Fall is my absolute favorite season. There is something about the cooler air, the leaves turning crimson and orange, gold and brown. I love the flavors of the fall from butternut squash and pumpkin to tart apples and cranberries. Many of the spices that have sat on the shelf through the summer, including cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg, are the perfect additions to fall cakes and cookies, muffins and pies.
I'm starting with pumpkin! Last Christmas my daughter brought home a recipe from Southern Living for an outrageously good pumpkin pie. It had a layer of gingersnap crumble on top of the regular pie crust, rich pumpkin filling and a streusel topping...plus whipped cream for garnish! Last winter one of our favorite restaurants served a pumpkin dessert that was delicious...a bit lighter than regular pumpkin pie, with a streusel topping and, of course, whipped cream. I looked for a recipe that would give similar results but came up empty.
Recently I borrowed a book from the library called Block Parties and Poker Nights by Peggy Allen. It had lots of dishes to bring to potlucks and poker nights, including one that sounded a lot like that restaurant pumpkin dessert. Never being one to leave well enough alone, I decided to combine aspects of the Christmas pie and the potluck pumpkin dessert by putting a gingersnap crust under the pumpkin dessert layer. I'm here to tell you that this is one spectacular and awesome and excellent dessert! Just ignore your diet when you take your serving. After having a generous portion and giving one to Sweetie I decided that we really couldn't let this dessert remain in the house.
It doesn't look like anything special in the pan or even when you put a portion in the bowl. The whipped cream makes it look more special, but it is still a timid looking sweet. Then you taste it!It is rich, spicy, light but creamy and probably addictive. The gingersnaps at the bottom gives it zing and goes perfectly with the spicy pumpkin filling. I think the walnuts on top are crucial because they add needed crunch. You can leave them out, but I wouldn't.
The remaining dessert was taken to the lovely folks at the local library...after all without the library I would never have found the recipe! Besides, they are always a pleasure to speak with, always helpful, knowledgeable and hard working, too. Now they want my recipe...and who can blame them?
So for Jennifer and the other lucky librarians who had a taste of this dessert, and for anyone who wants a wicked good pumpkin dessert that will feed quite a few people, here it is!
Pumpkin Dessert with Gingersnap Crust– Better Than Pumpkin Pie
Inspired by Block Parties and Poker Nights by Peggy Allen
40 gingersnap cookies, finely crushed (about 2 cups)
½ cup finely ground nuts (I used walnuts, but pecans work well, too)
½ cup butter, melted
2 ½ cups (28 oz can) pumpkin puree
2 cups milk
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1.2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 (18-oz) package yellow cake mix
¼ pound (1 stick) butter
½ cup chopped nuts, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl mix the gingersnap crumbs, ground nuts and melted butter. Pat into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a mixer bowl, combine the pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and spices. Beat at medium speed until blended. Pour the mixture over the gingersnap crust in the 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
In a separate bowl, pour the dry cake mix. Cut the butter into the cake mix until it is crumbly (or use a food processor).
Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the pumpkin mixture. Top the crumbs with the chopped nuts, if using.
Bake until the crumbs are golden, about 50 minutes to 1 hour .
Serve this dessert warm or cool. Can be garnished with whipped cream or ice cream.