Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

The gingerbread men have no idea what's about to transpire
I love Thanksgiving. It's a time to ignore family and wait in line for days for Black Friday deals. Wait, no, that's wrong. It's a time to stuff yourself with delicious food until you can't pry yourself from the couch (luckily there's lots of football on to keep you entertained on said couch). This year, I flew back to L.A. to take over the original kitchen where I honed the dark culinary arts. For some unknown reason (see just about every other post I make), my sister signed me up to bake something, so I decided to tackle one of the first things I ever made: The pumpkin gingerbread trifle.

When you own a trifle bowl, you have to use it
Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle
Adapted with less diabetes from Paula Deen
Servings: Your entire Thanksgiving crew
Time: 60 minutes (plus cooling)

1 box instant vanilla pudding
Milk (as required by the aforementioned pudding)
15 oz pumpkin pie filling (filling not the pumpkin)
2 Gingerbreads (recipe follows)
Gingerbread Man cookies
Whipped Cream (Premade or from this recipe)
Cinnamon for dusting

Nice, well defined layers...
  1. Prep the gingerbread in a circular baking pan and let it cool (see below or just get a box from the store if you're short on time).
  2. Make the vanilla pudding as directed by the box (typically you mix the pudding with 3 cups of milk and beat for 2 minutes). Let the vanilla set for at least 5 minutes to thicken.
  3. Mix in the pumpkin pie filling.
  4. Cut gingerbread to fit the bowl (If you don't own a trifle bowl you can also use a punch bowl or make individual ones in cups. Also, if you don't own a trifle bowl go buy one now, you'll use it all the time....) and place one at the bottom of the bowl. If any parts don't quite reach the edge of the bowl, be sure to fill it with your gingerbread shavings or it's gonna get messy.
  5. Scoop pudding onto the center of the gingerbread and spread evenly. Again, start from the center to avoid it getting too messy.
  6. Spread whipped cream over the top of the pudding.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 to finish off the final 3 layers. 
  8. Dust the top with cinnamon and strategically place gingerbread man cookies. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Servings: 2 small round gingerbread cakes

1/2 cup vegetarian shortening, softened
The batter reeks of molasses
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Cream the shortening and sugar together in a stand mixer.
  3. Add the molasses, milk and egg.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt. 
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones in two batches while mixing at medium-low speed until fully incorporated. Be sure not to overmix.
  6. Grease two round baking pans and pour in the batter. 
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes (or until the toothpick test comes back clean) making sure to rotate once halfway through. 
  8. Let cool before starting the trifle.
The least exciting looking cake ever (but it is crazy bouncy)
The first time I realized I might actually enjoy this whole cooking thing was at last Thanksgiving when my sister put me on dessert duty. We decided on a pumpkin gingerbread trifle and a bourbon pecan pie (both Paula Deen staples). More importantly, we bought the glorious trifle bowl which continues to fill me with wonder to this day. I had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen, but I was determined to make that trifle bowl look cool (and validate the $50 I just spent on the least manly thing ever). It was a much simpler baking time then with gingerbread mixes from boxes and frozen pie crusts, but it was a lot of fun and helped get me started on this cooking path. The results were utterly delicious and the epitome of what the holidays should taste like.

I would not advise shoving your face into the top of the trifle bowl despite how much it calls you to do so.
This year, now that I know how to use an oven safely (haven't burned myself in almost 2 weeks!), I decided to liven the recipe up by making my own gingerbread. The gingerbread had me very worried at first because it was heavy on the molasses and the batter didn't quite come together as much as I had hoped it would. In the end, it turned out very subtle, and I might even consider increasing the amount of cinnamon and ginger (or even adding a hint of pumpkin pie spice). This subtlety was a welcome addition, though, because it helped it blend perfectly with the pudding and whipped cream.

Harry and Faye also suffered from extreme post-Thanksgiving fullness and tiredness.
Speaking of the pudding, it's the most perfect and delicious pudding you will ever have. I actually removed a bunch of sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin pie filling that Paula Deen had which would have killed it with sweetness. What you're left with has just the right hint of pumpkin to bring home the holiday. Once you top it all with whipped cream and a crunchy gingerbread man cookie, you have a magnificent combination of layers that will leave you and your guests completely satisfied and feeling the holidays with each bite. 

Who needs a turkey when you can have lentil loaf?
Aside from the dessert amazingness, I also made one of my favorite veggie "meat" dishes, lentil loaf, which ended up being a huge hit even with the carnivorous folk. It was great being back in L.A. and spending time with my sister, brother-in-law and the puppies. Although it was a little disconcerting that Harry so readily replaced me with a toy duck as his new best friend.

This recipe would later inspire my spooktacular Halloween  Pumpkin Cupcakes.

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