Here is a Thanksgiving dessert that is classic yet different. The pumpkin flavor is here, but it’s a cake, a glorious chiffon cake, and not a pie. [Okay, make the pie, too, and serve it on Friday to avoid tears].
I led my Cooking by the Book team as the official test kitchen for the last two editions of The Joy of Cooking. That last time, I was the only test kitchen. This wasn’t a one week job. It was 18 months, five days a week, with 4 or 5 people here every day. Besides the thousands of recipes in the book, the team had to test all those wonderful recipes that did not make it into the book, because the editors had a page limit. Literally.
That testing process is now mostly a blur. In all that time, with all those recipes, it’s hard to remember any one thing. Hard, but not impossible. We all remember testing this cake and being stunned by how absolutely, delectably wonderful it is. Truthfully, her team made it twice just to make sure it was as grand as it seemed. It was and is.
Chiffon cakes are light and airy. This one is certainly that with 8 egg whites. But that airiness is now filled with pumpkin flavor. It’s truly a wonderful dessert, and one that all your Thanksgiving table will give thanks for.
Pumpkin Chiffon Cake
Yield: about 10 slices
Equipment: one ungreased 10-inch tube cake or a139-inch cake pan
Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70°F. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- 2 ¼ cups sifted cake flour
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 ¼ cups cooked or canned pumpkin
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 8 large egg whites
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ¼ cup sugar
In a large bowl, whisk the cake flour sugar, baking powder, and salt.
In a mixer bowl place the egg yolks, water, oil, pumpkin, and vanilla. Beat on high speed until smooth.
Clean the beaters. Any remaining trace of egg yolk or oil will cause problems with the egg whites. In a clean bowl, place the egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Then gradually add the sugar, beating on high speed. Beat the whites until they are so stiff they being to lose their gloss. Use a rubber spatula to fold 0ne-quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites.
Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes, for a tub e pan or 30 to 35 minutes for a baking pan. Let the tube cake cool upside down as for an Angel Food cake. Rest the 9×13-inch pan on 4 glasses.
Unmold when cooled.
To finish the cake, you have many options: whipped cream, ice cream, a cream cheese frosting, or a quick icing with some spices. I opt for the icing with some ginger and cinnamon. Here’s the recipe.
Spiced Quick Icing
- 4 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 to 6 tablespoons milk, dry sherry, rum, brandy or coffee [I prefer half milk, half brandy]
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
In a mixing bowl, add the sugar and butter and beat until combined.
Add the remaining ingredients, using just 4 tablespoons of the liquid. Beat until smooth. Add more liquid to achieve the consistency you want.
With this icing, you can attempt to classically frost the cake. Or you can add more liquid to have a runny consistency so this icing is more of a glaze, which you can simply pour over the cake.
Source: The Joy of Cooking 75th Anniversary Edition
From time to time I have to emphatically praise the exceptional. This is such a time. Dorie Greenspan’s new book Around My French Table is so much fun I can’t stand it. Besides the perfect recipes, the book reads like a fabulous mystery book, a true page turner. Of course, the recipes themselves are not mysterious in any way but reading the head notes and learning about her French friends and the markets has you thinking hard about cashing in those points and heading off to Paris. Dorie has twists and turns that make your heart ache to explore French food personally on the spot.
On a slightly cheaper, quicker level, you can simply go to your local green market, pick up the true local seasonal goodies and start cooking.
Brian and I are treating this book like Julie Powell did with Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. We think Around My French Table will prove to be as classic as Mastering. We are going page to page and cooking just about every dish. They all seem that good on the page, and then it turns out they really are that wonderful from the first bite. There is a dessert recipe, Blueberry-Mascarpone Roulade, that will give you a whole new perspective on “rollups.” Or there is Hachis Parmentier, the French version of Sheppard’s’ Pie. This is what God intended that dish to be.
We’ve cooked and tasted and thought each dish was the best that something could be.
And then we did this stuffed pumpkin. Thanksgiving is upon us and we all face that challenge: do I cook the classic meal or do something new. Well, this pumpkin will be new for you and an instant classic. Once you have tasted the scrumptious stuffing and delectable baked pumpkin, no holiday meal will feel complete without this dish.
You may want to buy two copies of Around My French Table: one for the kitchen and one for the coffee table. It’s a beautiful book to remind you of French memories if you have been there and inspire you to travel if you have yet traveled to that food paradise.
Here is Dorie’s recipe from her book, including her fabulous head notes and ideas for modifying the recipe.
Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
Yield: Makes 2 very generous or 4 more genteel servings
Shortly after I was given this recipe, I started keeping a list of whom I’d made it for — because I loved it so much, I was sure that if I didn’t keep track, I’d end up serving the dish to the same people over and over. The idea for it came from my friend Hélène Samuel’s sister, Catherine, whose husband grows pumpkins on his farm just outside Lyon. Catherine sent me a charming outline of the recipe, and as soon as I’d baked my first pumpkin, I realized that an outline is about the best you can do with this dish. It’s a hollowed-out pumpkin stuffed with bread, cheese, garlic, and cream, and since pumpkins come in unpredictable sizes, cheeses and breads differ, and baking times depend on how long it takes for the pumpkin to get soft enough to pierce with a knife, being precise is impossible.
As Catherine said when she turned this family favorite over to me, “I hope you will put the recipe to good use, knowing that it’s destined to evolve . . . and maybe even be improved.”
Well, I’ve certainly been putting it to good use, and it has evolved, although I’m not sure that it’s been improved, since every time I make it, it’s different, but still wonderful. My guess is that you’ll have the same feeling once you start playing around with this “outline.” See Bonne Idée for some hints on variations.
And speaking of playing around, you might consider serving this alongside the Thanksgiving turkey or even instead of it — omit the bacon and you’ve got a great vegetarian main course.
- 1 pumpkin, 2 ½–3 pounds
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ¼ pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into ½-inch chunks
- ¼ pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into ½-inch chunks
- 2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
- 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped (my addition)
- About ¼ cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions (my addition)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (my addition)
- About 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot — which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn’t so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I’ve always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I’ve been lucky.
Using a very sturdy knife — and caution — cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween Jack-o-Lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper — you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure — and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled — you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little — you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (It’s hard to go wrong here.)
Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours — check after 90 minutes — or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.
When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully — it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly — bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.
You have a choice — you can either spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful, or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I’m a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls, it’s just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.
It’s really best to eat this as soon as it’s ready. However, if you’ve got leftovers, you can scoop them out of the pumpkin, mix them up, cover, and chill them; reheat them the next day.
There are many ways to vary this arts-and-crafts project. Instead of bread, I’ve filled the pumpkin with cooked rice — when it’s baked, it’s almost risotto-like. And, with either bread or rice, on different occasions I’ve added cooked spinach, kale, chard, or peas (the peas came straight from the freezer). I’ve made it without bacon (a wonderful vegetarian dish), and I’ve also made it and loved, loved, loved it with cooked sausage meat; cubes of ham are also a good idea. Nuts are a great addition, as are chunks of apple or pear or pieces of chestnut.
Source: Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan