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Canadian Thanksgiving was a few weeks ago, so we’ve already gone through the eating. We were lucky not to have to prepare our dinner ourselves. Instead, we ate dinner with our favourite food friends and their family. They cooked for 18 people (sorry guys, if I got the number wrong. If it was more, the idea remains the same– impressive), and all that we had to do was the pie. So on Thanksgiving Sunday I was in my kitchen rolling out pie crust for six pies– and pleading with and cajoling and cursing at the pastry. In the end, it turned out okay, but as I was making the pumpkin pie filling, my mother’s classic recipe, Carlo mentioned that it would taste good frozen. That’s how our ice cream was born.

Growing up in Canada, I always celebrated Thanksgiving twice. My parents, Americans, collected an assortment of American friends who came over every year to celebrate the US holiday. Now that I’m across the country and planning my own feasts, I think I’m going to hold on to this idea. It’s like having a test run. Or two Christmases.

If you’re looking for an alternative Thanksgiving idea, I offer you these pastry bites. The ice cream on its own is divine. I modified my mother’s pumpkin pie filling recipe (if you’re interested in the original filling, let me know. The proportions and ingredients are nearly identical to this one, but the technique for preparation is a little simpler) to create a rich custard base in which the typical, warm pumpkin spices steeped. After the spices were steeped in, I added some pumpkin puree and bits of candied ginger. The result is a smooth, cool base warmed up by cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, with a bit of extra texture from the pumpkin. The candied ginger is optional, but I like the chewy zing that it offers.

However, this ice cream popped into a cream puff (profiterole) take the whole thing over the top. The buttery, eggy puff is a nod to pie pastry without the necessary fiddling and rolling. Julia Child says in Mastering the art of French Cooking that once you have the profiterole technique down, it’ll take you no more than 30 minutes to get the puffs assembled and into the oven. This is an excellent recipe to have in your arsenal, because you can use it in a million different ways. When I was a little girl, my mother used to make these and fill them with whipped cream. My brother and friends have also filled them with Bailey’s whipped cream. As Julia Child notes, you can also make a savoury version (for example, my friend makes them with cheese). Finally, ANY kind of ice cream goes inside profiteroles beautifully, and their nubbly, puffy tops are perfect receptacles for caramel or chocolate syrup. Next time I make these, I’m considering a ginger caramel syrup to go on top of the puffs. Ooh… I’m hungry again.

makes about 1 litre (1Qt.)

2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar, but white sugar would work fine too. Depends on the flavours you’re interested in)
5 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
pinch of nutmeg (optional–I never add it)
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (homemade or canned; just make sure not to buy premade pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup candied ginger, diced small (optional)

To prepare the custard:

-Whisk together the egg yolks, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a small bowl until they’re well-blended. Set them aside.
– Warm the cream and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. Bring it almost to a boil (the surface will begin to ripple), but do not allow it to boil, or else it will cook your egg yolks. When the surface ripples, remove the cream from the heat.
-Temper the egg yolks by pouring 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into the yolks, whisking them constantly. Pour the tempered yolk-cream mixture back into the sauce pan, again whisking constantly.
-Put the saucepan back over medium heat and stir it (yeah… still constantly) with a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened into a custard. DO NOT ALLOW IT TO BOIL. You’ll know it’s done when the custard coats the back of the spoon without running. (Here’s an image)

To prepare and freeze the ice cream:

-Strain the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium stainless-steel bowl. Stir in the pumpkin puree and mix well.
-To cool the mixture, fill a large bowl with ice cubes and a bit of cold water. Place the bowl with the ice cream base into the larger bowl and stir the custard for about five minutes to chill it. At this point, you can be quick and not-so-gourmet and freeze the base immediately (which we often do with our ice creams). The base, as long as it has been chilled over the ice until it’s really cold, freezes well and has a good texture. Your second alternative, to chill the ice cream base in the fridge for 4-24 hours is a better choice, as it yields a slightly creamier texture. The choice is yours, but honestly, if you haven’t got much time, don’t worry. Freezing immediately works just fine.
-Last step: freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When the mixture is done, turn it quickly into a steel bowl that has about half the candied ginger in it. Working quickly, sprinkle the rest of the ginger on top and stir it all in before transferring the ice cream to a storage container.
-It’s best to freeze your ice cream for at least a few hours to firm it up before eating it.

recipe adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, for 10-12 puffs about 3 inches in diameter.

