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I have a confession to make. I don’t love pumpkin pie.
I mean, it’s not bad, exactly. I don’t hate it. But it rarely lives up to what I want a special occasion dessert to be.
The crust tends to be pale and damp, the filling dense and ever so slightly fibrous and grainy, the flavor a little flat.
But still, I like pumpkin’s flavor (I love it in pumpkin bread and pumpkin cake). And I believed that it had potential to be something special in the pie-and-tart category. So I set out to make a version of pumpkin pie I could really love.
And I think, with this caramel pumpkin tart, I’ve found it.
I find that cookie crumb crusts tend to work better in tart pans with removable bottoms than in pie pans, so I swapped pans to shift from pie to tart.
The gingersnap crust brings extra gingery heat to the crust, which helps to balance the sweetness of the pumpkin filling.
For the pumpkin part, I kept the pumpkin puree and the general traditional pumpkin spice profile, but I added some orange zest to brighten things up and some dark brown sugar for a hint of molasses-y bitterness.
Then, instead of turning to a can of sweetened condensed milk, I opted to make a caramel sauce enriched with a bit of heavy cream and a generous amount of mascarpone.
The mascarpone is subtle here, but it’s very gentle tang helps to balance the sweetness of the caramel so it doesn’t overwhelm the tart.
The caramel makes the whole thing taste fuller and rounder and, paradoxically, lighter than a traditional pumpkin pie filling.
The pumpkin puree gets mixed with spices and eggs, and then the caramel sauce gets mixed in with the pumpkin.
And then, the secret to a smooth custard tart: the mixture gets strained through a fine mesh sieve. This will remove any stray fibrous bits from the pumpkin puree, any stringy egg bits (aka chalazae), and any small bits of mascarpone that didn’t fully melt into the caramel.
It’s a small step that makes a big difference in the final texture.
Then the caramel pumpkin mixture gets poured into the prepared gingersnap tart crust, where it gets precariously close to overflowing. But don’t worry, it will all, just barely, fit.
Getting it into the oven requires steady hands and a good sense of balance. If you have someone nearby who can open the oven door for you, by all means, enlist their help. (And it’s not the end of the world if a little bit of the filling sloshes of the edge.)
But once the tart is in the oven, the hard work is done.
You’ll want to let it bake until the custard is just set. The edges will puff up a little and the center will wiggle but not slosh when you bump the pan.
The tart will be a little higher around the edges than in the center, which makes a perfect area for adding some whipped cream.
The whipped cream is optional, but nice.
The airiness of the whipped cream plays nicely with the light texture of the caramel pumpkin filling. And the gingersnap crust helps to make for a spicy finish.
It’s not quite a traditional pumpkin pie, but this caramel pumpkin tart is something special, and it might find a new place in your family traditions.
I hope you love it.
- 1 gingersnap tart crust, baked and cooled
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, at room temperature
- 1 cup mascarpone, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- zest of 1/2 an orange
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 3 eggs
- Preheat oven to 350°F and place your baked gingersnap tart crust on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.
- Make the caramel. Add granulated sugar and water to a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and cook (without stirring) until the caramel turns a deep amber color, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream until combined, then add the mascarpone and whisk again, until smooth. (If the caramel seizes up when you add the cream or mascarpone, don't panic, you can heat it gently over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves again.) Stir in the vanilla extract and salt and set aside.
- Add the pumpkin puree to a large mixing bowl and stir in the brown sugar. Zest half an orange over the bowl. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice and stir until combined.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, to the pumpkin mixture stirring between each one to mix well.
- Pour the caramel sauce into the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into another mixing bowl (ideally one with a pour spout).
- Carefully pour the strained mixture into your prepared tart shell. It will be filled nearly to the brim.
- With your steadiest hands, transfer the baking sheet to the oven. (Don't worry if a little bit of the filling sloshes over the edge.) And bake until the filling is puffed up and set around the edges and the center has a very slight wiggle, about 45-50 minutes.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan before removing the outer tart ring. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.
Tart can be made a day ahead of time and stored covered in the refrigerator.
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All-Clad 4202 Stainless Steel Sauce Pan with Lid Cookware, 2-Quart, Silver
Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, 4 ounce
Simply Organic Ginger Root Ground Certified Organic, 1.64-Ounce Container
Frontier Organic Vietnamese Cinnamon, Ground, 1.31 Ounce
The Spice Hunter Organic Nutmeg, Whole, 1.8 oz. jar
Microplane 46020 Premium Classic Series Zester Grater 18/8 Black
Cuisinart CTG-00-3MS Set of 3 Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainers
Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet (2 Pack), Silver
CHEFMADE 9.5-Inch Round Tart Pan with Removable Loose Bottom, Non-stick Carbon Steel Quiche Pan, FDA Approved for Oven Baking (Champagne Gold)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 520Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 169mgSodium: 498mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 2gSugar: 41gProtein: 6g