Think of this as a pumpkin pie alternative... a crustless, cool and creamy pumpkin (egg-free) custard.
I decided I had to post this before Thanksgiving.
It's not too fussy and not a last-minute dessert. But somehow, it's more elegant than pumpkin pie.
It's served cold.
All cooking is done on the stove top- no oven, no boiling water.
It's gluten-free, and can be dairy free if you make it with coconut milk (but to be honest with you, I made it a few times before getting it the way I wanted, and I really didn't like it when I made it with coconut milk).
I REALLY like it with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream... it tastes very "holiday" to me. Holiday with a little kick.
You don't have to use alcohol in your caramel sauce. Instead, you could use a little extra water or maybe some coffee.
One little note on gelatin:
Do not boil the gelatin in the liquid- there's a chance the gelatin won't thicken the panna cotta properly.
Eat within 24 hours for the best consistency.
Pumpkin Panna Cotta
makes about 8-10 6-oz ramekins
1 1/2 c packed pumpkin puree
2 3/4 t gelatin powder
1 c water
1 c heavy cream
1 c whole milk
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/4 t salt
rounded 1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 t vanilla extract
Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 c water and set aside to soften.
Combine cream, milk, 1/2 c water, brown sugar, salt, and pumpkin in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together and stir occasionally until it has heated to a simmer. Remove from heat, add softened gelatin, and stir to combine.
Pour the pumpkin mixture into a blender or food processor, and pulse a few times to fully incorporate the gelatin. If you use a smaller food processor or blender you may need to divide the mixture and perform this step in two batches so you don't have an explosion of hot liquids in your kitchen.
Pour the mixture back into the pan, add the nutmeg and cinnamon, and heat again to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture has reached a simmer, remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Divide the mixture among custard cups or ramekins and refrigerate. Cover the dishes with plastic wrap once they are no longer hot and return them to the refrigerator.
Refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
They may be eaten directly from the ramekins, or unmolded onto a plate. To unmold, run a thin, sharp knife around the perimeter of the custard, with the knife firmly against the inside of the ramekin, and invert the ramekin onto a plate. Holding the ramekin and plate together with both hands, shake forcefully a few times so that the panna cotta falls out of the ramekin and onto the plate (you may be able to hear and feel it). Pull the ramekin off the plate and garnish as desired before serving.
Bourbon (or Brandy) Caramel Sauce
3/4 c granulated sugar
5 T water
pinch of salt
10 drops lemon juice
6 T water
2 T bourbon or brandy
1/2 t vanilla extract
Mix 10 drops of lemon juice with 6 T water in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat 5 T water, a pinch of salt, and 3/4 c sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally to help dissolve the sugar, but do not stir it with a spoon or spatula. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to heat and swirl the syrup. It will thicken, the bubbles will slow down and become larger as it cooks, this may take 20 minutes. Continue heating the syrup while it caramelizes and becomes golden in color- you're looking for a deep golden amber. Watch the caramel carefully as it can suddenly go from perfect to burnt, and swirl the pan so that it caramelizes evenly. Once the caramel reaches the desired doneness carefully pour in the lemon water. Be careful, it will splatter! Swirl and stir the pan until the caramel is fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and let the pan of caramel cool. Stir in the brandy or bourbon and vanilla.
Caramel sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in a glass jar at room temperature. Any extra could be used on top of ice cream, on cheesecake, in coffee...