Serve variety of desserts featuring pumpkin for a taste of fall

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Photo by Ann Cipperly An assortment of pumpkins is pictured at a farm stand in the mountains, as the leaves are changing into brilliant autumn hues. Whether you are cooking fresh pumpkin or using pumpkin from a can, treat your family to a pie, cake or other scrumptious dessert this coming week.

By Ann Cipperly

During October, bright orange pumpkins fill farm stands around the southland as a cheerful sign of autumn. While pumpkins are used in festive fall centerpieces and carved into jack-o’-lanterns, they are best used for making scrumptious desserts.

For years, we would head for the mountains in October to view the stunning displays of color in the Blue Ridge Mountains and visit farmer markets brimming with pumpkins. While we are grounded for now because of COVID-19, we have wonderful memories of carefree days in the mountains with crisp fresh air.

Highlands, North Carolina, with breathtaking views and waterfalls, was always a favorite. It is also a popular place to visit for many others in our area, and some have homes there. Located on the top of a mountain at 4,118 feet of elevation, Highlands offers elegant to rustic accommodations and superb restaurants.

Old Edwards Inn in downtown Highlands is highly regarded as being among the best in the country. The owners, Angela and Art Williams, received their master’s degrees at Auburn University. I was blessed to meet the Williams and write a feature article on them, as well as write about their lovely home in Highlands.

Art and Angela had planned their life together, knowing their dreams at an early age. After they both received master’s degrees from Auburn, Art was a high school football coach like his childhood hero, and Angela was teaching English.

A family tragedy turned their life around. Like a bolt of lightning, Art had a dream that would benefit millions. He changed the industry with his insurance company, A.L. Williams, which became the most successful of its kind in the world. His starting salary of $4,600 as a coach soared to Forbes’ list of billionaires.

In retirement, Art and Angela restored the historic inn in Highlands and created a European style luxury hotel. With the golden touch, the Williams found success again, becoming one of America’s greatest success stories. Art and Angela are proud of what they have accomplished. As Christians, they give God the credit.

The Williams are a close family. Georgia, one of their granddaughters, graduated from Auburn University. They enjoyed trips back to Auburn to visit her and attended football games. Georgia’s husband also graduated from Auburn. They have close ties to Auburn and love the community.

Along with Old Edwards Inn, the Williams have expanded in Highlands with cottages, a lodge, 200 Main and The Inn at Half Mile Farm, in addition to having numerous wedding venues.

Originally Highlands’s earliest boarding house built in 1878, the inn expanded in 1935, incorporating the old Rock Store as its foundation and lobby. The three-story brick and rock inn was called Hotel Edwards. In 2001, the Williams acquired the property and began its extensive restoration.

Sunshine dapples tables at Madison’s, where meals are served in stylish ambience with antiques, artwork, exposed beams and a wall of old stones. Tables are covered with soft cloths and overlays and accented with small vases of roses. Booths adorned with cushions and pillows provide a cozy feeling for lingering over meals.

Madison’s excels with superb food and service. Every item on the menu is prepared from scratch. House made pimiento cheese and crackers are served for nibbling while deciding on seafood or steak.

Succulent beef tenderloin is flawless, served with a port reduction sauce accompanied by fresh vegetables, while seared rib eye steak rests on caramelized onions, Shiitake mushrooms and a marsala ragout to satisfy a hearty appetite.

The Wine Garden has outdoor seating in a serene setting with a cascading waterfall. It is a great place to relax for a burger or chicken salad. Last year, a casual Italian restaurant was built in the former Acorns gift shop.

If you go to Highlands this fall, Wolfgang’s downtown also offers excellent dishes, whether it is light fare in the wine bar or one of the dining rooms. Fireplaces enhance the ambience, while a covered porch area brings in fresh breezes. Outdoor seating is also available.

My favorite at Wolfgang’s is the braised short rib in a flavorful sauce served with garlic mashed potatoes and collards. We enjoyed a meal there with great Opelika friends who have homes in Highlands.

Other favorite dining options include Ristorante Paoletti for delectable Italian dishes and Wild Thyme with outdoor seating. Try the crab cakes or fresh catch.

If you go to Highlands this fall, be sure to go by Dry Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the road going to Franklin. Just be aware it is a winding road.

