There is more to a pie pumpkin than pumpkin pie...
Others have made that claim before me, but in that spirit, I got up on Thanksgiving Day with the idea that I was going to make some kind of panna cotta out of mine...
Panna cotta recipes traditionally require gelatin, but I am not a huge fan of the "regular" (i.e. meat based) gelatin for multiple reasons. Instead I like to use agar agar, an algae derived "gelatin" which satisfies vegan and health conscious cooks alike. It is fairly potent so while it is relatively costly, a little bit goes a long way.
I thus proceeded to roast that little pie pumpkin for about 30' at 400F (lower if browning too fast) until the skin started to soften and char.
Meanwhile, I heated 2 c of (unsweetened) almond milk and 1 c of (light) coconut milk.
To which I added 1 tsp of vanilla extract.
Once the pumpkin was ready, I fleshed (about 1 c of) it out and added to the warming milk.
I added the agar agar (count 2 tbsp for a softer panna cotta, 3 for a firmer one).
And spices: I chose 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp nutmeg for a light spiciness.
Finally, I added 1/4 c coconut sugar and 1/4 c brown rice syrup.
I let the mixture simmer until the agar agar was dissolved (about 5' once the simmer starts). I added 2 tsbp arrow root dissolved in a bit of almond milk and stirred until the mixture had thickened. I could then blend the mixture in my blender to obtain a smooth liquid.
Which I poured into ramekins and chilled in the refrigerator.
By the way:
- I used coconut sugar which has a wonderful "caramelly" taste and brown rice syrup and this combination gave a nice subdued sweetness. However, maple syrup would have been great too (I am in fact itching to try making more of those panna cotta's with maple syrup instead).
- The combination of spices can also be changed/varied (e.g. adding all spice or whatever takes your fancy), or intensified using vanilla pods, cinnamon sticks or fresh ginger or freshly grated nutmeg to infuse the milks...
- These panna cotta's are great for dessert but also breakfast the next day with (instead of!) the post-Thanksgiving turkey breakfast hash.
- The arrow root adds a nice velvety touch to the texture of this panna cotta but it is optional.
- I join Mark Bittman in defending the use of the actual pumpkin in preference to a canned version of it, but if canned is what you have or what you can be bothered with, this will surely be fine.
- Agar agar will actually gel at room temperature so refrigeration is optional if you like to eat at room temperature.
- While this recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free and egg-free, (and vegan! waow!!) it is open to non-dairy-free variations with heavy cream for those stomachs that are ok with it or will want (pretend) to be! (what are Holidays for?)