Sweet or Savory


Do you like your winter squash sweet or savory? I find myself debating the best way to use all the squash in my cupboards. Soup, with risotto, on pizza , roasted or in a cake, a pie, cookies, muffins, and pancakes. Butternuts, buttercups, and pie pumpkins (the small sweet ones, not the big ones we carve for Halloween) could used either way, though I think the acorns, carnivals and delicatas are better for dinner than dessert. Fortunately I have enough squash to try many recipes.

It’s already the first of November and we’ve barely had any fall flavors here. First I was too busy with summer, though I brought you apples and the apple sauce a couple of weeks ago. Come to think of it, I did make a ginger pear cake and we’ve been eating plenty of roasted broccoli, brussels sprouts and potatoes with garlic. But some things have been seriously lacking: the spices that are so irresistible when the temperature drops and the leaves fall, too. The burnt sienna hue of sprinkled cinnamon (yes, I get my colors from crayola), the spicy scent of ginger, the familiar warmth of nutmeg, the dark hint of cloves. Combined, these make something like pumpkin pie spice and, I suspect, are responsible for a lot of what we think of as pumpkin flavor. These spices are lovely, but even better with some of that squash. I love the way the orange flesh compliments the spices and the vegetable taste contrasts subtly with all the sweetness.

We had some friends over for a cozy autumn dinner this weekend and I wanted to serve something pumpkin for dessert. I didn’t want to do the traditional pie, I don’t have room in the freezer to make pumpkin ice cream and I was looking for something I could easily make gluten free. I don’t think I’ve ever made a Martha Stewart recipe in my life, but when I googled pumpkin desserts her website appeared and opened up a vast array of autumn dessert recipes which all looked perfectly delicious. I settled on one that combined chocolate and pumpkin with complementary spices. I think I’ll use the filling recipe for future pies. I didn’t get to take a photo of the tart after slicing, it disappeared too quickly.

Pumpkin Chocolate Tart
Adapted from Martha Stewart

This tart is really not hard to make and can be made a day or two before you plan to serve it. For the crust, you can use all purpose white flour, whole wheat pastry flour or an all purpose gluten free flour mix. If you are using wheat flour you will need to treat the dough more gently so it doesn’t become tough.

You can use canned pumpkin, but baking a pie pumpkin or a butternut squash is quite easy. Just cut the squash in half the long way and scoop out the seeds (roast them, too). Bake the squash for about 45 minutes at 350 until it is soft enough to stab easily with a fork. Once the squash has cooled, scoop the flesh out of the skin, discard the skin and use the squash.  

One more note: this recipe is for a 10-inch tart. I only have an eight inch tart pan. I baked the extra filling in a separate dish and it was very tasty. The eight inch tart is big enough to serve up to eight people.

For the Crust:
1 cup flour (all purpose, whole wheat pastry or an all purpose gluten free blend)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 ounces (1 cup/ 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 large egg
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and drop it into the dry ingredients. Use an electric mixer on slow speed to mix the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs or small peas. Add the egg and mix until the ingredients come together to form a ball of dough. Gently press the dough into the tart pan to form the crust. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350. Before baking the tart shell, prick the bottom with a fork. Bake for about 15 minutes. While the tart is baking, chop the chocolate into small pieces. When the shell is firm, remove it from the oven and spread the chopped chocolate onto the hot tart shell. If the chocolate doesn’t melt quickly, place the tart shell back into the oven for less than a minute. When the chocolate is melted, spread it over the baked shell. Let the shell cool while you make the filling.

For the filling:
15 ounces pureed pumpkin or squash
3/4 cup brown sugar
8 ounces creme fraiche (so easy to make at home)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 ounces semi sweet chocolate

Place pumpkin, sugar, creme fraiche, eggs, spices and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. For an extra smooth and lovely filling, pour the mixture into a fine mesh sieve and gently stir it until only the very pulpy parts of the pumpkin are left in the sieve. Pour the filling into the mostly-cooled tart shell and bake for about 40 minutes or until the filling is set. Let the tart cool for at least 30 minutes.

Melt the chocolate and drizzle it on top of the tart in whatever pattern or abstract design you like. Refrigerate to firm the filling and chocolate on top. This will keep, tightly wrapped for a day or two before serving.



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