Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Spiced Pepita Brittle

by Alexis on November 29, 2013

Today I’m excited to introduce a new food contributor: Stephanie Shih. We’re big fans of Stephanie’s work—she runs the delicious blog Dessert for Breakfast. Coming off a decadent Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t say dessert is at the forefront of my mind, but this recipe for Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Spiced Pepita Brittle is already making yesterday’s meal a distant memory. With so many dinner parties and gatherings on this month’s calendar, this lighter but still seasonal treat would be the perfect finish. Thanks for sharing, Stephanie! —Alexis

The holiday months are renown for lavish dinners and sugar cookies galore. But being able to enjoy good food to the fullest means being able to have balance, so I make it my mission during November and December to bring to the table lighter, simpler fare that can offset the heavier indulgences. My three go-to counterpoints for all that butter and sugar: salt, spice, and seasonal fruit.

A panna cotta is a quintessential “light” dessert, with a silk-like texture. Here the panna cotta is subtly flavored for the season with fresh pumpkin purée, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. The flavors sneak in slowly, with each bite. To go with the panna cotta is a crunchy brittle, with plenty of powerful spiciness—thanks to the kick of chipotle pepper powder—that adds a strong, almost-savory note to the entire dessert.

Pumpkin Panna Cotta
Yields 8 3-4 oz servings

For Pumpkin Purée

  • 1 small pumpkin
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Split the pumpkin in half. Scoop out and discard the stringy pulp and seeds. Place the pumpkin halves face down on a baking sheet with sides. Bake for one hour, until fork-tender. Remove from the oven and let cool. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh and purée in a food processor until very smooth.
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée*
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 4¼ tsp powdered gelatin
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar

*Canned pumpkin purée is often denser than homemade, so it is recommended that homemade pumpkin purée be used here.

  1. If you plan to unmold the panna cotta, lightly grease the insides of eight ramekins or glasses with a neutral-flavored oil, such as canola.
  2. Whisk together the milk, cream, pumpkin purée, and ground cinnamon in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into the milk mixture and then add the entire pod. Over medium heat, bring the milk mixture to a simmer, stirring gently with a spatula. Once at a simmer, remove from heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and let steep for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place the water in a large bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water. Let sit for 5 minutes. Return the milk mixture to medium heat. Add the sugar and cook just until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm. Pour the milk mixture through a fine mesh sieve over the gelatin. (Discard the remaining vanilla pod.) Stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved. Divide into eight ramekins or glasses, cover with plastic wrap, and let chill until set, at least 4 hours.
  4. To unmold, briefly submerge the bottoms of the ramekins in warm water, run a thin knife along the sides, and invert onto a plate. Serve with brittle.

Spiced Pepita Brittle

For Spiced Pepitas

  • 2 cups pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • ½ tsp vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¼ – ½ tsp chipotle pepper powder (adjust spice level as desired)
  • ¼ tsp garam masala, optional
  • ¼ tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, toss the pepitas, vegetable oil, spices, and salt. Spread the pepitas onto a baking sheet. Bake for 5 – 7 minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the Brittle

  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp flaked salt (preferably Maldon)
  1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. In a light-colored saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Pour the water into the saucepan and swirl around until all of the sugar is wet. Add more water, if necessary.
  2. Cook the sugar mixture over medium high heat. During the beginning of cooking, do not stir, but swirl the pan around to ensure even cooking. Once the mixture starts turning golden, stir occasionally. Cook until the mixture becomes a golden amber brown.
  3. Remove from heat and whisk in the baking soda, being careful because the mixture will bubble. Working quickly, fold in the spiced pepitas and spread the hot sugar onto the prepared lined baking sheet, smoothing with a spatula, if needed. Sprinkle with flaked salt. Let cool completely for at least 30 minutes. Break into pieces as desired. Store at room temperature in an airtight container with parchment between each piece if not serving immediately.

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