Pumpkin Pie meets Cheesecake

A few days ago we celebrated Thanksgiving. Mom put together a fine feast with help from Dad. Because of work and scheduling, I took a very minor role in this year's celebration: I was on taxi duty to pick up my brother and his girlfriend from the ferry terminal. This meant that I couldn't be at the house to help with the preparations.

Usually each year we have a big feast with all the fixings. And when it comes to dessert, we usually offer not only pumpkin pie but also an apple pie. However, this year time only permitted for one pie; a pumpkin pie. It was delicious; not too sweet, not too heavy. Mom whipped up some cream with Bailey's and it was perfect. The drawback was that there was no leftover pie, not even enough for a second piece.

Which leaves me still craving pumpkin pie a few days later. So today I thought I would combine two classic desserts that I enjoy making: pumpkin pie and cheesecake. I didn't want to make one big dessert, so I opted to make tarts instead. And to be honest, I cheated a little. I had a box of Kirkland brand tart shells from Cosco in the freezer, and I thought, "Well, why not? I gotta use them up sometime."

The tart shells completed, I started with the filling. I just more or less added things into the mixer and gave it a whirl until it looked about the right consistency.

2 pkg cream cheese, softened
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
3 eggs
4 tbsp SpiceBox Whiskey
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
dash ground cloves

Oh yes! Did I forget to mention the SpiceBox Whiskey? I love this stuff for fall baking. It gives pumpkin pies an ADULT flare. I also like adding it to brown butter frosting. Or pecan cookies. But those recipes are for another day.

Anyhow, everything into the mixer starting with the cream cheese. Once that was smooth and creamy, I just added everything else in and let 'er spin until well blended. Then I poured the mixture through a funnel into a couple empty ketchup bottles (the large ones) that I've kept for this purpose. They are so handy for filling tart shells or muffin tins or anything where you need to control the pour of the batter from one place to another. I digress.

I separated the frozen tarts shells onto a rimmed baking sheet. I decided not to let the tart shells thaw out because I knew the baking time for the pumpkin mixture would take about 20 minutes and I didn't want the pastry to over bake while the filling was still firming up. Once the tart shells were each filled 3/4 full, I popped the tray into the center of the 350 degree oven and let them bake for about 20 minutes. When the center filling was firm and slightly domed with small cracks and no jiggle, and the pastry shells were a nice golden brown, it was time to take them out and set them on a cooling rack. 

When the tarts had cooled down, the domes had flattened back down and the cracks sealed up. Because the filling is more dense than a fruit pie, pumpkin pie sweats a little as it cools. This causes the top of each tart to become slightly glossy and caramelized, almost a bit of a brulee effect. Perfect for topping with a little dollop of that Bailey's whipped cream. 

Honey Crisp Apple Sauce

It was a beautiful crisp fall day today. The sun was shining bright, but there was a definite chill to the air. Over the weekend, my mom and I went to Ralph's Produce on Fraser Hwy and picked up a 20lb box of Honey Crisp apples to make applesauce. Even though the boxes were labeled "seconds", the apples were perfect for chopping up and simmering down to a delicious sauce.

Honey Crisp apples are fairly sweet, so they make wonderful applesauce apples. We find we don't need to add a lot sugar to the apples. This year (maybe because of all the warm sunshine through the summer) we found we didn't need to add anything to the apples. Which means each jar is 100% pure apple yumminess.

We start with washing all the apples. A little bit of bruising here and there is okay. No worm holes or rough scale spots to cut away this time, so we are good to go. Next the apples are quartered and then cored, and the seeds are removed. We don't peel the skins off the apples; they boil down with the apple pulp. Then it's into the big stew pot on the stove over medium-low heat.

Basically, the apples turn mushy and soft, and then we take a potato masher and squish them down into a warm, yummy pulp. It's really super technical. Once it's at the consistency we like, Mom (or sometimes Dad) ladle scoops of the mush into the food processor. Couple spins and the skins and apple pulp become one. Then it's into the hot sterilized jars, put on the lids, screw on the rings and into the hot water bath cooker to seal them.

From a 20lb box of apples, we made 23 pint jars of applesauce. We could have made an even 2 dozen jars, but we wanted to keep one open for tasting.

Applesauce is perfect with a number of different dishes, so it is always great to have it on hand in the pantry. Classic pairings include pork chops or pork tenderloin, or fried chicken. A number of muffin and coffee cake recipes call for applesauce. But one of my favourite ways to have applesauce is warm over ice cream with a little cinnamon. The other is chilled and stirred into plain Greek yogurt.

Applesauce is also the last thing we preserve for the winter months and so it marks the end of canning season. Time to put away the canning equipment and start going through those Christmas baking books.......