A common topic of conversation these days, both face-to-face and on social media, is whether Thanksgiving desserts are gluten-free. Apparently, most people think of the pie primarily: pumpkin, apple, and pecan. The pies have crusts, usually made from wheat. There are gluten-free options, but it is not easy to become adept at using them.
Still, there are plenty of delicious options that naturally don’t have gluten. A year ago I served cranberry soup at the end of our non-traditional meal, but it included pasta with orange peel, so it’s over. Another year I made Pumpkin Cream Jars, which are festive, delicious, and gluten free.
Overall, I prefer fruit desserts at the end of a meal, especially a large meal. It’s easier, of course, in the summer, but it’s not difficult now either. We have several types of persimmons, apples, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, kumquats and quinces, all of which can be made into a simple, refreshing dessert.
And then there is the chocolate. Chocolate mousse is an easy crowd pleaser, and even white chocolate mousse has its fans. They can be served neat, with fruit sauce or with each other, presented dramatically in a tall glass with alternating layers. Both need to be prepared in advance, so there isn’t much you can do at the last minute.
These little jars of cream are bursting with seasonal flavors and aromas. They don’t need any sauce, but a few candied nuts make a great accompaniment. As for the spices of this dish, in particular the two kinds of pepper, they evoke those of ancient Rome, when the desserts were loaded with species, especially pepper. For anyone who finds sweets a little cloying, the inclusion of spices often tames this quality.
Pumpkin Cream Jars
For 6 persons
2 half and half cups
⅓ cup of sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
2 thin slices of fresh ginger
1 tablespoon of white peppercorns
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1 1-inch cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
2 allspice berries
A few grated nutmeg
1 cup mashed winter squash
6 large egg yolks, preferably organic, lightly beaten
4 ounces of candied walnuts or pecans
Pour half and half into a medium saucepan and stir in the sugar and salt. Add the peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice and nutmeg and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, stirring continuously, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk the squash puree into the half-and-half mixture. Pass the mixture through a sieve, squeezing as much of the pumpkin as possible. What remains in the sieve should be very dry; Throw it away.
Fill a kettle halfway with water and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks into the pumpkin mixture. Pour the cream into 4-ounce cream cups or ramekins and place them carefully in a baking dish or roasting pan. Carefully pour boiling water into the baking dish until it rises halfway up the ramekins. Cover the dish loosely with foil, crimping the corners so that it rests just on the ramekins while the custard cooks. Transfer to the oven.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cream is set. Transfer the cream molds or ramekins to a wire rack to cool.
Serve warm or chilled, with candied walnuts sprinkled on top or on the side.
White chocolate has an undeserved bad reputation. It cannot legally be called chocolate because this name requires cocoa. But it is the fruit of cocoa, without cocoa. It’s rich, voluptuous, and almost always flavored with vanilla, which is added to most dishes that contain it. White chocolate mousse is delicious pure, but you can top it with a simple fruit sauce such as mashed raspberries with raspberry and sugar or a freshly made cranberry and orange sauce.
White chocolate mousse
Makes 4-6 servings
5 ounces of white chocolate, in pieces
¼ cup butter
3 eggs, separated
½ cup icing sugar (powdered), sifted
¼ cup of Grand Marnier or similar liqueur
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of tangerine zest
Fill the bottom part of a double boiler one third full with water and heat over medium heat. Put the white chocolate and butter in the upper half of the boiler and when the water starts to simmer, put the upper part in the lower part. Keep the heat low so that the water simmers gently.
Stir gently from time to time while the ingredients melt. When completely melted, remove the top from the heat.
Place the egg yolks, icing sugar and liqueur in a medium stainless steel bowl and beat vigorously with an electric mixer until the mixture forms a slow, even ribbon when the beaters are raised. Place the bowl on the double boiler and whisk the mixture constantly until it thickens; it will take three to four minutes. Off the heat, pour the white chocolate mixture and stir gently until the mixture cools. Put aside.
Pour the cream into a medium bowl and use clean whisks to whip it until stiff, soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and tangerine zest. Put aside. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks.
Finally, incorporate the egg whites into the chocolate preparation then gently incorporate the whipped cream; do not over mix.
Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours. Alternately, pour into serving glasses, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Adding a little salt to chocolate desserts is surprisingly good. So even if it sounds a little weird, give it a try. If you decide to serve it with a white chocolate mousse, layered in a tall glass, finish with the chocolate mousse and salt only the top layer.
Salted Chocolate Mousse
For 6 to 8 people
10 ounces of premium sweet and sour chocolate, cut into chunks
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
4 extra large eggs, separated
¾ teaspoon of kosher salt
teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
Maldon salt flakes, Peruvian pink salt or other flaked salt
Place the chocolate and butter in the upper part of a double boiler placed on barely simmering water. When the ingredients are melted, stir in the vanilla, egg yolks and kosher salt. Remove from heat and reserve.
Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a dry mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Slowly sprinkle with sugar, beating on high speed, until the egg whites are firm but not dry. Stir a quarter of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture. Stir in remaining egg white mixture; do not over mix.
Pour the mousse into individual serving dishes such as ramekins or stemmed wine glasses. Sprinkle a few flakes of salt on each serving.
Refrigerate at least three hours before serving.
Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The Good Cook’s Book of Salt & Pepper”. Email him at [email protected]