Saturday, November 27, 2010

pie in the sky

I love pie crust. I'll come right out there and say it. Wish it weren't so, but it's just the way it is. I can't train myself to unlove pie crust. The kind made with 100% butter and boasting layers as thin as snowflakes that hang together in that wonderful pastry-dough sort of way. I usually decide to just get rid of all but a thin layer of that extemporaneous filling and focus on the all-important crust.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I also do this with burritos when made with a particularly delicious tortilla. If I'm getting a little full, out goes the filling and onward with that tortilla. I'm just saying.

In honor of the eating season that comes with our glorious holidays we bring you a recipe that will release any crust lover from their vice, should they choose. This recipe is for a pumpkin flan with crunchy sugared pecans, and that pretty much explains the dessert. What it doesn't do is tell you how wonderfully flavored the pumpkin custard is with the time-honored flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and how well it mingles with the sweet bite of the caramelized sugar that is found in flan. The thought of crust evaporates without so much as a sputter. This is a treat without need of a shoulder to lean on. And it is decadently gorgeous in presentation--a humble show-stopper.

As a side note, it is nonfat (except for the pecans which can be omitted if desired, but please don't desire this!) and cholesterol free. But go ahead and scoot such thoughts serious, ba-humbug thoughts from your mind. After your first bite you won't believe it anyway.

We hope you all had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving--now on to the merriest of Christmases.

Pumpkin Flan with Sugared Pecans

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups egg substitute or egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 3/4 cups nonfat evaporated milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbs sugar

In a skillet melt sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown and completely liquid. Pour into 9-inch cake pan or baking dish that is about 2 inches deep. With the back of a spoon, quickly spread the caramelized sugar evenly over bottom of pan and set aside. As it cools you will hear the sugar make cracking sounds. This is normal, don't worry!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine egg substitute or whites, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and evaporated milk. Whisk together until completely blended. Pour into sugar-coated baking dish. Set this dish inside a larger pan and place both into oven. Carefully pour very hot water into the larger pan until it reaches about 3/4 of the way up the sides of flan baking dish. Bake for about 1 hour or until knife inserted into center of custard comes out clean. Remove flan dish from oven and allow water pan to cool completely before removing from oven.

For sugared pecans: In a small skillet combine pecans and sugar. Stir constantly until sugar melts and pecans are toasted. Turn out onto foil to cool. Set aside.

Refrigerate flan overnight or until completely chilled, at least 8 hours. When ready to serve, run a sharp knife around edge of the flan. Place a larger, rimmed serving dish over the top of the flan dish and quickly invert. The flan will slowly loosen and rest on the serving dish. The sauce made from the caramelized sugar will flow over the surface of the flan.

Before serving, sprinkle sugared pecans over flan. To serve, slice in wedges and top with nonfat whipped topping if desired. Serves 10 to 12.