Wednesday, November 25, 2009


When your job is to serve someone else, you will inevitably be asked to do something that you would rather not do. The old adage that the customer is always right rings truer than we sometimes think. A few weeks ago, a regular started asking when I would be doing a pumpkin dessert. About the same time, cries for a cheesecake special also started popping up. Something about fall makes people crave the fatty, the rich, and the homey.
Now, as I have said before, I have no real problem with homey. Fatty and rich? Well, there’s nothing that feels more Fall than that. It is ironic to me that I look forward so much to Thanksgiving, and yet I dislike so much of the “classic” Thanksgiving food. Cranberries: get those out of here. Stuffing: too savory. Mashed potatoes: boring. Pumpkin pie: no way. So when customers challenged me to make a fall dessert, I put it off as long as possible, but one can only delay for so long. With the coming holiday, I knew I had to do something.

I’m convinced that most people don’t actually like pumpkin. Most pumpkin pies are so heavily laden with spices that it mush be an attempt to mask the pumpkin flavor. I decided that if I were going to do something with pumpkin, it would be something that let the true pumpkin flavor shine through. A pumpkin and white chocolate semifreddo (which literally means “half frozen” in Italian) keeps the flavors light and smooth. To incorporate the spicy element, I made a pumpkin cake as the base of the semifreddo that has ginger and nutmeg and cinnamon; all the traditional pumpkin pie flavors. To keep the fall motif going, I added a sage-apple cider reduction that brightens up the dish with some acidity. As a last touch, I added in a little cranberry gelée. The cranberry, barely sweetened, also added a touch of bitterness to cut through the sweet white chocolate.

For most people that would have been enough, but I felt that the plate was a little lacking In my search for a pumpkin dessert that I would actually be willing to make, I stumbled across a lot of pumpkin cheesecakes. In fact, my original idea was to make a frozen pumpkin

cheesecake and satisfy both parties. The pumpkin element obviously changed, but the idea of frozen cheesecake stuck in my brain. After all, cheesecake is essentially a custard that’s baked. Why can’t it be frozen? Or better yet, churned and frozen. That’s right, its cheesecake ice cream. While the recipe needs to be tweaked, because it froze up a little too firm, the flavor is there. A scoop of that, anchored to the plate with a graham cracker crumble, and you have a nice looking dessert.

That’s two birds, for those keeping score.

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