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You’ve got the standards done. Now, hmmm, the dessert that no one has had before. Or the dessert that reminds you of Thanksgivings past. Or just the easy dessert that you can make with the help of willing small hands (that’s the Free-form Apple Pie). Three options:

Pumpkin Custard No. 1

Cranberry Nut Pie

Free-Form Apple Pie

Here’s to happy memories in the Thanksgiving kitchen!

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Last week, I was talking about Pumpkin Custard No. 1 with April, whom I met at an American Marketing Association event. She sounded kind of interested in the dessert. “Could I add pecans?,” she asked. I didn’t delve beyond the feeling that pecans, pumpkin and Thanksgiving just all go together for her. Makes sense.

I said, “Definitely! I’d toast some pecans, maybe candy them, and chop them not too fine. Then you serve the pumpkin custard with whipped cream on top, and sprinkle a healthy handful of pecans on as well…” and I realized that right there we were coming up with something that would feel and taste different from just plain Pumpkin Custard No. 1. Just enough of a twist — on the recipe or on how you serve something — and you’ve made a dessert yours.

April, if that sounded good to you, here are two options for creating your glazed or candied pecans:

  • Viviane Bauquet Farre has maple-glazed pecans on the salad in her vegetarian Thanksgiving. (You have to scroll down a bit, but who’s complaining with this menu of hers??)
  • Suzie the Foodie has the most gloriously photographed candied pecans on her page. (If you’re upping this recipe, you don’t need to increase sugar and water in the same proportion. I made this with 1/2 cup pecans, 4 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water, following Suzie’s cooking instructions.)

And from all of you, I want to hear this: How are you making what’s probably a pretty traditional set of desserts reflect you and your family at Thanksgiving? What do you do to make your mark on dessert?

Me, I’m going to make Grammy’s Pumpkin Pie with a cream-cheese crust. Too rich? Maybe. I’ll let you know!

I went through Grammy’s recipes with my father — her son — several times. We would look for what was not there, such as Tipsy Parson, as well as talk about the recipes I already had.

When Dad got to Grammy’s pumpkin pie recipe, he stopped and smiled. “People who didn’t like pumpkin pie were converted when they ate Grammy’s,” he said.

The pie is lighter than most pumpkin pies, thanks to the trick of separating the eggs and beating the whites. I’d also credit the relatively large quantity of grated nutmeg for the pleasure in this pie.

Crust got a bit brown this time...

Grammy’s Pumpkin Pie

Serves 8

  • Pastry for one-crust 9-inch pie
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Put pumpkin puree in large bowl. Add salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and egg yolks; mix. Add sugar, cream and melted butter; mix. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Add to pumpkin mixture and fold in gently.

Line pie pan with pastry; pour in pumpkin mixture. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until pie filling puffs up and begins to brown; a knife stuck in about two inches from the edge should come out clean. If crust begins to get too dark at about the 20-25 minute mark, protect it with a crust-cover or strips of tin foil to prevent over-browning.

Recipe and photograph copyright 2009 Garside Group LLC

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