpkin, return, and then pay for the pumpkin. Oh, there was a four-foot high corn maze too. Disappointed, we turned around and went home deciding a pumpkin was not worth that price. Yet I worried, was my older age casting a gloomy cloud over the once-relished pumpkin patch? Had I lost all sense of my child-like imagination and exploration?

Had I turned into a dependent of modern-day entertainment no longer impressed by the simple pleasures of a pumpkin?

After long thought, I decided no.

Though that wonderful pumpkin patch no longer excited me in the ways it used to, it is now things like simply cooking that transforms me into that childlike being with heightened senses and emotions. It’s the thing that puts that golden glow to my world. That can make a pumpkin seem like the best thing in the world.

That answer came about as I remembered the quart of pumpkin ice cream I had sitting in my freezer. A creamy and intensely rich frozen treat I concocted from a baby pie pumpkin I meticulously selected from the farmers market, liberal amounts of pumpkin pie spices, brown sugar, and honey, and handfuls of crumbled gingersnap cookies. The pumpkin flavor was pumped up to extreme levels as it slow roasted in the oven for nearly an hour. I then pureed the caramelized flesh into such creaminess it flowed like orange ribbons from my spoon. I devoured the leftover puree by the spoonful, feeling ridiculously like I was eating baby food, delicious baby food at that. And finally, after the warming scents of spice were expelled into the air as the concoction churned, I took my first taste of the freshly frozen dessert and it was a shock to my entire system. The ice cream, in contrast to any other artificially pumpkin-flavored thing I’ve eaten, was so intensely fresh. So real. It was the entirety of fall spirit and the reminiscence of childhood glee all compacted into one spoon.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
makes about 1 Quart
adapted from Jeni Britton Bauer

This is a slight adaptation of Jeni Britton Bauer’s Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home so it uses her ingenious method of replacing eggs in the ice cream with cream cheese. This actually works really well for the pumpkin ice cream because the slight cream cheese flavor pairs like heaven with the pumpkin. And again, I cannot stress enough how important it is to use fresh roasted pumpkin. The canned stuff just won’t compare.

I small pie pumpkin
2 cups whole milk
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
3 Tbs. cream cheese (full fat)
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup honey
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
¾ cup gingersnap cookie crumbles

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half and deseed the inside. Place it on a baking sheet cut side down and roast it in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until soft. Remove the skin and place the flesh into a food processor. Puree until velvety smooth. Measure out ¾ cup of puree for the ice cream and save the rest in the refrigerator for another time.

Mix 2 Tbs. of the milk with the cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.

Whisk the cream cheese and the salt in a large bowl until it is smooth. Add in the honey and the pumpkin puree and stir until well combined.

Prepare a large ice bath.

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the rest of the milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and pumpkin pie spice. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch and milk mixture. Place back on the heat and boil for one minute until thickened somewhat.

Slowly whisk the hot milk mixture into the pumpkin and cream cheese mixture and stir until combined. Pour everything into a gallon zip-lock bag, seal, and place in the ice bath for at least 30 minutes or until well chilled.

Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. When done churning. Pack the ice cream into freezer safe storage containers, layering with the gingersnap cookie as you go. You could also simply fold them all into the ice cream if you want. Freeze for four hours before eating.