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By Terri Hahn

Look Beyond Pumpkin Pie For Holiday Desserts


November 18, 2021

It's no secret I'm not a big fan of pumpkin pie. Especially pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream.

I know for some folks confessing I don't like pumpkin pie is practically criminal, but it is what it is.

It's not that I hate pumpkin pie, it's just not my first choice. If I have one piece a year (hold the whipped cream, please), I'm good. When it comes to holiday desserts, there are other choices for me.

And I don't dislike pumpkin in general (but don't get me started on pumpkin spice!). Several years ago I made a pumpkin roll cake that was really good. I wanted to share that recipe here, but couldn't find it. Maybe next year.

I just think we all need to look at other options when planning your holiday menus. Following are two recipes featuring two popular fall fruits: Pears and apples. Two others include the classic pumpkin flavors: first up are Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brownies, followed by a Poppy Seed and Pumpkin Marble Cake.

First up is a Pear Tarte Tatin. The tarte Tatin is named after the Tatin sisters who invented it and served it in their Paris hotel as a signature dish. It is a pastry in which the fruit is caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked.

It's great for Thanksgiving or any fall celebration.

Pear Tarte Tatin

Preparation time: 50 minutes

Baking time: 40 minutes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 pounds (7 or 8) firm, ripe pears, preferably Bosc or Anjou, peeled, quartered, cored

1/2 cup sugar

Pie pastry (recipe follows)

Whipped cream or creme fraiche (or both whipped together)

Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Stir in the pears and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Increase the heat a little, and cook until the pears and sugar turn a deep, caramel brown, about 15 minutes. (Resist the temptation to quit early.) Shake the pan occasionally, making sure pears and sugar do not burn.

Pile the pears into a 10-inch Pyrex pie plate.

Roll out the pastry and trim to a 12-inch circle. Cover the pears with the pastry, tucking it around the edges and down into the dish.

Slide tart onto the center rack of a 425-degree oven. Bake until the pears bubble and the pastry turns a deep, golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

Pull tart out of the oven and set a flat serving platter top-side down on top of the pie plate. Pull on mitts. Holding plate and platter together, invert the pair. Rap the pie plate with a wooden spoon to release any stubborn pears. Lift pie plate, leaving tart sitting pretty.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature, with the cream.

Pie Pastry: Measure into the food processor 1 cup flour, 7 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut up) and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Process to coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds. Measure in 3 tablespoons ice-cold water. Pulse about 6 times until clumps are damp. Pat pastry into a disk. If sticky, dust with a little additional flour. Wrap in waxed paper, and chill at least 1 hour.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from: "Bistro Cooking" by Patricia Wells

Baked in a pie plate, an apple-pie cake looks, smells and tastes like its namesake. It's a snack or breakfast cake baked in a pie plate. Serve with rum sauce (recipe follows) for a fall dessert.

Apple Pie Cake

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2-1/2 cups finely chopped apples, cored but unpeeled

1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)

2 tablespoons hot water

Rum sauce:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup rum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In large bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Beat in egg. Sift together dry ingredients and add to batter. Add apples and nuts, then stir in hot water.

Grease a 9-inch pie plate. Pour batter into prepared pie plate. Bake in center of oven for 45 minutes at 325 degrees or until a toothpick inserted near middle comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream or rum sauce.

Rum sauce: In saucepan, combine brown sugar and whipping cream. Bring to boil. Add rum and stir until blended. Serve immediately over warm cake.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional information per serving (without whipped cream or rum sauce): 336 calories; 4 g protein; 44 g carbohydrates; 17 g fat (8 saturated, 4 monounsaturated, 5 polyunsaturated); 54 mg cholesterol; 242 mg sodium; 2 g fiber; 30 g sugar; 45 percent calories from fat.

