Pumpkin Parfaits

You’ve managed to find the perfect meal ensemble for your Halloween dinner party, but you’re still looking for a dessert that doesn’t involve cupcakes, cookies or candy decorated to resemble ghosts, goblins, spiders and the like. In short, you’d like something that fits the theme but doesn’t spoil the atmosphere with gimicky food hacks. This single serving, upscale rendition of a no-bake pumpkin pie will do nicely.

It’s technically no-bake as well, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any cooking involved. In fact, the pumpkin portion of this parfait is a pumpkin pudding that’s combined on the stovetop for a smooth and delicious layer in this dessert. Of course, should you choose to use pie pumpkins to make your own pumpkin purée, cooking will be involved aplenty.

Like other fall gourds, pie pumpkins can be found in abundance in your favorite market or produce stand. Pie pumpkins, unlike the larger jack-o-lantern pumpkins, are roughly the size of a smallish melon with matte orange skins. Their outer skins can be extremely hard to cut through, but most varieties of pie pumpkins will eventually yield to a sharp knife and a strong hand.

Pie pumpkins are dealt with in exactly the same manner as any other gourd. They should be cut in half, the insides scooped clean, and roasted cut side down for about an hour. After they have cooled, the pumpkin flesh can be scooped out and either mashed or pureed in a food processor. If you’ve gone this route for your pumpkin parfaits, one or two small-medium pumpkins should provide you enough purée for this recipe—2 cups.

Gingersnap cookie crumbs are used as the bottom layer and throughout the other layers of this parfait. As tempting as it might be to just chuck the cookies in the blender and hit “go,” a rolling pin is the better tool for this process. We don’t want gingersnap dust—a real possibility when using a motor driven appliance—but we also don’t want large cookie chunks. Rolling the cookies in a plastic bag lets you see exactly where you need to apply a bit more elbow grease, and where you need to hold back.

It’s also deeply satisfying to take a couple whacks at any whole cookies attempting to hide behind their shattered brethren. And for this reason, we recommend a bakers pin or a french pin to dispatch any lucky survivors. It’s easy to hold, and easier to use than an independent handle assembly rolling pin or a pin with lathed handles. But enough technical talk.

After cooking your pumpkin pudding, it will need to be completely cooled and then chilled for several hours before assembly and serving. Like any pudding, it will develop a skin if left exposed to any air. To keep this from happening, pour the pudding into a glass bowl and cover it with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the pudding. The alternative is to let the skin form and simply remove that layer of the pudding before final assembly. The choice is up to you.

Pumpkin Parfaits

Makes approximately 4 parfaits

  • 1 cup gingersnap crumbs, about 15 cookies
  • 2 cups pumpkin purée (15 ounce can)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon clear vanilla 

Crush gingersnaps; pour into a bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan, whisk the pumpkin and milk together until fully incorporated. Whisk in the sugar, cornstarch, flour, spices and salt until they are dissolved. Cook pumpkin mixture over medium heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture is thick and bubbly. Continue cooking for an additional minute. Remove the pudding from the heat and transfer to a glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Let the pudding cool for a half an hour on the counter and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Whip the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until medium peaks form. In parfait glasses, layer 1-2 spoonfulls of cookie crumbs in the bottom. Using a piping bag, layer in the pumpkin pudding, then spoon whipped cream over top. Add another layer of cookie crumbs and repeat the layering process topping the last dollop of whipped cream with a sprinkling of crumbs. Garnish with cinnamon sticks. Serve immediately.