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Turning Pumpkins Into Holiday Dessert Ideas : Halloween Marks Beginning of Holiday Season and Arrival of Autumn Fruit

October 24, 1985

Halloween marks the onset of the holiday season--a time for entertaining, celebrating and feasting. It also heralds the arrival of fall and winter fruits and vegetables.

Among these, is the spherical squash known as pumpkin. With its thick orange shell and its smooth, mellow inside, pumpkin is used in a variety of ways this time of year but is perhaps best known for its use as a jack-o'-lantern.

The pumpkin has long been appreciated for its rich supply of Vitamin A, iron and other nutrients. In the recipes that follow, a bevy of ingredients have been added to pumpkin to enhance the flavor as well as the nutritional value.

Canned pumpkin is called for in these recipes, available year-round and in different quantities. It tastes and performs just as well as fresh pumpkin without all the preparation and fuss.

Offered here are Halloween desserts ranging from pumpkin trifle to pumpkin bars to pumpkin cakes. The Pumpkin-Orange Trifle combines fresh oranges, orange-flavored liqueur and orange juice with gelatin, sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream. Poundcake slices line the trifle dish.

Pumpkin-Rum Custard, baked in a nine-inch round layer cake pan or individual custard cups, is made with pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk. Neapolitan Pumpkin Squares feature three layers--a gingersnap cookie crust, then sour cream and pumpkin mixtures.

For cookie lovers, Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars will please the palate. The bars have a nutty crust, topped with a mixture of cream cheese, egg, sweetened condensed milk and pumpkin. Pecans halves are used as a garnish.

Pumpkin Polka-Dot Cake combines packaged yellow cake mix with canned pumpkin, nuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips. It is topped with powdered sugar. In Yesteryear Pumpkin Pudding, crumbled white bread and canned pumpkin combine with cinnamon and nutmeg for a flavorful dessert. And an unusual combination of canned pumpkin and ricotta cheese, garnished with vanilla yogurt and pumpkin seeds, highlights Creamy Pumpkin-Ricotta Pie. PUMPKIN-ORANGE TRIFLE

1 (10 3/4-ounce) loaf pound cake, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur

1 cup peeled, sectioned and chopped oranges

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup orange juice

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whipped cream

Orange sections, optional

Line bottom and sides of 2-quart glass serving bowl with 2/3 of pound cake slices. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons liqueur and spoon 1/2 cup chopped oranges over bottom. Set aside.

In small saucepan sprinkle gelatin over orange juice, let stand 1 minute. Then cook and stir over low heat until gelatin dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In large bowl combine sweetened condensed milk and pumpkin. Stir in orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, remaining liqueur and gelatin. Mix well. Fold in 2 cups whipped cream and spoon 1/2 of mixture into prepared bowl. Top with remaining cake slices, chopped oranges and pumpkin mixture.

Chill 3 hours or until set, then garnish with additional whipped cream and orange sections. Makes 10 to 12 servings. PUMPKIN-RUM CUSTARD

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 cups water

1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin

1/3 cup light rum

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Whipped cream, optional

In skillet heat sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly, until melted and caramel colored. Pour about 1 tablespoon caramelized sugar into bottom of each of 8 to 10 (6-ounce) custard cups or 1 (9-inch) round layer cake pan. Set aside.

In large bowl beat eggs, then stir in sweetened condensed milk, water, pumpkin, rum, nutmeg, salt and ginger. Mix well. Pour mixture into prepared custard cups. Set cups in shallow pan containing 1 inch hot water. Bake at 350 degrees 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely. Invert custards onto serving plates. Garnish with whipped cream. Makes 8 to 10 servings. NEAPOLITAN PUMPKIN SQUARES

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 1/2 cups ginger snap cookie crumbs (about 28 cookies)

3 eggs

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup sour cream

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup orange juice

1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Whipped cream, optional

Orange twists, optional

In medium saucepan, melt butter. Add crumbs, mixing well, then press onto bottom of 9-inch square baking pan.

In medium bowl beat eggs, then stir in 2/3 cup condensed milk and sour cream. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until set.

Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over orange juice. Let stand 1 minute. Cook and stir over low heat until gelatin dissolves, about 5 minutes. Blend in remaining condensed milk, pumpkin, cinnamon and salt. Continue to cook and stir until mixture thickens slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes. Spoon over sour cream layer. Chill 3 hours or until set.

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