If you are stuck at home this fall like us, you can savor the flavors and décor fall has to offer at home.

You don’t have to go to the mountains to find pumpkins. Local markets offer a large variety. Following are recipes featuring pumpkin for creating tasty fall desserts. The recipes call for canned pumpkin (not canned pumpkin pie filling), but you can substitute fresh cooked pumpkin.

Ann Cipperly can be reached at recipes@cipperly.com.

How to Cook  Fresh Pumpkin

Kammi Waggony suggests slicing a regular sized pumpkin (not a small one) into 2-3 inch cubes once you have cleaned off all the pulp. Then cook the pumpkin in a large stockpot filled with water for several hours. (I boil it for about an hour and then keep it all at a good simmer for about 4 or 5 hours more until the meat is soft.)

Once it is has cooled, slice the outer skin of the pumpkin, and keep the meat of the pumpkin for baking.

Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes with House-made Cinnamon Maple Syrup

Chef Christian Watson

The Waverly Local

House-made Cinnamon Maple Syrup:

4 cups maple syrup

1 Tbsp. light corn syrup

¼ cup light brown sugar

2 sticks cinnamon

2 Tbsp. water

Place all ingredients in medium pan and reduce by half on low to medium heat.

Remove cinnamon sticks before serving.

Pancakes:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup muesli with pecans

2 tsp. baking powder       

¼ tsp. salt

2 eggs, beaten

1½ cups milk

1 cup pumpkin

2 Tbsp. melted butter plus more for cooking

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine flour, muesli, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Mix in eggs, milk, pumpkin, butter and vanilla. Stir until combined. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

While batter rests, preheat frying pan or griddle to medium heat.

Add small amount of butter to pan, then ladle 1/3 cup portions for each pancake. Cook until bubbles form around the edges, then flip and cook until golden brown.

Serve with cinnamon maple syrup.

Pumpkin Spiced Pancakes with Maple Pecan Syrup

Chef Miguel Figueroa

My kids love Pumpkin Spiced Pancakes. I usually do my traditional pancake mix, or you can use your favorite brand of pancake mix. Just substitute half of the liquid for pumpkin puree. Add more flour or puree if needed. Cook pancakes in a flat griddle with lots of butter (that is my secret).

I warm up the maple syrup with a few toasted pecans. The syrup gets a delicious maple/pecan flavor.

Pumpkin Bars with Buttery Walnut Crust

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup cold butter, cubed

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

15 oz. can pure pumpkin

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

Confectioners’ sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350. Mix flour, sugar and brown sugar; cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in walnuts. Reserve 1 cup mixture for topping; press remaining mixture onto bottom and halfway up sides of a 13 x 9. baking dish.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, pumpkin, milk, cinnamon, salt and allspice just until smooth. Pour into crust; sprinkle with reserved topping.

Bake until golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve warm, or refrigerate and serve cold. If desired, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Refrigerate leftovers.

Pumpkin Crunch

Pam Hope

15-16 oz. can pure pumpkin

3 eggs

1½ cups sugar

12 oz. can evaporated milk

4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

½ tsp. salt

1 pkg. yellow cake mix

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup melted butter

Whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Combine pumpkin, eggs, sugar, evaporated milk, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a large bowl.  Pour into pan.  Sprinkle cake mix evenly over top. Top with pecans. Drizzle with melted butter. Bake for 50 to 55  minutes or until golden.  Serve with whipped topping.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Toffee Topping

Anne Carpenter

Crust:

1½ cups gingersnap cookie crumbs

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1 Tbsp. sugar

Cheesecake:

Three 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup canned pure pumpkin

3 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

½ tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. allspice

Whipped cream

Toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap outside of spring form pan with foil. Mix gingersnap crumbs, butter and sugar; press into the bottom of greased spring form pan. Bake crust about five minutes; set aside.

Combine cream cheese and sugar in bowl of electric mixer; blend until smooth. Add pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and spices; beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl. Pour over crust.

Bake cheesecake for one hour and five minutes until the center is set and the edges begin to crack. Cool in pan. Chill. Can be prepared two days ahead.

