Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thanskgiving Dessert

My mother’s favorite holiday was Thanksgiving and it is my favorite, too.

When we were growing up in Wisconsin, Thanksgiving was spent at Grandma Roemer’s house. All the family from my father’s side would converge upon the old Wisconsin farm house. Women would cook and set the table while the men watched football. After dinner, the women would clean up the massive mess while the men played pinochle. Why did we get all the work and the males got all the play?

When we moved to New Mexico, Thanksgiving was a different affair for our little family far removed from extended members in Wisconsin. It was just the five of us plus whatever stray Mom invited. Mom always had a soft spot in her heart for anyone without family during the holidays and we welcomed each and every one as our own.
She would put on a big spread with the traditional turkey, stuffing, vegetables, rolls, and her trademark dessert, Pumpkin Chiffon Torte. I learned how to make Thanksgiving dinner from my mom, who thankfully passed down all her recipes before she passed on. To this day, I make my mother’s stuffing, turkey placed in the oven in the morning and basted all day, peas with pearl onions, and Pumpkin Chiffon Torte.

I have a real hard time spending the holiday with someone other than my immediate family and invited friends. Even though my son and my husband don’t care for Pumpkin Chiffon Torte (crazy men!) and argue about what sides I should serve, for the most part I continue Mom’s traditions.

And for those of who want it, here is the delectable recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Torte:

Pumpkin Chiffon Torte
2 cups flour
¼ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. white sugar
1 cup butter (damn the cholesterol, there is no substitute for real butter)

Mix together dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with two knives. Press into bottom of 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan or sheet pan with sides. Bake at 375 degrees until brown, about five to ten minutes. Take out and cool.

2 envelopes Knox gelatin
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I usually use at least 1 tbsp. and this is nothing more than cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger)
6 eggs, separated
1 ½ cups milk (at least 2% but whole preferred)
2 ½ cups canned pumpkin (a single large can of canned pumpkin is fine, no need to measure, just dump it all in)
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped (no sugar added)

In a medium saucepan, combine gelatin, brown sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir together egg yolks and milk and add to gelatin mixture (I just do this all in the same saucepan, stirring the wet ingredients into the dry).

Cook at medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. Depending on your altitude this can take anywhere from 10 to about 20 minutes.

Take the pan off the burner and add the canned pumpkin. Chill in the fridge for a couple hours.
Beat the egg whites (which should be at room temperature), adding one at a time to a mixing bowl with mixer on high speed; add sugar. Beat until frothy (and this is an art, because if you beat for too little or too long, the recipe will fail).

Now fold all these ingredients together. Start with the dense pumpkin mixture in a large mixing bowl, carefully fold in the egg whites, and lastly the whipped cream. Spread this mixture atop the cooled crust and refrigerate for at least overnight (I always make this the night before Thanksgiving). When serving, add a dollop of real whipped cream atop each slice. Yum!

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