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I know what you’re thinking, and I will save you the trouble and ask the question myself: who in their right mind posts a pumpkin recipe in May? MAY!
Let me answer that by pointing to the giant knot on my head where a giant Tupperware of frozen pumpkin puree came flying out of my tragically overstuffed freezer and punched me in the skull.
It’s like this. I love a bargain, so I always buy the giant cans of pumpkin when they go on sale in the fall…despite the fact that every pumpkin recipe ever only seems to call for 1 cup of puree, and the rest of the puree always ends up sitting in my refrigerator, growing a furry beard, until I am sufficiently grossed out and shamed into tossing it.
After seeing this wasteful cycle play out over and over, I got wise and started freezing my leftover puree, so instead of neglecting it in the fridge, I could neglect it in the freezer. All was going according to plan, until the Great Pumpkin Assault of 2012 occurred.
So I decided to defrost it and put it to good use. Calendar month be damned. And that, my friends, is how this Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie recipe came to be.
In my defense, I tried to keep things semi-seasonal by pairing the pumpkin with ice cream instead of, say, baked apples and cider. The result is a lovely warm-weather pie with a touch of cold-weather flavor, perfect for these in-between months. If you’re like me, and you find yourself craving pumpkin bread at inappropriate times, this might just be the perfect dessert to tide you over until fall comes again and you can eat pumpkin EVERYTHING.
The best part about this pie is that it’s pretty low-fuss. The recipe calls for prepared vanilla ice cream, so although you can be ambitious and make your own, I won’t give you the side-eye if you decide to take the easy way and just buy a carton of ice cream. Mix the pumpkin puree with some cream and a few spices, swirl it into softened ice cream, and voila: you have a semi-homemade dessert that would make Sandra Lee jealous.
I topped my pie with a layer of cinnamon-flavored whipped cream and shards of pepita brittle. I think the candied pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch to the soft pie, but you can always top it with plain pumpkin seeds, a drizzle of chocolate, or a spoonful of warm caramel sauce.
Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie
For the crust:
- 7 ounces gingersnap cookies (to yield approx 1.5 cups crumbs)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 ounces unsalted butter melted
For the filling:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
For the pepita brittle:
- 3/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp light corn syrup
- 1/2 tbsp butter
To make the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place the gingersnap cookies in a food processor and blend until they are fine crumbs. (Alternately, you can put them in a large zip-top plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin until they are fine crumbs.)
- Combine the crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter in a bowl, and stir them together until everything is well-blended and the crumbs are the consistency of wet sand. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake the shell at 350 for about 10-12 minutes, until it is fragrant and just starts to get golden brown around the edges. Let the crust cool completely.
To make the filling:
- Take the ice cream out of the freezer and let it sit at room temperature until it is soft but not melted. (This took about 30 minutes in my cool-ish kitchen.) If you don’t want to wait, you can also soften it in 10-second intervals in the microwave.
- While the ice cream is softening, combine the pumpkin puree, the brown sugar, the cream, the vanilla, and all of the spices in a large bowl. Whisk them together until smooth. When the ice cream is soft, add it to the bowl with the pumpkin mixture and stir until they start to incorporate. Stop when you still have distinctive swirls—you do NOT want to completely combine them!
- Scrape the swirled pumpkin-vanilla ice cream into the baked shell and spread it into an even layer. Press cling wrap on top and place it in the freezer to firm up, for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- I find the pie is a little hard straight from the freezer, so I recommend removing it from the freezer about 30 minutes before serving time and keeping it in the refrigerator until you are ready to slice and eat it. This way it will still be cold and hold its shape, but it won’t be rock-hard and icy.
- To serve, beat together the cream, sugar, and cinnamon until firm peaks form. Top the pie with the whipped cream and, optionally, pepita brittle. It is also excellent with caramel sauce.
To make the pepita brittle:
- Toss the pepitas and spices together in a small bowl. Cover a baking sheet with foil sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, or with a nonstick silicone liner.
- Combine the sugar, water, and light corn syrup together in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Insert a candy thermometer.
- Cook the sugar syrup, without stirring, until it is fragrant and a dark amber color, about 340-350 degrees F. Watch it carefully toward the end, as it can quickly burn.
- Once at the right temperature, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the spices and nuts and the butter. Stir until everything is well-mixed, then pour it out onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread the brittle in as thin a layer as possible, and let it set at room temperature to harden. Once set, break into small shards and use as garnish.