New spin on pumpkin pie is way, way cool

Diane Rossen Worthington
Tribune Content Agency

We all have our holiday traditions that family and friends request every year. It gives a sense of calm and comfort to have a dish that you know and love to put on the Thanksgiving table.

I think it is also fun to start new traditions with updates on classic dishes. For me, one such modernization began when my daughter rejected my old standby: pumpkin praline pie. She simply refused to eat it, and this drove me to think about different ways to keep the traditional dessert flavors alive in a new guise. That’s how I came up with this ice cream pie that has become as popular as my original pumpkin pie. Strapped for time one year, I served pumpkin caramel ice cream sundaes as a variation. All my guests loved it (see below for directions).

I’ve made the pie easy to serve by unmolding the pie shell before it is filled, allowing the slices to be cut easily and come right out of the pan. After a big holiday dinner, a slice of this pie makes for a refreshing finale. Pumpkin-caramel ice cream pie, or the sundae variation, is now an indispensable complement to our Thanksgiving dessert table.

An added plus is that this pie can be made weeks ahead and frozen. This frees up time for you to concentrate on the other dishes on your menu. Make sure to remove the pie from the freezer 30 minutes ahead and leave it in the refrigerator to soften slowly. You can find excellent pumpkin ice cream varieties available at your supermarket. If you don’t have time to make the caramel sauce, markets like Trader Joe’s offer a good prepared one.

If you’ve run out of time to make the pie, I have a great solution for you. After dinner, put out pumpkin ice cream, warm caramel sauce (you can reheat in the microwave), chopped pecans, crushed ginger snaps and whipped cream on the counter. Set small bowls, spoons and an ice cream scoop out, and let everyone make their own pumpkin caramel ice cream sundaes. Kids and adults love doing this, as it gets them up from the table.

Pumpkin-Caramel Ice Cream Pie

For the crust

2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans

About 25 gingersnaps, ground into fine crumbs in a food processor (1 1/2 cups)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

2 pints pumpkin ice cream

4 tablespoons chilled Caramel Sauce (see below)

16 pecan halves for garnish

1 cup warm Caramel Sauce (see below), for topping

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Tightly line a 9-inch pie plate (with 2-inch sides) with aluminum foil. In a bowl, mix together the pecans and gingersnap crumbs. Add the butter and toss the crumbs to blend well. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and sides of the pie plate, using the back of a spoon, the heel of your hand or your fingers. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Bake for 6 minutes, or until just set. Let cool.

Chill the crust in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove from the freezer and unmold the pie shell onto a flat surface. Carefully peel away the foil so the shell stays intact. Return it to the pie plate.

To make the filling, soften the ice cream in a large bowl and mix with a large spoon until thoroughly blended and no lumps remain. Spoon into the pie shell and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. With a teaspoon, dot the top of the pie with 3 tablespoons of the caramel. Use a skewer to make a pretty swirl or other design, moving it back and forth about 1/2 inch deep into the ice cream. Arrange the pecans around the outside edge of the pie, pushing them into the ice cream.

Freeze the pie for at least 2 hours. When it is frozen, cover tightly with foil. To serve, thaw slightly in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with the warm caramel sauce. Serves 10.

Advance preparation: Make up to one month ahead, cover tightly and freeze. Thaw slightly in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.

Caramel Sauce

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the sugar and water in a medium heavy saucepan. Do not use a dark colored pan, or you will not be able to see the color of the caramel. Dissolve the sugar in water over low heat. Turn up the heat and continually swirl the pan over the flame. The mixture will be bubbly. If sugar crystals form on the sides of the pan, cover it for 1 minute to dissolve them. Boil the mixture until it turns a dark golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Watch carefully, as the caramel can burn easily and if it is too dark it will continue to cook and taste burnt.

Remove the caramel from the heat and let it cool, making sure it is still liquid. Return the caramel sauce to low heat and stir in the cream and vanilla, constantly stirring to create a caramel sauce. The mixture may look separated, but continue to whisk it and it will become smooth in a few minutes. Keep warm, if serving immediately. Makes about 1 cup.

Advance preparation: May be prepared up to five days ahead, covered and refrigerated.

Per serving: 393 calories; 24 g fat (12 g saturated fat; 55 percent calories from fat); 40 g carbohydrates; 27 g sugar; 64 mg cholesterol; 159 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 2 g fiber.