You don’t need me to tell you what time of year it is. All you need to do is look at a few food blogs or cooking magazines to know it’s pumpkin season. Pumpkin recipes are everywhere right now, and that’s okay by me because why shouldn’t we celebrate seasonal bounty?
We had some people over for a fall-themed dinner on the weekend. It started with this roasted carrot, squash and apple soup (thinned with an extra two cups of water to make it a lovely consistency for a starter). The main course featured hearty, warming Hungarian goulash and this autumnal ginger-scented celery, fennel and golden beet slaw.
There was no doubt in my mind that dessert needed to shine the light on pumpkin, and so it did with not one, not two, but a trio of pumpkin treats. I made pumpkin bars (coming soon) as well as pumpkin ice cream and pepita brittle. Bonus for you today: both recipes are in this post — yes, a two-for-one special!
I have a seldom-used but nonetheless handy hand-turned ice cream maker. It’s a fun way to make a special dessert. It just takes a bit of planning ahead to ensure both the custard base and the cylinder (if you have a machine like mine) thoroughly chill out before churning the luscious ice cream. Not a problem, because one of the keys to a successful dinner party is doing as much work as possible ahead of time anyway.
Now back to the ice cream … pumpkin puree (I used canned and I’m okay with that), eggs, cream and the classic warming spices — how can you go wrong with ingredients like this? As for that brittle, it’s a quick and easy way to add some sweet flair: just caramelize sugar and water and then stir in pepitas and spices.
There you have it, a dessert that calls out ‘fall’ and will have your guests calling for seconds.
And just for the record, it has not escaped my attention that the scoops of ice cream look like a bum in a bowl. Most unfortunate food styling. Good thing I’m easily entertained.
Pumpkin Ice Cream
The custard base for this ice cream needs to chill thoroughly before churning. I recommend making it a day ahead. Make sure you follow the instructions for your particular ice cream maker for best results.
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
- 1-1/2 cups cream (I used 18% but you could use whipping cream)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree, homemade or canned (caution: not pumpkin pie filling!)
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a metal bowl or the top of a double boiler, and then incorporate the milk. Place over a pot with an inch of water that’s been brought to the boil and is now at a high simmer, and over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly. Cook until it’s slightly thickened; the custard will coat the back of a spoon and the path of a finger swiped down it will stay open. This will take about ten minutes.
Remove from the heat, and strain through a fine sieve into another bowl (if there are any bits of scrambled egg in the custard, you don’t want them in your ice cream!). Whisk in the cream, pumpkin and spices. Cover, and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.
Proceed to churn the ice cream according to your machine’s instructions. If not serving right away, place in a bowl, cover well and freeze. Allow at least 15 minutes at room temperature so the ice cream can soften and be lusciously scoopable. (I confess, I didn’t wait long enough, and it was some work to scoop mine out.)
This is a nicely seasonal switch up from the usual peanut brittle. And it’s so pretty, too! And did I mention easy? I just eyeball the sugar solution, cooking until it reaches a deep amber colour.
A caution: hot sugar syrup can be dangerous. Make sure your pot is big enough to accommodate any bubbling up, and keep little ones at a safe distance while making this. I have a blister on my wrist from a soup burn right now; I can’t imagine how much worse a hot sugar syrup burn would be.
Before starting, line a baking tray with a Silpat or other similar heat-proof liner that will release the cooled brittle. I’ve seen recipes that call for plain parchment paper or parchment coated with oil or butter, but I haven’t tried these methods.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- pinch salt (kosher or sea salt)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup unsalted, roasted pepitas (I used 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
Place the pepitas and spices in a measuring cup and set aside.
Put the sugar, water and salt in a large heavy saucepan and place over medium high heat. Stir until dissolved, while bringing the concoction to a boil. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to carefully dissolve any sugar crystals that occur on the side of the pot.
Cook until the syrup takes on a deep amber colour. It should look like a dark caramel and have the characteristic caramel aroma. (There’s a fine line between just right and burned, so this may take some practice. Fortunately, the ingredients are relatively inexpensive and the time investment short should you have to start again.)
As soon as the perfect colour has been achieved, and while still on the heat, pour in the pepitas and spice mixture (they will cool down the syrup a bit). Note, there may be some bubbling up at this point. Working quickly, stir everything together. (I learned the hard way that if you take the pot off the heat to stir in the other ingredients, the mixture will cool too quickly and the sugar can crystallize.)
Quickly pour the hot syrup and pepita mixture onto the prepared tray, moving the pot as you do so to spread it out. Use a silicone spatula to further spread the mixture while hot.
Let cool and once hard, break into pieces of the desired size.