People love being served a whole pumpkin with a browned soufflé rising out of it. Using cute little pumpkins as the actual soufflé dish adds both flavor and substance to this unusual dessert. Don't be intimidated at the idea of making a soufflé; this one is foolproof. Most of the work for this dessert can be done in advance, and the last phase of preparation takes only ten minutes and can be done half an hour before serving.
8 miniature pumpkins, 3/4 to 1 pound each,
as uniform in size as possible
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon mace,
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg,1/2 teaspoon cloves, mixed together
1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1/2 cup good-quality brandy
For the pastry cream
1-1/2 cups milk
A 2-inch piece of vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
4 extra-large egg yolks
2/3 cup flour
4 extra-large egg whites
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
7 tablespoons sugar
Vanilla ice cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
Using a grapefruit knife, remove enough of the stem end of each pumpkin to create an opening at least 3 inches in diameter. Using a grapefruit spoon, scrape out the seeds and enough of the pumpkin flesh to create a straight-sided bowl. Be careful not to cut through the bottom and sides of the pumpkins.
The day before serving, or early in the day of serving, put the pumpkin bowls in a baking pan, put 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon of maple syrup in each one, and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture over all the pumpkins. Put 1 cup of water in the pan to keep the pumpkins from burning, and bake until the pumpkins are very tender, about 1-3/4 hours, adding more water to the pan if necessary to keep them from sticking. When the pumpkins are done, set them aside in the pan.
In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the remaining spices, the brandy, and the pumpkin purée. Cook over the lowest possible heat, stirring frequently, for 20 to 30 minutes, until the purée is very thick and reduced.
Make the pastry cream:
Scald the milk with the vanilla bean in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. In a bowl, beat the sugar and yolks until they are light and creamy, then blend in the flour. Gradually beat in the hot milk, then return the custard to the pot and cook it over moderate heat, without boiling, until it is very thick and smooth and has no flour taste. Remove the vanilla bean and add the reduced pumpkin mixture to the pastry cream. Scrape the mixture into a bowl that will be big enough to hold all the egg whites when beaten.
Forty-five minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and beat the egg whites. As they begin to thicken, add the lemon juice and the sugar, a spoon at a time, and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/2 of the beaten whites into the pumpkin mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Fill the pumpkins with the soufflé mixture. Tap the bottom of each one firmly on a hard surface to settle the mixture and eliminate air pockets. Put a little more of the mixture in each pumpkin and swirl the top with your finger. Return the pumpkins to the pan.
Place the pan of pumpkins in the oven. The souffles will take 25 to 30 minutes to cook. They will rise at least 1 inch above the tops of the pumpkin and have browned crusts. Serve immediately and at the table float a tablespoon of vanilla ice cream in the center of each soufflé.
The Hudson River Valley Cookbook
By Waldy Malouf
with Molly Finn
Harvard Common Press
Paperback; 316 pages; $16.95
Recipe Reprinted by permission.
This page created December 1998
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