Seasoning is key when using pumpkin in desserts. The vanilla and spices are crucial to bringing the whole recipe together while the delicate praline of pumpkin seeds and caramelised sugar brings texture and a sweet crunch.
This creative pumpkin dessert is sure to impress. A lovely alternative to the more traditional Thanksgiving pie, this recipe uses the whole pumpkin, including the crunchy seeds, so nothing goes to waste. Think of it as contributing to your five a day!
To note: Choosing the right pumpkin is essential. My favourite is a Kabocha (or Japanese pumpkin), much sweeter than hefty carving pumpkins and a lot less stringy. Alternatively, use a Crown Prince which is easier to find in the supermarket and recognisable by its greyish outer skin. The firm flesh is packed with flavour.
Before you start: The ganache needs time to set so prepare it and the meringue at least a day before you need them. The advance prep makes this dessert very straightforward to put together.
To prepare the chocolate ganache: Put the milk and cream in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until frothy. Pour the hot cream over the egg mixture and stir gently until thickened.
Pour this mixture over the chocolate pieces in three parts, stirring carefully each time with a wooden spoon until all the chocolate has melted. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge to cool and set.
To prepare the meringue: Preheat your oven to 120ºC. Make sure your egg whites are at room temperature and your mixing bowl is spotless.
Whisk the whites on a medium speed until foamy and doubled in volume. Gradually add the sugar and cornflour until the whites are stiff and glossy. Using a palette knife, spread a thin coat of meringue over a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until crisp on the outside and soft in the middle.
On the day of serving: Peel and halve the pumpkin and remove the seeds. Cut into bitesize morsels, place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook the pumpkin until the flesh yields to the tip of a knife (this will take about 8 minutes) but it is still firm.
Strain and set to one side. Rinse the pumpkin seeds under cold water and remove any membrane. Dry the seeds on kitchen paper before spreading out on a baking tray. Cook the seeds for 10 minutes at 180ºC until dry and crisp but not coloured.
To prepare the praline: Place the sugar, water and salt in a saucepan and heat until the syrup reaches 117ºC; this usually takes 6 to 8 minutes. Add the seeds to the pan and stir continuously with a wooden spoon over a gentle heat until all the seeds are coated in caramel.
Once the caramel has coloured (don’t let it get too dark) carefully tip the caramelised seeds onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Leave to cool and harden then break into pieces.
Create a dry caramel by putting the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a small frying pan and set over a gentle heat. Melt the sugar and add the cooked pumpkin chunks to the pan. After 3 to 4 minutes, when the sugar has melted completely, add the butter to the pan and make sure all the pumpkin pieces are coated in caramel.
To serve: Dress each plate with several chunks of caramelised pumpkin, a generous scoop of chocolate ganache and a slick of caramel syrup, scatter over the praline pumpkin seeds and broken meringue pieces.