Kitchen Wit and Wisdom: Pumpkin is the star

Cathi Litzenberger offers up sweet treats to wrap up your Thanksgiving feast this year

We have so much to be thankful for in this great country of ours and with Thanksgiving fast approaching, many of us are looking forward to celebrating with traditional turkey,  or other specialty dinners, pumpkin pies or perhaps apple.

Sometimes I think Thanksgiving desserts should be rich, decadent and laced with the satin-smooth texture of pumpkin, and not always in a pie. If you’re looking for something sophisticated and dazzling to place upon your Thanksgiving table, try either of the following dessert recipes. Both have pumpkin, pecans and whipped cream.

Pumpkin Delight Dessert

1 cup flour

½ cup butter (softened)

½ cup plus ¼ cup pecans, chopped

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

3 cups whipped topping, divided

2½ cups milk

3 small pkgs. white chocolate instant pudding mix (or vanilla), 3.4 oz. boxes

1 – 15 oz. can pumpkin

1 tsp. pumpkin spice

Layer 1: Mix flour, butter and ½ cup pecans together. Press into a greased 9×9 or 9×13 pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 F, then remove and let cool.

Layer 2: Blend cream cheese and powdered sugar together, add 1 cup of  whipped topping and spread over cooled crust.

Layer 3: Mix milk, pudding mix, canned pumpkin, pumpkin spice and 1 cup whipped topping until smooth. Spread over top of layer 2.

Layer 4: Spread remaining 1 cup of whipped topping, sprinkle with pecans.

Let chill for 3 hours or until set.

Pumpkin Maple Pecan Cheesecake

1 -1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs (from approximately 12 graham crackers)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

3 (8-oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened

1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin

3 large eggs, at room temperature for 30 minutes

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Maple Pecan Glaze:

1 cup whipping cream

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

For the cheesecake: Finely crush the graham crackers in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or use a food processor. In a large bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter and firmly press into the bottom of 9-inch springform pan.

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually mix in the sweetened condensed milk until smooth. With the mixer on medium, add the pumpkin, eggs, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix well and pour into the springform pan.

Bake until the centre appears nearly set, but jiggles a little when shaken, 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool for 1 hour. Cover and chill overnight, or for at least 4 hours.

For the glaze: In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the whipping cream and pure maple syrup and bring it to a boil. Boil until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chopped pecans. Cover and chill until time to serve. Stir before serving.

To serve: Spoon the Maple Pecan Glaze over the cheesecake.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.