1 cup water
6 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, plus one extra for glazing the tops of the puffs

-Preheat your oven to 425
-In a small saucepan, boil the water, salt, sugar and butter until the butter is melted.
-Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately pour in all the flour. Stir vigorously until the flour is incorporated and the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.
-Put the saucepan back over medium heat and continue stirring the flour mixture until it begins to form a film on the bottom of the pan.
-Remove the saucepan from the heat and make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Break an egg into this well and beat it in until it’s well-incorporated. Do the same with the next egg, continuing until you’ve used up all the eggs. Beat the pastry for a little bit after all the eggs have been incorporated, to ensure everything is holding together well.
-Drop the pastry onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. The puffs should each be about 2 inches across and 1 inch high. Space them about 2 inches apart.
-Beat an egg in a small bowl with a fork. Brush a light coating of beaten egg over the tops of the puffs to help them get super-golden.
-Bake the puffs for 20 minutes, turning them halfway to ensure they brown evenly.
-After 20 minutes, turn down the oven to 375, and continue to bake the puffs for another 10-15 minutes, until they’re golden and crusty.
-Take the puffs out of the oven and make a little inch-long horizontal slit in the side of each puff. Then put them back in the turned-off oven, with the door a little ajar. This will help them to dry out inside, so they’re not soggy.


Cut the puffs in half after they’ve cooled. Empty out the moist insides with your fingers, then fill the puffs with a scoop or two of pumpkin ice cream. If you’ve got whipped cream, please use it. Add a little dollop on top of the ice cream before replacing the cap of the profiterole. If you’re feeling really decadent, consider a glug of caramel syrup on top of it all.


We’re going all pumpkin around here lately. I guess all that puree stored in the freezer is weighing on my mind. Here’s one of the ways I’ve been using it up. These pumpkin-pecan madeleines are flavoured with brown sugar and browned butter, which adds a richness that perfectly complements the pumpkin. It took me three tries to get this recipe down. The first time they didn’t rise high enough, the second time I added vanilla (I discovered that it just got in the way) and I forgot to butter the tins. Finally, on the third round, everything aligned. These little cakes are hardly madeleines anymore, what with the pumpkin and the brown sugar and the crunchy, candied nuts, but they’re so pretty, and I love how their edges get nice and crispy when they’re baked in a madeleine tin. I also highly recommend the browned butter method for combination with pumpkin. It’s a deep flavour that goes perfectly with brown sugar.


-If you don’t have a madeleine tin, I think these would work as mini-muffins instead.
-Grease your tin really, really well. If you don’t, your madeleines won’t brown nicely AND they won’t come out of your tin. -Candying (and in fact, even toasting) the pecans is optional, but I like it because the madeleine batter is not very sweet.
-If you use canned solid-pack pumpkin instead of homemade puree, I recommend mixing it with your melted butter before adding it to the batter. This should soften it enough to make it easy to incorporate.
-I added some baking powder to the recipe because my madeleines didn’t rise as much as I would have liked (as I had to cut back on butter in order to add pumpkin). If you have a way to cut the baking powder, let me know.


1/4 cup butter, plus more for toasting pecans and greasing madeleine tin
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar, plus 2 tsp. for candying pecans
1/3 cup + 1Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
1/4 cup chopped pecans

First, do your preparation: preheat your oven to 350. Chop the pecans and sift the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.

Next, melt your butter in a small pan over medium heat. It will froth up, then reduce again as it begins to brown and turn a rich nutty colour. When it is brown, pour it through a fine-mesh strainer (this gets rid of any solids that might have formed) into a small bowl. Set the browned butter aside to cool as you prepare your pecans and batter.

In the same frying pan you used to brown the butter, toast the pecans with a teaspoon or so more butter. When they are getting golden, toss approximately 2 tsp. of brown sugar in and stir the pecans to coat them well. Remove them from the pan and set them aside to cool.

To prepare the batter, first beat the two eggs together with a pinch of salt. You can use a standing mixer if you’ve got one (lucky you!), a handheld electric mixer (this is what I did), or if you’re tough, do it by hand. Beat the eggs until they’re pale yellow, thick, and syrupy. They will also have gained some volume. Next, beat in your brown sugar, adding it in large pinches to the eggs while you continue beating. When all the sugar has been incorporated, continue beating until your mixture has gained even more volume and holds the marks of the beater for a few seconds (like softly-whipped cream).

