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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My World According to Pumpkin

I find that during desperate times [aka writing this group Marketing brief the day before it is due], I find solace in updating this blog. Economically, the opportunity cost of this action is atrocious, yet my personal utility soars, so ultimately, it balances out.

The pumpkin shortage seems to be in better shape now, which means that I can buy lots of it and bake! I already stocked up on a few 30-ounce cans, which means that my life will be filled of orange goodness until I get sick of it. I experimented with a couple of recipes in the past few weeks to see what I could come up with.

My first creation was a pumpkin rice pudding. I used less sugar than the recipe called for since I decided to top each slice with warmed maple syrup instead. I also used whole-wheat flour as usual, for more iron. Make sure to use short-grain or Arborio rice; it melds together with the rest of the dessert. Long-grain becomes too chewy after being cooked and then baked.

My second creation was so good that it is now a part of my Thanksgiving menu! To me, no Thanksgiving is complete without pumpkin pie. I wanted to twist the traditional recipe a bit, so after perusing through my pantry, I came up with these individual tarts with coconut tuiles. I was a bit worried that the coconut would overpower the pumpkin, but it worked out really well. Lucky for me that I learned how to make tuiles during my interview at Camino restaurant, so I could put my skills to the test! All they need now is a little caramel sauce garnish, and voila!

Pumpkin Rice Pudding

2/3 cup short-grain rice [I used Arborio]
5 cups non-fat milk
8 yolks 2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Make rice: Heat rice, salt, 4 cups milk, and remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until very hot.

Transfer to a large metal bowl set over a large saucepan of simmering water (or to a double boiler) and cook over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender and most of milk is absorbed, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. (Add more simmering water to saucepan if necessary.) Remove pan from heat and keep rice warm, covered.

[Note: This can be made the night before if needed]

Make pudding: Lightly whisk yolks in a large bowl, then whisk in vanilla, ginger, 1 1/3 cups pumpkin purée (reserve remainder for another use), and remaining cup milk. Gradually stir in warm rice, then pour mixture into a buttered 2-quart flameproof shallow baking dish (not glass). Set baking dish in a roasting pan and bake pudding in a hot water bath, uncovered, in oven until set, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Serve with warmed maple syrup.

Pumpkin Tarts with Coconut Tuiles

For the crust:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick grated butter
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

4 large egg yolks
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp salt
1 cup whipping cream
¼ cup whole milk

For the Tuiles:
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup egg whites
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

For the tart:

Combine the flour, powdered sugar, coconut, and salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine. Scatter the grated butter over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl lightly whisk the yolks and vanilla together. Dribble the yolk mixture through the processor tube while pulsing until clumps form. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly just to incorporate any dry ingredients that haven’t been mixed in. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

Grease twelve miniature tart pans or muffin tins. On lightly floured surface or on parchment paper, roll the dough into 1/8-inch thickness. Cut the dough into circles a couple inches larger than the pans. Carefully transfer the rolled dough into the prepared pans and press the dough onto the bottoms and up the sides of the pans. Cut the excess of the dough. Dock the bottoms of the crusts with a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes. If you are not planning to bake right away, wrap the crusts tightly and keep in the freezer until needed. Do not defrost before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the frozen crusts with parchment paper, then with dry beans or pie weights. Bake for about 15 minutes, until set. Carefully remove the parchment and bake the crusts for another 10-12 minutes until light golden. Transfer the crusts in its pans to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

For the Filling:

Reduce the oven temperature to 300F after prebaking the tart crusts.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks and maple syrup until combined, followed by the pumpkin puree, spices, and salt. Gradually whisk in the cream and milk into the mixture; don’t whip too much air into the custard base.

Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a liquid measuring cup. Place the cooled tart shells onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone mat. Divide the custard between the prebaked tart shells filling them just a bit below the rim. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the filling appears softly set at the edges but still jiggles. Watch it baking; a minute too long and the texture will be grainy.

Cool the tarts on the pan on a cooling rack. After completely cooled, refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

For the Tuiles:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 large cookie sheets with a Silpat.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix together the coconut, sugar, egg whites, flour and the 1/4 cup melted butter. Drop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the coconut mixture onto a prepared cookie sheet. With an offset spatula, pat the mixture into a thin, flat, oval. Make two at a time, or the cookies get too cool and will not roll

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the tuiles are golden. Working quickly, remove the tuiles and roll around a greased rolling pin. Keep them there until they are cool and carefully remove to reveal the twisted shape. Store carefully until ready to use.

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