As beautiful as simplicity is, it can become a tradition that stands in the way of exploration.
– Laura Nyro
A few Turkey Days ago, my family and I celebrated at a friend’s house. The meal was wonderful, of course, but mostly I remember the dessert table. There were pies and cakes, chocolate and pumpkin and everything in between. My sweet tooth was in absolute bliss. But the one thing that I knew I had to adopt for my own immediately was a pumpkin gingerbread trifle. Layers of fluffy pumpkin mousse and thick, rich hunks of gingerbread under a mountain of whipped cream won my baker’s heart faster than I could lick the spoon. And it has been a personal holiday tradition ever since.
So this year, I of course planned to make it for Thanksgiving because no holiday season will ever be complete without it again. But for a variety of reasons, too much of my year has been spent feeling like I’m going nowhere. In a rut I couldn’t see how to dig myself out of. I needed some kind of shift. I needed to feel free to explore, to do something new, and to not care what others thought about it.
Then I found this recipe for pumpkin tiramisu. Inspiration, indeed.
In the case that you do not:
- lack any kind of social life
- have a plethora of time on your hands
- have an insane desire to make absolutely everything from scratch
- or all of the above,
I will give you the pumpkin tiramisu recipe in its entirety before explaining the lady
fingers cheeks extravaganza. I’m still very happy I made them from scratch; I’m just thinking that realistically, normal human beings who don’t plan out entire weekends around baked goods may prefer to use the store-bought lady fingers. Even if they are considerably lacking in the charm and, more importantly, leftovers that my little lovelies had.
gently adapted from this Bon Appetit recipe
You will need:
- springform pie pan
- wax paper
- 12 oz (1 1/2 c) whipping cream
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 8 oz mascarpone cheese
- for all you New Englanders, may I recommend Vermont Creamery’s? Local is love!
- 15 oz pure pumpkin (canned is fine!)
- 1/2 tsp each of ginger & cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp each of cloves & nutmeg
- 6 oz ladyfingers (recipe to follow)
- 4 – 6 Tbs rum
- 2 oz crumbled amaretti cookies
And no, I did not make the amaretti from scratch. I’m crazy, not suicidal. [Amaretti are delicious little Italian almond cookies; see my very first encounter with them here in my cooking class in Florence!]
1. Line the bottom of your pie pan with the wax paper. I did it by opening up the pan, placing the paper over the bottom sheet, then re-springing(?) the pan back together. Use a sharp knife to cut the wax paper around the edges.
2. Crowd the bottom of the pan with ladyfingers and sprinkle generously with rum. The original called for 4 Tbs for both layers…I’m pretty sure I went well over that. And I would do it all over again.
3. Beat the whipping cream with the sugar until it is…um, whipped cream.
4. Add the pumpkin, marscapone, and spices; I highly recommend freshly grated nutmeg. No need to measure, just whip out your microplane and grate a little into the mix.
5. Mix well.
6. Spread half of the pumpkin mixture over the fingers; repeat the layering once more (ladyfingers>rum>pumpkin.)
7. Grate a little extra fresh nutmeg over the top for a lovely scent & speckled look.
8. Let set for several hours – overnight is best.
9. Just before serving, crush the amaretti and sprinkle them over the top.
10. Eat your pumpkin-lovin’ heart out.
Sounds pretty simple, right? It is, especially the eating part. I highly recommend this recipe, as I would most that involve mascarpone cheese.
Makes enough to keep you from making them again for a solid few months
So, as you may or may not now, traditional ladyfingers are made by piping the batter into a long finger-like shape and then baked – I know, control your shock.
I am always looking for ways to decrease dish pile-up and general mess while baking. This recipe, which is actually for tiramisu cupcakes, makes the cookies in the bottom of muffin tins because they are the base of the cupcake. I liked this idea, because it seemed a lot easier than modeling a pastry bag out of a Ziploc (I’ve done it before, and I’m not a fan). I decided to use mini muffin tins, and thus, ladycheeks were born.
So let’s do this.
You will need:
3 bowls (two large, one small)
mini muffin tins
4 eggs, separated
2/3 c. + 2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder**
**Note: I was in the process of reading a lot of recipes before making these and used more than double the amount of baking powder by accident. It really didn’t change the flavor, though I can’t speak to what the exact texture should be. Let me know if you make them!
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Separate your egg yolks and whites.
Make sure there is NO YOLK in your whites, or they won’t beat up right. (That yellowy spot you see in the whites isn’t yolk, just an extra dense glob.)
Also, I recommend separating at least your whites, if not your yolks, in a separate prep bowl before you put them in the large mixing bowl to make sure no shards of shell get in. There’s nothing ladylike about uncalled-for crunching.
3. Beat egg whites with an electric beater (unless, of course, you have Hulk-like capabilities) until they form “soft” peaks.
I love this part.
4. Add 2 Tbs sugar, then continue to beat until you have “stiff” peaks and the mix is glossy.
5. In your other bowl, beat the yolks, 2/3 c. sugar, and vanilla together until thick and pale.
6. In the smaller bowl, whisk the flour, spices and baking powder together.
7. Fold half the egg white mix into the yolk mix (don’t beat).
8. Fold in the flour.
9. Then fold in the rest of the egg whites.
10. Spray the muffin tins with your nonstick cooking spray and fill each cup with about a tablespoon of batter – you’re NOT making muffins, so you only want them to fill half or less than the cup.
11. Bake for 4 minutes and check on them – it might have been the excessive baking powder in mine, but these babies are done FAST. Check on the every minute or so. Repeat until your batter is done; I made 2 dozen at a time and probably had about 5 batches (which is around 120 cheeks). There were quite a few left over, but these are really a very delicious little teatime snack. You could probably get away with cutting the recipe in half, but it really depends on your layering technique.
12. As you can see in the picture above, I cut mine in half to layer them because they puffed up more than I expected. On my second layer, I gave in to laziness and threw them on whole. Because their main job is just to soak up all the rum and pumpkin-y flavors…and the rum, it really doesn’t matter which way you go.
And there you have it…ladycheeks a la WBIB. High-maintenance, quick to burn, and sweet all at once – a truly ladylike treat.