Top with sweetened whipped cream and toffee bits. Makes 12 servings.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1 can pure pumpkin

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup dark brown corn syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1 cup chopped pecans

Combine all filling ingredients except pecans.  Pour into pie shell.  Top with pecans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until set.

Easy Pumpkin Pie

Serve with whipped cream.

9 inch unbaked deep dish pie crust

¾ cup white sugar 

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. ground cloves

2 large eggs

15 oz. can pure pumpkin

12 oz. can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. (Do not freeze as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.)

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

Carol Pridgen

2 (14 oz.) pkg. gingerbread mix

1 (5.1 oz.) pkg. cook and serve vanilla pudding mix

1 (30 oz.) can pumpkin pie filling

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 tsp. cinnamon

1 (12 oz.) frozen whipped topping or whipping cream

Bag of gingersnaps.

Bake gingerbread according to directions. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool.

Stir the pumpkin, sugar and cinnamon into the pudding.

Crumble one batch of gingerbread into the bottom of a trifle bowl.

Pour 1/2 pudding mixture over gingerbread. Repeat.

Then add a layer of whipped topping.

Sprinkle top with crushed gingersnaps.

Refrigerate overnight.

Yellow  Sheet Cake with Pumpkin Cheesecake Topping

Cake:

18 1/4-oz. box yellow cake mix

1 egg

8 Tbsp. butter, melted

Cheesecake Topping:

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature

15-oz. can  pure pumpkin

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

8 Tbsp. butter, melted

16-oz. box powdered sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees .

Mix  cake mix, egg  and butter with an electric mixer. Pat mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 x 9  baking pan.

For topping, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla and butter; beat together. Then add powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; mix well.

Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Pumpkin Cake Roll with Cream Cheese Filling

Gigi Blalock

Cake Roll:

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup pumpkin

1 tsp. lemon juice

¾ cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. salt

1 cup finely chopped pecans

Beat eggs at high speed for 5 minutes. Place mixer on low and gradually add sugar to the mixture. Fold in pumpkin and lemon juice. Mix next 6 ingredients together in another bowl then add to batter.

Spray jelly roll pan with Pam, and place wax paper in pan. Spray wax paper with Baking Pam. Spread pumpkin batter on wax paper. Sprinkle nuts over batter.

Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.

Flip roll on towel that has been covered with confectioner’s sugar. Peel off wax paper and roll. Place on rack to cool.

When cool, unroll and cover with filling. Roll again and sprinkle confectioner’s sugar over cake. If it cracks, just keep rolling and you can make them beautiful.

Filling:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

¼ cup melted butter

½ tsp. vanilla

Cream confectioner’s sugar and cream cheese; add melted butter and vanilla. Beat well. Make the filling while the cake is baking to have it ready when the roll is cool.

Frozen Pumpkin Mousse with Pecan-Toffee Crunch

Amy Judkins Himmelwright

For the Crunch:

1 cup pecan pieces

2/3 cup toffee bits

4 tsp. (packed) dark brown sugar

Pinch of salt

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the Mousse:

2 cups whipping cream

¾ cup sugar

5 large egg yolks

1¼ cups canned pure pumpkin

2 Tbsp. dark rum

1¼ tsp. vanilla

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

¼ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. ground allspice

Make the crunch:  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush with vegetable oil.  Combine nuts, toffee, sugar and salt in a bowl.  Add butter and toss to coat.  Place mixture in the middle of the prepared sheet and spread into a single layer.  Bake 15 minutes or until toffee is soft, but not melted.  Once the crunch is cool, break it into coarse bits.

Make the mousse:  Whisk ¾ cup of whipping cream, sugar, and yolks in a medium saucepan until blended.  Heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened about 10 minutes.  Do not let it boil.  Transfer pudding to a large bowl.  Mix in pumpkin, rum, vanilla and remaining spices.  Refrigerate uncovered until cold, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes.

Beat remaining cream in a large bowl until it holds peaks.  Reserve ½ cup of whipped cream for garnish.  Store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Fold remaining whipped cream into pumpkin mixture.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to one day.

The day before you plan to serve, place 1/3 cup mousse in 4 parfaits or goblets.  Place a generous tablespoon of crunch on top.  Repeat the layers two more times and top with reserved whipped cream.  Cover and freeze overnight or up to 2 days.

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