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Sure, you can whip up an apple crisp or a pecan pie. But we invite you to venture beyond your baking comfort zone and try one these five wonderful seasonal desserts—all classics, with a twist.

When the temperature begins to drop, it's time to seek shelter in a toasty kitchen—and start baking. Sure, you can whip up an apple crisp or a pecan pie. But we invite you to venture beyond your baking comfort zone and try one of these wonderful seasonal desserts—all classics, with a twist. Instead of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, we present parsnip cupcakes with maple frosting. Rice pudding is transformed into luscious persimmon parfaits. And bread pudding benefits from a shot (actually, a quarter-cup) of bourbon blended with silky butterscotch. Chances are, at least one of these sweet treats will become a new fall favorite…and take its place next to the pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.


Butterscotch Bourbon Bread Pudding

​■ 1 loaf of French, Italian, brioche or challah bread, tough crusts removed (about 1 lb.)
■ 3 large eggs
■ 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
■ 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
■ 1⁄4 cup bourbon
■ 1 Tb. vanilla extract
■ 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt or fine sea salt
■ 1 1⁄2 cups milk
■ 1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream

■ 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, cubed
■ 1⁄4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
■ Fine sea salt

1. For the pudding, generously butter a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish.
2. Cut the bread into 3⁄4-inch cubes and place them in the dish.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, dark brown sugar, melted butter, bourbon, vanilla and salt. (If you find yourself with only light brown sugar, use that plus 1 tablespoon of molasses.)
4. Slowly whisk in the milk and cream.
5. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes and press down gently with your hands to get as much bread in contact with the liquid as possible.
6. Let the bread soak for 20 minutes (or longer if using stale bread).
7. Stir the bread cubes with your hands or a spatula so the drier bread on top ends up on the bottom.
8. Let the bread soak for an additional 20 minutes (longer if using stale bread), or until the bread is fully saturated.
9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
10. Dot the top of the pudding with the butter cubes and sprinkle with the light brown sugar and a few pinches of sea salt.
11. Bake the pudding for 50 to 55 minutes or until the custard is puffed and set and the top is toasty brown.
12. Remove the pudding from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. 13. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce.

Makes one 13 x 9 inch pudding. This pudding can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Reheat before serving.


Pumpkin Ice Cream

​■ 1 loaf of French, Italian, brioche or challah bread, tough crusts removed (about 1 lb.)
■ 2 large eggs
■ 3⁄4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
■ 1 cup puréed pumpkin or winter squash
■ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
■ 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
■ 1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg
■ 1⁄4 tsp. ground ginger
■ 1⁄4 tsp. ground cloves
■ 1⁄2 tsp. salt
■ 2 cups heavy cream

1. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl.
2. Add the sugar and whisk for another minute.
3. Whisk in the puréed pumpkin or squash along with the vanilla, spices and salt.
4. Finally, add the cream and whisk until all the sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute more.
5. Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
6. Transfer the mixture into a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm, at least 8 hours.

Makes 1 quart. Homemade ice cream is best eaten within a month.




Persimmon, Pistachio and Coconut Rice Pudding Parfaits

​■ 25 cups whole milk
■ 13 1⁄2 oz. coconut milk (not light)
■ 1 cup long-grain white rice (like basmati or jasmine)
■ 1 cinnamon stick
■ 2/3 cup granulated sugar
■ 6 ripe Fuyu persimmons or 3 very ripe Hachiyas or wild persimmons (about 1 1⁄2 pounds)
■ 1⁄4 cup chopped, shelled, salted pistachios

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, coconut milk, rice and cin- namon stick over medium-high heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
2. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the sugar and cook, stirring fre- quently, for 10 to 20 minutes more, or until the pudding is thickened but still creamy and pourable (think risotto).
4. Remove the cinnamon stick.
5. Let the pudding cool to room temperature.
6. When ready to serve, slice the Fuyu persimmons in half along their equators.
7. With a paring knife, score the flesh on the cut side all the way down to the skin in parallel lines about 1⁄2-inch apart.
8. Do the same in the other direction, so you get perpendicular lines. Now you have little cubes you can spoon out of the skins when assembling the parfaits. (If using Hachiyas or wild persimmons, you can simply scoop out the soft, jelly-like flesh, removing any seeds.)
9. In small parfait glasses or jelly jars, alternate layers of rice pudding and persimmon, ending with a layer of rice pudding.
10. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top. Serve warm, at room tempera- ture, or chilled.