After you’ve beaten the eggs, sprinkle the flour overtop and gently fold it in with a spatula. Don’t be rough and overstir, but don’t be afraid to be firm with it either. Next, fold in the butter and pumpkin, ensuring they are well-incorporated.  Finally, fold in the pecans.

Put the batter into your (well-greased!!) madeleine tin, a big tablespoon for each little mold. Most of the madeleines recipes I consulted said that the batter would spread in the heat of the oven, but I didn’t find this to be true. Instead, I used the back of a spoon to spread the batter evenly in the molds. I filled the molds approximately 3/4 full, maybe a little bit more. I had exactly enough batter for 12 madeleines.

Bake your madeleines for 12-15 minutes, turning the pan once halfway through cooking to ensure they brown evenly. They will be golden and springy when they’re ready.

Once you remove them from the oven, cool your madeleines in the tin before popping them out and eating them. Try them with tea or coffee.

I’ve got a lot of pumpkin in my freezer right now, thanks to Halloween. I also promised I was going to make a post about how to roast pumpkin. Now that I’ve done it once I won’t ever buy canned pumpkin again. It was too easy! I’ve read all over the place that sugar pumpkin is the only acceptable pumpkin for baking with, but I disagree. My mother has always roasted her plain old Halloween variety and they’ve always been delicious. They come out light and flavourful. The other complaint I’ve read is that regular pumpkins come out stringy, but I’ve never encountered this problem either. As long as you’ve taken care to scrape the pumpkin out well, you’ll be fine.

Tools Needed: Rimmed baking sheet, colander or large strainer, cheesecloth (this one’s optional. I’ve done without).

Preheat your oven to 350.

While your oven is heating, disembowel your pumpkin. First, I cut the cap off, as if I’m going to make a Jack’o’lantern out of it. I find this makes it easier to cut the pumpkin in half. Then I cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the strings and the seeds in the middle. Do a thorough job of this, and remember to set aside your seeds for roasting!

Once your pumpkin is disemboweled, lay the two halves face-down on a rimmed cookie sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and pour a cup or two of water in the base to prevent sticking and burning. Roast your pumpkin for about an hour (less for a small one), or until a fork goes into it like it’s butter.

Remove your pumpkin from the oven. The skin should peel right off. Puree your pumpkin in batches in a food processor and then set your pumpkin mush in a cheesecloth-lined colander over a large bowl. Allow it to drain of excess water overnight. In the morning, you’ll have pumpkin puree! Use it for baking (pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie, the possibilities are endless) or for soup. One thing, though. I’m noticing that all of my pumpkin baking recipes use the same basic spice combos (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves….). Does anyone have any different ideas for pumpkin spicing? I’d love to try something new, but I’m not sure what. Keep an eye out, though, for our pumpkin ice cream with candied ginger, coming up soon!

So it’s Saturday again, and like always, I made some breakfasty baked goods. Pumpkins are on sale post-Halloween, so I picked up a nice big one and roasted it last night. When I think of what to do with pumpkin, I always think of pumpkin muffins. When I was growing up, my mom would often make pumpkin muffins with her freezer store of roasted and pureed pumpkin. When I decided to do the same, I realized I don’t have her recipe! I resorted to another one I’d copied out of my friend’s copy of the November 2006 issue of Gourmet. We’re getting a little Gourmet-heavy, but what can I say? I love that magazine.

I love these muffins too. The pumpkin makes them light and tender. The only changes we made to the recipe were that we used pumpkin we roasted ourselves (instructions on doing that later– I’ve got to spread these things out a bit if we want to have a post a day for the whole month!), and that I added a bit of whole wheat flour instead of using 100% white flour. I think these muffins are good candidates for some whole wheat flour, especially if you’re using home-cooked pumpkin instead of canned, which is a bit thicker. The pumpkin makes the muffins light enough to take a bit of whole-wheat heaviness. The original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, but I’ve never understood the point of pumpkin pie spice. I want to have control over my proportions! So for the spices, feel free to adjust the ratios to your own liking. I’ll have to get my mom’s recipe so I can do a taste test.

Without further ado:

Pumpkin Muffins adapted from Gourmet Magazine

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all -purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a small bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, eggs, spices, sugar and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and stir them just until you don’t see any more flour powderiness. The mixture should be lumpy, so make sure you don’t overstir these.

Plop generous lumps of dough into a well-greased 12 cup muffin tin. If you have muffin liners, use those instead. You’ll save yourself time and oil. Sprinkle sugar onto the tops of each muffin.

Bake the muffins for about 30 minutes. They’re done when the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into their centres comes out clean.