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Save the Jack-o'-Lantern

The recipes in this column focus on pumpkin. But that doesn’t mean you have to cook up your Jack-o'-lanterns. I use canned solid pack pumpkin; the flavor is reliable, and it couldn’t be more practical. It’s high in Vitamin A and a cup contains only 80 calories.

The pumpkin custard makes a great accompaniment to poultry, game, lamb and beef; the pumpkin yeast baguette is a most delicious dinner loaf for any occasion, and the pumpkin chiffon pie wins any competition with other mouthwatering dessert offerings.

The texture of this custard is smooth . Serve it with turkey, duck, chicken, game, beef, pork or lamb, it’s that versatile. Since the custard can be made in advance and reheated, it’s ideal company fare.

SAVORY ALLSPICE PUMPKIN CUSTARD

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1 (16-ounce) can solid pack pumpkin

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 eggs

1 cup milk

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3 tablespoons whipping cream

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Snipped chives for garnish

Grease 6 (1/2-cup) capacity individual souffle or other oven-proof dishes. Place single layer in large baking pan. Bring kettle of water to boil.

Combine pumpkin, melted butter, eggs, milk, whipping cream, allspice, salt and pepper in food processor fitted with metal blade or in bowl with whisk. Mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Divide mixture among prepared baking dishes. Pull oven rack halfway out and put pan containing dishes on rack. Carefully pour hot water into pan until halfway up sides of dishes.

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Place in center of oven and bake at 350 degrees until surface feels firm, about 35 minutes. Remove dishes from water and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

To serve, loosen gently with flexible knife. Invert on serving platter. Garnish with snipped chives. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

123.5 calories; 0 mg sodium; 27.87 grams cholesterol; 8.84 grams fat; 8.87 grams carbohydrate; 3.56 grams protein; 1.32 gram fiber; 64.42% calories from fat.

You’ll be delighted with the subtle pumpkin flavor in this easy yeast bread; it’s good for lunch, dinner, supper or breakfast (it makes great French toast). The bread can be baked as a conventional loaf in a nine-inch pan or free-form on a baking sheet; baking time may be a little longer than baguettes. The ultimate test is rapping the loaf--whatever the shape--on the bottom for the telling hollow sound and firm feel (if it’s soft, just pop it back into the oven a bit longer) .

SPICED PUMPKIN BAGUETTES

1 package dry yeast

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

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1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup bread flour

2 tablespoons instant nonfat dry milk powder

2 tablespoons butter, softened

3/4 cup solid-pack pumpkin

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

Oil and cornmeal for pan

1 egg white, frothed with fork

Stir yeast and 1 tablespoon light brown sugar into warm water in bowl. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Combine flours, instant milk powder, soft butter, pumpkin, allspice, cinnamon and salt in food processor fitted with metal blade or mixer bowl with dough hook. Turn machine on to mix ingredients. Slowly add yeast mixture. Mix patiently until dough cleans sides of bowl (it takes little longer for pumpkin to work in). If dough is too sticky, add more flour by tablespoon. If dough is dry and crumbly, add more water or pumpkin by teaspoon. Once desired moist (not sticky) consistency is achieved, mix until dough is well-kneaded, uniformly supple and soft, about 40 seconds in processor, about 6 minutes in mixer.

(Or alternately by hand, combine bread ingredients into large bowl. Mix well and make center space. Pour yeast mixture into space. With hands, work yeast mixture into ingredients, then knead dough on floured board until supple and soft, about 10 minutes.)

Transfer dough to large plastic bag, squeeze out air and seal at top. Place dough in bowl. Let rise in warm spot until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Oil double baguette pan and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal. Divide dough on floured board. Roll each piece into long cylinder to fit pan, pinching bottom and ends tightly. Place seam side down in prepared pan. Oil piece of plastic wrap, drape plastic loosely over pan, oiled-side down. Let rise in warm spot until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Slash tops of dough diagonally with sharp knife. Brush top lightly with egg white. Place in center of oven and bake at 375 degrees until loaf is dark brown and sounds hollow when rapped on bottom, about 30 minutes. Immediately remove loaves from pan to cool on wire rack. (Freeze up to 3 months). Makes 2 baguettes, about 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

266.87 calories; 311.61 mg sodium; 7.93 g cholesterol; 5.21 g fat; 48.16 g carbohydrates; 6.67 g protein; 0.19 g fiber; 17.57% calories from fat.

Here a crunchy candy-like gingersnap crust embraces an extremely light pumpkin chiffon filling. The crust would also work well with a pumpkin ice cream filling; serve the pie frozen, first allowing it to soften slightly at room temperature. You’ll need a sharp pie-server to penetrate the crisp crust.

FAMILY’S FAVORITE PUMPKIN CHIFFON PIE

2 tablespoons dark rum

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

3 egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups solid-pack pumpkin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Dash salt

4 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Crust

1 cup whipping cream, whipped and sweetened with 2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Combine rum, water and lemon juice in small dish. Sprinkle gelatin over top. Let stand until gelatin is absorbed.

Whisk egg yolks and sugar together in top of double boiler set on counter.

Add milk, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and mix well. Place pan over simmering water and cook mixture until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Add gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved. Chill until somewhat thickened but has not begun to set.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat to soft peaks. Gently fold into pumpkin mixture.

Transfer filling to crust. Refrigerate overnight. About 3 hours before serving, spoon sweetened whipped cream into pastry bag fitted with star tip and decorate pie. Refrigerate pie until serving time. Makes 8 servings.

Crust

1 1/3 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine crumbs, melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Press into bottom and up sides of 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees until set, about 6 minutes. Cool.

Each serving contains about:

407.89 calories; 273.41 mg sodium; 173.26 g cholesterol; 22.89 g fat; 44.72 g carbohydrates; 6.21 g protein; .38 g fiber; 50.51% calories from fat.

Note: Although many recipes call for uncooked eggs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found them to be a potential carrier of food-borne illness and recommends that diners avoid eating raw eggs. Commercial egg substitutes may be used in place of raw eggs in certain circumstances. Check egg substitute package for applications.


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