For the past two weeks I’ve been talking Thanksgiving to any family member who will indulge me. I lugged a hefty stack of Martha Stewart Living and Bon Appetit magazines to my sister’s house to pore over new and exciting recipes, only to leave them abandoned on her floor after an hour. Later the same week, I curled up next to my mother on her sofa, an iPad between us, scouring Pinterest for something that would make our Thanksgiving fresh.
“We need more vegetables,” I proclaimed. “Everything is so starchy! What about these Brussels sprouts?”
“Maybe. They have curry. I hate curry. How about we get rid of mashed potatoes and just do sweet potatoes?”
“Okay, are we doing the noodles?”
“Yes, we have to do the noodles. Oh, but your father likes to put the noodles on top of his mashed potatoes, so we have to do the potatoes.”
“Fine. Did you like that stuffing I made with the artichoke hearts a few years ago?”
“No artichoke hearts. I like sausage in stuffing.”
“Do you want to grill the turkey this year? Phillip’s mom just did it that way and it was the best turkey I’ve ever had.”
“You don’t like my turkey?”
Abort! Abort mission! Move on to dessert!
Thanksgiving dessert is always comical in my family because for 11 people we usually have two banana cream pies, two pumpkin pies, and at least one variety of cookie. By the time we have all inhaled our second helpings of heavy, glorious Thanksgiving food and made our ways to the living room to collapse into a sleepy viewing of The Muppet Christmas Carol, most of us can hardly muster one slice of pie. And by “can hardly muster,” I mean that we each forcibly shove one slice of both pumpkin and banana cream pie down our throats and then promptly wish for death.
So when it came to the topic of Thanksgiving desserts, my mother and I both agreed we shouldn’t overdo it this year. But since there is a special little place in my heart for all things sweet, this meant giving up fantasies of creating fabulous new desserts that transcend the realm of pumpkin and banana cream pies. I suggested that perhaps we switch up the pumpkin pie recipe this year, give it a new kick. My mother looked at me with a pout and said quietly, “But I love my pumpkin pie.”
It’s the recipe on the back of the can. But okay. Okay. Just let me make a real pie crust this year instead of you getting a frozen one.
Lesson: On Thanksgiving, tradition is king.
So that all of my hopes and dreams of novel fall desserts wouldn’t be dashed completely, I set off to make something that would encompass all that I love about fall and Thanksgiving: Pies. Squash. Ginger. Booze. A quick search led me to Holly Herrick’s Tart Love, which is on my holiday wishlist. Drunken Pumpkin-Bourbon Tart? I like the sound of that. There’s molasses involved? I’m in.
I opted for a gingersnap crust over the original tart dough because it’s fall and I just need more ginger in my life. I also added candied ginger. And bumped up the ground ginger in the recipe a bit. I just don’t do moderation well, okay? I might have a problem.
I have to say I really like this tart. It’s just warm. I want to eat it next to a fireplace with some hot tea. The bourbon flavor is slight but noticeable, even amongst all the ginger, which builds as you reach the outer edge lined with candied ginger.
Now, go make this. Maybe your family isn’t an enemy to Thanksgiving innovation. You should be thankful for that.
- 230 grams gingersnaps (about 32 cookies)
- ½ stick (56 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 pie pumpkin, any size will do (or one 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree)
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup (100 grams) light brown sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons (44 grams) molasses
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- (optional) candied ginger, roughly chopped
- If using fresh pumpkin, slice pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Place pumpkin halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat, parchment paper, or foil, and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes, until pumpkin meat is soft. Remove from oven and let cool before scooping out meat with a spoon. Drain excess liquid off of pumpkin in a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
- Preheat or reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
- Process gingersnaps in a food processor until fine. Add melted butter and pulse until moistened. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat 2 cups of pumpkin meat for about 2 minutes on medium-low speed to get rid of lumps. Add eggs and brown sugar and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until fully incorporated. Add the remaining ingredients and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed, until fully incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
- Pour filling into prepared gingersnap crust until filling is just below the edge of the crust. Pour any remaining filling into oven-safe dishes (such as ramekins) and place on baking sheet with tart. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325°F and bake for another 30-35 minutes, until the custard is soft set and wiggles just slightly when touched. Be sure to check ramekins periodically, as they may finish sooner than the tart. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Remove tart pan sides and allow tart to cool completely. Before serving, sprinkle candied ginger pieces around the outer edge of the tart.
- Tart can be made one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate, and bring to room temperature before serving.