Pumpkin Pie Pudding with Crushed Gingersnaps and Cranberry Caramel
Sometimes I get a little carried away. This dessert might be a prime example.
I haven’t had much time to do fall baking this year which makes me sad, because fall flavors are my favorite. Thinking this might be my only chance to make anything with fall flavors before Thanksgiving, I reasoned that I should make something with ALL of the fall flavors. Pumpkin. Ginger. Cinnamon. Caramel. Cranberry. Apple. Cloves. Pecans. Pears. All of it.
Crazy, I know.
The good news is that I did manage to cram most of those flavors into one little glass. The bad news is that I had to leave a few of them out and that it took a few tries to get it right. If you think I’m some sort of sugary genius, you should know that my first attempt was a spectacularly gross failure. The gingersnaps and pumpkin pie pudding came together brilliantly, but the cranberry caramel was a mess. Literally. It was too sweet, too fruity and too runny, and when layered on top of the silky pumpkin pudding it turned the whole thing into a cracked, soggy, gelatinous blob that resembled organs (according to my husband). Ew.
Lucky for you I have stubborn Irish/Scottish genes and I don’t give up easily. As I was staring bleakly into the fridge at my Failure Caramel, my eye fell on a different jar full of golden, delicious caramel – the same vanilla bean caramel from my Caramel Apple Pie Cupcakes. (Side note: that caramel lasts practically forever in the fridge.) It’s got a great, rich caramel flavor and more importantly it stays creamy even when cold – ideal for pairing with pudding. All it took was heating that caramel and steeping some fresh cranberries in it to create my new favorite thing ever – creamy, rich, slightly tart cranberry caramel. I couldn’t stop tasting it.
Even better, it didn’t even turn my pudding into an organ-like mess overnight. Served with a dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream and some cranberries tossed in sugar, this dessert is all of my most favorite fall flavors in one little glass. Heaven.
Pumpkin Pie Pudding with Crushed Gingersnaps
and Cranberry Caramel
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes roughly 4 6-ounce servings
I wanted this dessert to have layers of flavor, but honestly, the pumpkin pie pudding is good enough to stand on it own. To make the sugared cranberries, I tossed slightly damp cranberries in granulated sugar until coated.
NOTE: This is definitely a make ahead dessert. Plan to make this at least one day ahead of when you will be serving it.
12 gingersnaps, crushed
1/4 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tablespoon molasses
pinch of salt
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup Pumpkin Puree
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Cranberry Caramel Ingredients
1/2 cup vanilla bean caramel sauce (below)
1/4 cup (heaping) fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
Whipped Cream Ingredients
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Break gingersnaps into large pieces with your hands and place into food processor. Pulse until crushed into fine crumbs, pea-size or smaller. Divide evenly among 4 6-ounce or 7-ounce ramekins or glasses. Set aside.
Whisk together brown sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Over low heat, add milk, cream, egg yolks, molasses, and salt. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture starts to thicken. Slowly pour in boiling water while whisking. Stir in pumpkin puree. Continue cooking while whisking until very thick. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes. (For the smoothest pudding, pour pudding through a fine mesh strainer at this point.) Spoon pudding over gingersnap crumbs in prepared ramekins / glasses. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Make the vanilla bean caramel sauce (below) for the Cranberry Caramel and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
Once pudding is cool and set, and vanilla bean caramel has cooled, make the cranberry caramel. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine 1/2 cup vanilla bean caramel sauce and chopped fresh cranberries. Continue to cook over low heat (do not boil), stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until caramel darkens and you can taste the cranberry flavor in the caramel. (Careful – it’s hot!) Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes. Strain caramel into a small bowl, pressing on cranberries to extract all flavor. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until cool but still stirrable. (If it gets too stiff, pop it in the microwave for 8-10 seconds on High until it’s stirrable but NOT hot.) Gently spoon cool Cranberry Caramel over chilled puddings. Can be served immediately or refrigerated overnight.
Just before serving, top with barely sweetened whipped cream (if desired): combine heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer and beat on high with whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Toss damp whole, fresh cranberries in granulated sugar for garnish.
Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce
A word of caution: Making caramel is tricky. Have patience and have all of your ingredients ready to go. Caramel also gets very, very hot. Much hotter than boiling water. It will spatter, so be careful. Wear long sleeves, use a deep pan or pot, and do not try to taste the hot caramel no matter how much you want to! David Lebovitz has some great tips for making caramel.
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Measure heavy cream in a measuring cup. Scrape out vanilla bean seeds and add to cream. Set aside.
Spread sugar in an even layer on the bottom of a heavy, tall-sided sauce pan or pot. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring gently with a heat-proof spatula or whisk to promote even browning, until sugar melts. Once the sugar melts, stop stirring.
Watch carefully. When the caramel turns a rich amber color and smells like caramel, remove from heat and immediately whisk in cream. (Caution: Caramel will bubble violently!) If any sugar has hardened, return to low heat and whisk until smooth.
Cool to room temperature. To store or make ahead, transfer to an air-tight container and keep refrigerated. Caramel can be re-warmed in microwave or in a saucepan over low heat, if needed.