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Consider this ice cream pie for your holiday mealPublished November 15, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
We all have traditional holiday dishes that family and friends request every year. It is calming and comforting to be able to put these favorites on the Thanksgiving table, yet it’s also fun to start new traditions with updates on classic dishes. For me, the change began when my daughter rejected an old standby, pumpkin praline pie. She just wouldn’t eat it, and it drove me crazy, so I thought about different ways to keep the flavors alive in a new guise. That’s how I came up with an ice cream dessert that has become as popular as my original pumpkin pie.
Among the many variations I have made on this pie, the one I like the most is embellishing the top with a caramel swirl. I’ve made the pie easy to serve by unmolding the pie shell before it is filled, allowing the slices to be cut easily and come right out of the pan. After a big holiday dinner, a slice of this pie is a refreshing finale. Pumpkin-Caramel Ice Cream Pie is now required for our Thanksgiving dessert table, much the same as the turkey is for the main course.
Another nice thing about this pie is that it can be made weeks ahead and frozen. This frees up time for you to concentrate on the other dishes on your menu. Make sure to remove the pie from the freezer 30 minutes before serving and leave it in the refrigerator to soften slowly. You can find excellent pumpkin ice cream varieties at your supermarket. If you don’t have time to make the caramel sauce, markets such as Trader Joe’s offer good prepared ones.
Pumpkin-Caramel Ice Cream Pie
Serves 8 to 10
2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
About 25 gingersnaps, ground into fine crumbs in a food processor (1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 pints pumpkin ice cream
4 tablespoons chilled caramel sauce (see recipe below, or use your favorite store brand)
16 pecan halves for garnish
1 cup warm Caramel Sauce
To make the crust, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Tightly line a 9-inch pie plate (with 2-inch sides) with aluminum foil. In a bowl, mix the pecans and gingersnap crumbs. Add the butter and toss the crumbs to blend well. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and sides of the pie plate, using the back of a spoon, the heel of your hand or your fingers. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Bake for 6 minutes, or until just set. Let cool.
Chill the crust in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove from the freezer, and unmold the pie shell onto a flat surface. Very carefully peel away the foil so the shell stays intact. Return it to the pie plate.
To make the filling, soften the ice cream in a large bowl, and mix with a large spoon until thoroughly blended and no lumps remain. Spoon into the pie shell and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. With a teaspoon, dot the top of the pie with 4 tablespoons of the caramel. Use a skewer to make a pretty swirl or other design, moving it back and forth about 1/2 inch deep into the ice cream. Arrange the pecans around the outside edge of the pie, pushing them into the ice cream.
Freeze the pie for at least 2 hours. When it is frozen, cover tightly with foil. To serve, thaw slightly in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with the warm caramel sauce.
Advance preparation: Make up to 1 month ahead, cover tightly, and freeze. Thaw slightly in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.
Makes about 1 cup
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the sugar and water in a medium-heavy saucepan. Do not use a dark-colored pan, or you will not be able to see the color of the caramel. Dissolve the sugar in water over low heat. Turn up the heat and continually swirl the pan over the flame. The mixture will become bubbly. If sugar crystals form on the sides of the pan, cover it for 1 minute to dissolve them. Boil the mixture until it turns a dark golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Watch carefully, as the caramel can burn easily, and if it is too dark, it will continue to cook and taste burnt.
Remove the caramel from the heat and let it cool, making sure it is still liquid. Return the caramel sauce to low heat and stir in the cream and vanilla, constantly stirring to create a caramel sauce. The mixture may look separated, but continue to whisk it and it will become smooth in a few minutes. Keep warm if serving immediately.
Advance preparation: May be prepared up to 5 days ahead, covered and refrigerated.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 20 cookbooks, including her most recent, Seriously Simple Parties (Chronicle Books, 2012), and is also a James Beard award-winning radio-show host. Contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.