Makes 6 Parfaits. Any leftover rice pudding can be eaten plain, straight from the fridge.

Variation: try this with pomegranate seeds or kiwi, papaya or mango substituted for the persimmons.


Parsnip Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

​■ 4 to 6 parsnips
■ 1 cup vegetable oil
■ 1 1⁄3 cups granulated sugar
■ 1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, melted
■ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
■ 3 large eggs
■ 2 cups all-purpose flour
■ 2 tsp. baking powder
■ 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
■ 1 Tb. ground coriander
■ 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
■ 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
■ 1⁄2 tsp. salt

■ 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
■ 4 oz. cream cheese (not light), at room temperature
■ 5 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
■ 1⁄4 cup maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
■ 1⁄4 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Line two cupcake pans with 15 paper liners.
2. Grate the parsnips with a box grater by holding each peeled parsnip upside down and rubbing the sides against the large holes of the grater. The central core of some parsnips can be woody and tough. In that case, just grate one side until you hit the core (you will feel more resistance), then rotate and repeat on the remaining sides. Discard the cores. You should have about 2 cups of grated parsnips.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Fold in the grated parsnips. Spoon the batter into the 15 muffin cups just shy of the rims. Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the centers have set. Remove the pans from the oven and let the cupcakes cool completely.
4. For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Sift the confectioners’ sugar on top of the butter mixture and con- tinue to beat until no lumps remain. Add the maple syrup and whip well.
5. Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle them with chopped walnuts if desired.

Makes 15 cupcakes. The cupcakes can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.




Salted Dark Chocolate Tart with Pistachios (Photo At Top)

■ 1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
■ 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
■ 2 Tbs. cocoa powder
■ 1⁄4 tsp. salt
■ 1 cup all-purpose flour
■ 1 Tb. milk
■ Few drops of vanilla extract

■ 1 1/3 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate chips
■ 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
■ 1⁄4 tsp. salt
■ 1Tb. Chambord or crème de cassis (optional)
■ 1 1⁄4 cups heavy cream
■ 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
■ 2 Tbs. finely chopped pistachios
■ 1 to 2 pinches large, coarse-grained sea salt

For the crust:
1. Cream together the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl with an electric mixer.
2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the flour and mix on medium speed until the mixture looks like clumpy sand.
3. Scrape down the bowl again. Add the milk and vanilla, and mix on low until the dough comes together.
4. Tear off a sheet of plastic wrap and dump the mixture into the center. Knead the dough a few times, and then press it into a disk, wrap it up and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
5. Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface into a circle about 1⁄4-inch thick and 12 inches in diameter.
6. With a bench scraper or spatula, flip one side of the dough over the top of the rolling pin, gently loosening any dough that may be stuck to the counter, until it is fully draped over the pin.
7. Center the dough over a 10-inch tart pan (or a 9-inch pie plate). Gently press the dough into the corners of the pan without stretching it. Roll the pin over the top of the pan edge to clip off excess dough, and then press the dough against the sides of the pan with your fingers so the dough rises slightly above the edge to compensate for shrinkage. For best results, freeze the dough for 30 minutes before baking.
8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the tart pan from the freezer and line the inside of the dough with foil. Fill with pie weights all the way to the sides to keep the dough from shrinking (dried beans work well).
9. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, and then carefully remove the foil and weights.
10. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until the bottom crust is cooked and dry. Let it cool completely before filling.

For the filling:
1. Combine the chocolate, sugar, salt and Chambord in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and butter until the butter has melted and the cream is hot with some bubbles forming around the edges. Do not boil.
2. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and let it sit for 1 minute.
3. Gently whisk just until smooth so as not to create air bubbles.
4. Pour the filling into the tart pan and set on an even surface in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or until firm.
5. Just before serving, sprinkle the tart with chopped pistachios and 1 to 2 pinches of large, coarse-grained sea salt.
6. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream, if desired.

Makes one 10-inch tart or 9-inch pie. The tart is best eaten the day it’s made, but it can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.

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