Recipe from: "Apple Pie: 100 Delicious and Decidedly Different Recipes for America's Favorite Pie," by Ken Haedrich,"(Harvard Common Press)

This recipe is from cookbook author Katie Workman who says, "I decided to take my favorite brownie recipe, the one I published ... a handful of years ago, and turn it into something that says, 'Hi, pumpkin season, how've you been?'"

The bottom layer is a fudgy brownie, dense and with a serious hit of chocolate, she says. The top layer is a creamy pumpkin cheesecake, scented with those great fall spices. Then a bit of the brownie mixture (which you will reserve) is dolloped on top and swirled into the cheesecake mixture for a beautiful, brown and pale orange marbled effect. These are thick, rich and the kind of dessert where you're going to end up feeling pretty pleased with yourself. It's a dessert to impress, with no fancy baking techniques required.

You can store these at room temperature in a tightly sealed container for a day, or in the fridge for several days. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brownies

For the brownies:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2-1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the pumpkin cheesecake:

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 cup pureed canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter or spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.

Make the brownie batter: Melt together the butter and chocolate in a medium-sized pot over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder, sugar and salt, then blend in the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring quickly so they don't have a chance to cook at all before they are blended in. Blend in the flour.

Scrape about 3/4 of the thick batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Set the pan and the remaining brownie batter (about one cup) aside.

Make the pumpkin cheesecake batter: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the cinnamon, ginger, salt and cloves and beat, scraping down the sides, until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the pumpkin, cream and vanilla until smooth.

Spread the pumpkin cheesecake batter over the brownie batter in the pan, and then use a tablespoon to dollop remaining brownie batter over the top in spots. Use a dull knife to swirl the mixtures together on top, making sure to leave it very streaky, and not blend too much.

Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the brownies comes out clean.

Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack. Cut into 24 squares.

Makes 24 brownies.

Recipe from: Katie Workman

This marble cake swirls orange pumpkin or squash with gray-flecked poppy seed batter and white vanilla buttercream for a pretty alternative to end the meal.

For a festive touch, use a leaf stencil to decorate the top with a sprinkling of poppy seeds. (Cream cheese frosting would be nice, too.)

Poppy Seed and Pumpkin Marble Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature, plus extra for greasing pan

1 generous cup superfine sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 large eggs, beaten

2-3/4 cups self-rising flour

7 ounces pumpkin or butternut squash, skinned, seeded and finely grated

1-1/2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1-1/2 tablespoons)

Orange food coloring

3 tablespoons poppy seeds, plus extra for decoration (divided)

Vanilla buttercream:

1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2-1/4 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon boiling water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and line the bottom and sides of a 6-inch square cake pan or an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with wax paper. Grease the paper with butter.

Put the 1 cup butter, the sugar and vanilla in a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer until pale and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs a little at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour if mixture starts to curdle. Add the flour and fold in gently, using a large metal spoon.

Divide mixture evenly between two bowls. Stir pumpkin or squash and ginger into one bowl, with a bit of orange food coloring, and stir the 3 tablespoons poppy seeds and the milk into the other bowl. Blend thoroughly but do not overmix.

Place heaping teaspoonfuls of the orange mixture into the pan, leaving gaps in between. Fill the spaces with heaping teaspoonfuls of poppy seed batter. Spoon more poppy seed mixture on top of the orange batter, then spoon orange batter in the spaces left over.

Repeat layering, always spooning one color on top of the other color. Run a knife through the two flavors to lightly marble them together.

Bake in preheated oven 1 hour 20 minutes or until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool before removing the lining paper.

When cake is cool, make vanilla buttercream: Beat butter, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer until smooth. Add water and beat again until pale and creamy.

Place the cake on a plate and use a spatula to spread frosting over the top and sides in an even layer. Sprinkle the top with extra poppy seeds in a design of your choice.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Recipe from: "Peek-A-Boo Cakes" by Joanna Farrow (Octopus Publishing, 2014, $12.99)

Terri Hahn of Osceola has worked in food media for more than 30 years and has won numerous state and national awards for her writing.


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