Our Thanksgiving tradition, for the last 15 years or so, has been to celebrate the holiday with our friends Iris and Dan and their two daughters. Dan always deep fries a turkey (absolutely delicious – the meat stays tender and the skin is scrumptiously crispy) and Iris is the consummate hostess. I am always responsible for desserts, and it is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving menu. (Although the crispy Turkey skin is a close second, and trailing right behind that are the side dishes that could double as desserts, like my sweet potato casserole infused with orange and brown sugar and topped with pecan streusel and marshmallows.
This year, even though I was responsible for the whole meal myself, desserts still stole the show. I made a lot, even though we were a much smaller group around the table, because the girls were planning to bring back all the leftovers to their respective homes, roommates and friends who stayed put and did not get to indulge in homemade treats. And I didn’t get to get my bake on for our annual dessert party this year, so I blame the excess on that as well.
I made a pumpkin pie cheesecake, pecan bars (Hannah’s annual request), apple and pear crumble, cranberry lemon bars and maple pumpkin cake. I am including the recipes for the last two here because I think this new twist on lemon bars is worth repeating (this was a new recipe this year from the NYT Cooking) and the maple pumpkin cake is a staple of mine that makes its way onto the menu every year. As it was baking, David said, “It smells like Thanksgiving.”
We were able to play games one night with Noah and Leigha and wish both our moms a Happy Thanksgiving set video calls. I wish we had them at our table rather than electronically, but I am grateful we live in a time where I can still see them and interact with them (read: show off how stinking cute Murphy, our new pooch, is). I am so very grateful the girls were able to join us and watching them jam with David in the garage (for a music video they are making together) was a highlight of the weekend for me.
I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful too and I hope you will enjoy and indulge in these treats that deserve a spot on the table when it is not Thanksgiving.
Cranberry Lemon Bars
FOR THE CRANBERRY LAYER:
1 (12-ounce/340-gram) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
¾ cup/150 grams granulated sugar
2 to 3 large lemons
FOR THE CRUST:
Nonstick cooking spray
1 ½ cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
⅓ cup/65 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup/170 grams unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled
FOR THE LEMON LAYER:
1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
¼ cup/30 grams all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar (optional)
Start preparing the cranberry layer: Combine the cranberries, sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Zest 2 of the lemons directly into the saucepan; reserve the lemons. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until the berries burst and the mixture is jammy, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.
Make the crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with one large sheet of heavy aluminum foil, making sure there are no gaps or holes, then generously coat with cooking spray.
Whisk the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the vanilla into the butter, then pour over the flour mixture. Stir until the dough comes together in a mass. Press into an even layer in the prepared pan. Bake until golden brown around the edges and dry and golden on top, 17 to 20 minutes.
While the crust bakes, begin preparing the lemon layer: Squeeze the juice from the 2 reserved zested lemons. You should have 1/2 cup. Squeeze the juice from another lemon, if needed.
Whisk the sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the eggs and whisk gently just until incorporated. Add the lemon juice and stir gently with the whisk just until smooth.
Let the crust cool for 5 minutes, then spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the crust. Carefully and slowly pour the lemon mixture on top to create two distinct layers.
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 2 hours. Using the foil, slide the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into 24 squares, wiping your knife between cuts for clean slices. If desired, sift confectioners’ sugar over the tops just before servin
The Great Pumpkin Cake
2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
3 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon each ground ginger and baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 can (15-16 ounces) solid pack pumpkin
1/3 cup reduced fat sour cream
Brown Sugar Frosting:
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup butter, cut in pieces
¼ cup milk
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/3 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 14 cup bundt pan. Melt chocolate in a medium bowl in microwave on high one minute, then stir. Repeat at 10 second intervals until completely melted and smooth. Let cool.
In a medium bowl, stir flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt until blended. Beat butter and both sugars in a large bowl wth mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minites. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. On low speed, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with pumpkin until blended. Beat in sour cream.
Stir 1 1/3 cups batter into the melted chocolate. Spread 1 1/3 cups pumpkin batter evenly into prepared pan. Dot with ½ of the chooolate batter, then cover with pumpkin batter and repeat both layers. Bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick insert4d in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes before inverting cake on rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, bring brown sugar, butter and milk to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring often. Boil 2 minutes and remove from heat and let cool until the bottom of the pan is comfortable to touch. /Scrape it into a mixer bowl (I actually do this right in the pan) and add confectioners sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed (I do this by hand) until think enough to drizzle on cake. Spoon over cake letting some drip down sides. Let stand until frosting sets.