As the last fleeting days of summer roll past, I anticipate the fall with great delight. We were fortunate this year that summer was not too ridiculously hot here. Even so, I look forward to a couple of months of open windows, of an extra blanket on the bed to snuggle beneath, of hot tea and spiced cider. And of pumpkin.
Autumn is my favorite season of the year. I even wrote a haiku about autumn today:
Fall is the only season in which I can make a dessert the color of the leaves around me.
Some of you may know that I have only come to appreciate pumpkin desserts over the past few years. Most of the pumpkin pies I had ever tried seemed bland and muddy, and a bit rubbery. My new and enduring rule for most pumpkin recipes I find these days is simple and effective: half the spices, double the salt.
The roasted flesh of pumpkins has a sweet and delicate earthiness that begs to be enhanced with spices, not overshadowed by them. And, lest we forget, pumpkin is a gourd that passes for a vegetable, and it needs to be salted to so the flavor sings.
Salt makes flavors sing.
So does lemon.
This pumpkin pudding makes use of some heirloom pumpkin puree that I made and froze last year. Rather than sweetening with the expected granulated or brown sugar, I chose to use maple syrup, allowing one sweet earthy note to reinforce another.
You can choose to serve this pudding as is, or for textural contrast, candy some pecans or some pepitas in maple syrup, salt and a bit of spice. This would also work nicely as filling for individual pumpkin tartlets.
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice or your preferred “baking spice” blend
- 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ cup pecan halves
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon maple extract (optional)
- 1½ Tablespoons butter (.75 oz)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 6 oz (generous ⅔ cup) pumpkin puree (homemade or canned–not pie filling)
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch or flour
- 2 egg yolks
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 oz (by weight) pure maple syrup (about ⅓ cup)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon apple pie spice (or similar)
- Put the maple syrup, butter, salt and spice/s in a heavy-bottomed skillet.
- Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted.
- Add the nuts, stirring to coat.
- Let the nuts cook in the syrup until the syrup hardens into a candy when you spread a bit on a Silpat. This will take about 5-7 minutes of almost constant stirring.
- Spread the nuts in a single layer on Silpat to cool (you can also use a lightly oiled cookie sheet).
- Once cool, chop some and leave some whole. You’ll have more than you need for garnishing the pudding, so you’ll have some for snacking.
- Put the lemon juice, vanilla, optional maple extract and butter in a medium bowl. Set a fine metal strainer over the bowl, and keep convenient to the stove.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk, pumpkin puree, cornstarch/flour, yolks, salt, maple syrup and spices.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. (once it heats up some but before it boils, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary)
- Let boil about 30-45 seconds, until uniformly thick and no longer foamy.
- Pour into the strainer, scraping the pan well.
- Press the pudding through the strainer to catch any egg bits or errant strings from the pumpkin.
- Stir well to combine the pudding with the butter and flavorings.
- Pour into individual serving cups or pre-baked mini tart shells.
- Let cool and then refrigerate until cold, about 1½ hours.
- Dollop on some plain yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche. I used sour cream and didn’t even bother to sweeten it. It went really well with the pudding.
- Garnish with the chopped and/or whole nuts.