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Holiday Desserts : Untraditional Thanksgiving Sweets

November 18, 1990|ABBY MANDEL

My family, knowing my taste for innovation, began querying me weeks ago to make sure I wasn't planning any Thanksgiving surprises. They will not be denied their yam and apple casserole, their creamed spinach, their chestnut dressing and celery root salad. What they want for Thanksgiving is culinary continuity.

When it comes to dessert, however, my family is a little more flexible. They usually let me repeat one favorite and then try out a few new recipes.

I've found that the desserts that follow work well together, although each is also delicious on its own. The glazed Maple-Pecan-Apple Crisp With Cinnamon Ice Cream and Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Rich Caramel Sauce are homey, comfortable desserts. The Orange Sorbet With Saffron is brilliantly colored and remarkably refreshing, offering a satisfying light, low-fat option to those who prefer it.

What these desserts share, luckily, is the ability to be prepared in advance. After all, what a cook needs on Thanksgiving Day is lots of time for tradition.

This is indeed a "crisp." A maple syrup butter sauce is drizzled over the top toward the end of baking, forming a lusciously thin crust. The apples are on the tart side, contrasting with the sweet crust. Serve it warm with Cinnamon Ice Cream.

MAPLE-PECAN-APPLE CRISP WITH CINNAMON ICE CREAM

7 large tart apples (about 3 pounds), peeled, thinly sliced (about 8 cups sliced)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon maple flavoring

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup minus 1 tablespoon flour

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

Dash salt

1 cup pecans, roughly chopped, toasted

1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine, cut in small pieces

Crumb Topping

8 pecan halves

Maple Syrup Sauce

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Toss apple slices with lemon juice and maple flavoring. Combine cinnamon, flour, brown sugar, salt, pecans and butter in small dish. Add to apples and toss well to combine. Mound apples in 6-cup deep-dish pie plate (they will deflate as they cook).

Distribute Crumb Topping evenly over apples. Press gently into place with your hands. Place dish on baking sheet. Bake in center of oven at 350 degrees until deeply browned, about 1 hour.

Remove apple crisp from oven. Place pecan halves in attractive pattern on top. Drizzle Maple Syrup Sauce evenly over pecans and surface of crisp. Bake 10 minutes longer. Let cool on rack.

Reheat in 350-degree oven, uncovered, until warmed through, about 15 minutes. Serve warm with Cinnamon Ice Cream. Makes 8 servings.

Note: To toast pecans, spread single layer on baking sheet and bake in 350-degree oven until it becomes fragrant and color deepens, about 7 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Toasted pecans can be frozen several months, wrapped airtight.

Crumb Topping

2/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons flour

Dash salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature, cut into 6 pieces

3/4 teaspoon maple flavoring

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and salt in food processor or mixing bowl. Add butter and maple flavoring. Cut into flour with metal blade or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.

Maple Syrup Sauce

1/3 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine

Bring maple syrup to boil, uncovered, in small saucepan until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in butter until blended. Remove from heat.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

1 pint vanilla ice cream, slightly softened

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Dash allspice

Put ice cream in mixing bowl. Use wooden spoon to mix until smooth but not runny. Add cinnamon and allspice. Combine well. Pack into airtight container and freeze. Let soften slightly before serving. Makes 1 pint.

Warm and mellow-flavored, this spiced pumpkin cake is a most delicious dessert sauced with the Butter-Rich Caramel Sauce, which is not overly sweet.

WARM PUMPKIN SPICE CAKE WITH BUTTER-RICH CARAMEL SAUCE

2 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

3 large eggs, separated

1 1/3 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature

3 tablespoons bourbon

3 tablespoons buttermilk

1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

Spiced Sugar

Butter-Rich Caramel Sauce

Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Set aside.

With mixer or food processor, cream egg yolks, sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add bourbon, buttermilk and pumpkin. Mix until smooth, scraping down sides. Add flour to mixer and mix until combined. If using food processor, transfer batter to a mixing bowl. Use wooden spoon to combine flour with batter until smooth.

Using mixer, Beat egg whites until soft peaks form but are still moist. Stir 1/4 egg whites into batter. Fold in remaining whites. Transfer batter to greased and floured 12 to 14-cup bundt pan. Tap pan on counter several times to settle batter. Cut through batter with knife to remove remaining air bubbles.

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