Every year I do my very best to hold out on pumpkin-themed treats for as long as I possibly can. For some reason, I’m under the impression that by withholding fall’s goodness until mid-October, I’ll somehow appreciate it’s toasty charm more amply when I do finally indulge. Most years, this strategy proves successful. I never tire of pumpkin spice and I’m dependably excited for its arrival at every new fall’s onset. This is in line with my strict no Christmas before Thanksgiving policy but that’s a topic for next month.
BUT, last weekend, ahead of schedule and in a moment of weakness, I had my first (homemade) pumpkin spice coffee. So, oops, the seal is broken. Let’s go all out on pumpkin, shall we?
Immediately, my tastebuds scream PIE! But since we are still just dipping our toes into fall, it seems a touch early for pumpkin of the pie variety (my personal favorite). But panna cotta? Panna cotta is season agnostic. A blank canvas for flavor, panna cotta can be made to satisfy any sort of seasonally-inspired whim and produces a restaurant-worthy dessert without requiring the oven. Its gelatin and cream base forms a unique custard that maintains a light texture making it the perfect ending to a rich meal, but also one that’s hearty enough to stand up to a little pumpkin pie-inspired infusion. That’s a beautiful thing.
This pumpkin panna cotta tastes like the most delicious pumpkin pie filling you’ve ever tasted. In fact, I’m so smitten that I’m feeling pretty inspired to test a recipe using it as a pie filling for Thanksgiving this year. No-baking and no fear of cracked pie filling? That’s a win, win if you ask me. But for today’s purposes, we’re sticking to a more simple presentation, topped with salted maple caramel made from real maple syrup and not much else.
The balance of the creamy, spice-heavy panna cotta with the maple caramel’s sweet and salty bite is utter perfection. This dessert truly features simple, straightforward fall flavors at their best, prepared in a way that’s impressive enough for a dinner party while requiring surprisingly few steps for the pastry chef (that’s you). Enjoy!
- 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered gelatin
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups cream
- 2/3 cups light brown sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- pinch cloves
- 1 cup real maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- healthy pinch salt
- pepitas, for garnish
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 cup of whole milk and let set for 10 minutes.
- Add the remaining milk, cream and brown sugar to a medium saucepan. Heat until just before boiling, stirring occasionally.
- Whisk in the gelatin mixture, salt, pumpkin puree and spices. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Strain mixture through a mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth. Note the cheese cloth is optional but if you don't strain the mixture it may separate while it chills.
- Pour strained mixture into 6-8 ramekins or serving dishes of your choice. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.
- In a thick-bottomed saucepan, heat the maple syrup until boiling. Boil softly for about 7-10 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture will bubble quite a bit as it's cooking. To test if it's ready, dip a spoon into the mixture. If the syrup coats the spoon and starts to become caramel-like as it cools, it's ready.
- Remove from the heat and add the butter and cream, stirring until the butter is melted. Add the salt and stir to combine.
- Let cool to room temperature. This final product should be slightly thinner than traditional caramel.
- To serve, pour caramel over the top of each panna cotta and sprinkle with roasted pepitas.