Pumpkin Persuasion

By Chandra Orr

August 1, 2008 7 min read

PUMPKIN PERSUASION

How to take desserts from boring to bold

By Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

Individual swirled pumpkin cheesecakes, pumpkin spice cupcakes or pumpkin walnut cookies -- these easy-prep, single-serving desserts capture the essence of traditional pumpkin pie and bring a bold flavor to the table, which is a must after all that turkey and stuffing.

"Always put something pumpkin on the menu," Vicki Wells, executive pastry chef for Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill and Bar Americain, said. "Thanksgiving dessert should be full of flavor. After we've eaten all the things previous, we don't want something bland and unmemorable."

Pumpkin pie is the quintessential Thanksgiving favorite, but don't be afraid to try something a little different this year. Just make sure that it's homemade. "We all know that Thanksgiving is the most stressful meal for a cook. Everything has to be just right. Many people just purchase the pie or cake nowadays without a second thought, but a homemade dessert will change the entire holiday," George Geary, author of "The Complete Baking Cookbook: 350 Recipes from Cookies and Cakes to Muffins and Pies" ($25, Robert Rose), said.

Single-serving desserts are ideal for big holiday meals. They offer guests more variety and make it easy to control portion sizes. They also make for a great presentation.

"Presentation is very important. It symbolizes the care and time that went into the dessert process," Katherine Kallinis said. She owns and operates Georgetown Cupcake in Washington, D.C., with her sister Sophie LaMontagne.

The presentation gives your guests their first taste of what's to come. Something as simple as a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg goes a long way in tempting the taste buds, Geary said.

"Single-serving desserts allow you to be creative and use different decorative details -- and details are what make your guests feel special," LaMontagne said. When decorated with multiple colors of icing and natural sprinkles like nuts, coconut or chocolate shavings, each cupcake, cookie or mini-cake becomes a one-of-a-kind treat that gives guests the impression that their dessert was made-to-order.

PUMPKIN SPICE CUPCAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

2 (4-ounce) sticks unsalted butter

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons honey

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup water

Frosting Ingredients:

3 (4-ounce) sticks unsalted butter

12 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

8 ounces low fat cream cheese

Yields 24 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 24 cupcake tins with baking cups. Cream together butter, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix in pumpkin puree and honey. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix half of the flour mixture into butter mixture. Add half of the water and beat at medium speed until mixed. Mix in remaining flour and water. Scoop batter into pans. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For the icing, beat together butter, confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Spread icing onto cooled cupcakes using a spatula.

- - - Recipe courtesy of Georgetown Cupcake.

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INDIVIDUAL SWIRLED PUMPKIN CHEESECAKES

12 foil cupcake liners

Nonstick cooking spray

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

2 tablespoons liquid coffee creamer, gingerbread or pumpkin spice flavor

Yields 12 cakes

Preheat oven to 300 F. Line 12-cup muffin tin with foil liners; coat liners with nonstick cooking spray. Beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, vanilla extract and salt in large mixer bowl until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Transfer 1/2 cup of batter to a medium bowl. Add pumpkin and coffee creamer; stir until blended. Divide white cream cheese batter evenly among prepared cups; top evenly with pumpkin batter. Swirl batters with butter knife. Bake 16-18 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.

- - - Recipe courtesy of Nestle.

PUMPKIN WALNUT COOKIES

1 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

Frosting Ingredients:

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon

Walnut pieces, if desired

Makes 60 cookies

Heat oven to 350 F. Combine butter, brown sugar and sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Continue beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Stir in walnuts by hand. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool completely. For frosting, combine all ingredients except walnut pieces in medium bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until smooth. Frost cooled cookies. Garnish with walnuts, if desired.

- - - Recipe courtesy of Land O'Lakes.

(c) Creators News Service

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