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Thanksgiving baking covers sweet, savory sides and desserts

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Ultra Creamy Pumpkin Pie

In our search for the creamiest possible pumpkin pie, we decided to take our inspiration from the ultimate of creamy pies: cheesecake.

We love the richness and depth cheesecake gets from its prime ingredient — cream cheese. That said, we didn’t want to bake a pumpkin cheesecake, which can be a bit too heavy after an already heavy meal. Plus, Thanksgiving is all about tradition, and we love a classic pumpkin pie.

But we did add just enough cream cheese to our favorite cream-based pumpkin pie filling to push it over the top in terms of creaminess. You’re going to love this. We opted for a chocolate crumb pie crust for this pie, but the filling will work wonderfully in any crust you care to use. Substitute at will.

Ultra-Creamy Pumpkin Pie

Start to finish: 1 hour, 10 minutes (15 minutes active)

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

12 teaspoon grated nutmeg

14 teaspoon ground allspice

12 teaspoon kosher salt

12 cup firmly packed brown sugar

12 cup maple syrup

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

3 large eggs

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

12 cup heavy cream

1 prepared deep-dish chocolate crumb crust (or preferred crust)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the oven’s middle rack.

In a food processor, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, salt and brown sugar. Process until well mixed. Add the maple syrup, cream cheese, eggs, pumpkin and cream, then process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure even mixing.

Transfer the pumpkin mixture to the prepared crust, smoothing the top. Place the pie on the heated baking pan in the oven. (This promotes even cooking.) Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the center of the pie jiggles only slightly. Cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 360 calories (150 calories from fat), 17 grams fat (8 grams saturated) 115 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams protein, 49 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams dietary fiber, 320 milligrams sodium

Sweet Potato Tart With Parmesan and Maple Syrup

We wanted a single solution for two problems — keeping kids entertained while preparing Thanksgiving dinner and serving sweet potatoes in a fresh, creative way.

This easy sweet-potato tart recipe is a delicious roasted dish that brings out the natural sweet and savory sides of sweet potatoes. It has a hint of sweetness, which should keep the marshmallow fan club pleased. And, it’s so foolproof to assemble, the kids can be put in charge of it.

All you need to do is prep the potatoes (a food processor will do this in seconds) and set out the ingredients and pan for the kids.

Start to finish: 1 hour (20 minutes active)

Nonstick cooking spray

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled

10 ounces grated parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Maple syrup, to serve

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Trim the sweet potatoes so that they fit into the feed tube of a food processor. It’s fine if you need to cut them into chunks for them to fit. Using the processor’s thinnest slicing blade, cut all of the sweet potatoes into very thin slices. Alternatively, use a mandoline to slice the sweet potatoes.

Pile the sliced sweet potatoes on the work surface. Place the parmesan in a bowl next to them. Have a grinder of black pepper nearby. Instruct the children to arrange a single layer of sweet-potato slices over the bottom of the prepared pan, then sprinkle a small amount of the cheese over them. Finish with a few grinds of pepper.

Have them repeat this, arranging another layer of sweet-potato slices over the cheese, followed by another sprinkling of cheese and pepper. Have them continue until they run out of ingredients. If they run out of cheese before they run out of sweet potatoes, give them more cheese.

When the kids finish assembling the dish, give the top of the tart a final sprinkle of cheese and a spritz of cooking spray, then bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a knife inserted at the center of the tart passes easily through the layers. Cool it for 15 minutes, then drizzle a bit of maple syrup over the tart and slice it into squares.

Makes 12 Servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 160 calories (50 calories from fat), 6 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 20 milligrams cholesterol, 9 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 240 milligrams sodium

Fluffy Sweet Potato-Bourbon Pie With Gingered Whipped Cream and Toasted Pecans

The key to a great sweet-potato pie is using fresh sweet potatoes. You can’t skip this step. Canned sweet potatoes do not work well in this pie. Furthermore, don’t boil your sweet potatoes. Boiling produces a pie filling that is watery and diluted. You want to roast the potatoes, which concentrates the natural sugars and intensifies the flavor.

After the potatoes are baked, they need to be processed in order to produce a silky texture.

Start to finish:2 12 hours (30 minutes active)

2 to 3 large sweet potatoes (1 12 to 2 pounds)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

34 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons bourbon

1 generous teaspoon vanilla extract

14 cup granulated sugar

12 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

14 teaspoon kosher salt

14 teaspoon grated nutmeg

14 teaspoon ground dry ginger

Pinch ground cloves

10-inch graham cracker pie crust, homemade or store-bought

For the topping:

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

12 teaspoon ground dry ginger

Toasted pecans, to garnish

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, then pierce them on top with a fork. Set the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast them until they are soft, for about 1 hour, or until you can see juices bubbling from where you pricked the potatoes. Set them aside until they are cool enough to handle.

After the sweet potatoes have cooled, peel and roughly chop them. Measure out a generous 2 cups of the flesh to a food processor. Process for 2 minutes, or until very smooth.

With the processor running, add the melted butter, eggs, cream, bourbon and vanilla. The mixture should begin to look light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the sugars, the cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Process again to combine and fully incorporate the final ingredients.

Place the prepared pie crust on a baking sheet, then transfer the sweet potato mixture into it. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the filling jiggles only slightly at the center. Let it cool to room temperature.

To prepare the topping: In a large bowl, combine the cream, sugar and ginger. Use a whisk or an electric mixer to whip until stiff peaks form. Mound the whipped cream over the cooled pie, then sprinkle with toasted pecans.

Makes 10 servings,

Nutrition information per serving: 530 calories (290 calories from fat), 32 grams fat (16 grams saturated), 135 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams protein, 56 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 290 milligrams sodium

Cider House Butter Rolls

Hot-from-the-oven rolls are just too delicious for us to be willing to settle for purchased. And they are too essential to the overall meal. After all, you need something wonderful to mop up all that gravy.

We created these easy-to-make dinner rolls that are spiced and sweetened with a bit of fresh apple cider that has been boiled down to a syrup. You won’t regret carving out a little extra time to make these rolls.

Start to finish: 3 hours (25 minutes active)

1 quart apple cider

1 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon instant yeast

14 cup honey

2 large egg yolks

1 large egg

4 cups flour, plus more for work surface

1 12 teaspons kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling

10 tablespoons butter, room temperature, divided

Nonstick cooking spray

In a large, deep saute pan over medium-high heat, bring the cider to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 12 cup.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium, scald the milk by heating it just until tiny bubbles form (to about 180 degrees). Set it and the cider aside to cool until just warm.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the milk, yeast and honey. Add the egg yolks, whole egg, flour, salt, the cider reduction and 4 tablespoons of the butter. Fit the mixer with the dough hook, then knead on low for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Work in additional flour if necessary to form a soft dough.

Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest until it is doubled in size, for about 45 minutes.

Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 2 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll each piece into a snake, about 24 inches long. Using a rolling pin, flatten the snake until it is 3 inches wide. Spread 2 tablespoons of the remaining softened butter over the piece of dough.

Fold the dough in half so that the two long sides touch and enclose the butter. Cut each length of dough into 12 pieces, 3 inches each. Arrange the pieces on their sides on the prepared baking sheet. The pieces may overlap a bit. Cover them with plastic wrap and allow them to rise until puffy, for 30 to 40 minutes.

Approaching the end of the rising time, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the pan of rolls until golden brown and an internal temperature reads 200 degrees, for 20 to 25 minutes. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and brush it over the tops of the rolls as soon as they come out of the oven. Sprinkle them lightly with salt. Allow the rolls to cool slightly before serving.

Makes 24 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 210 calories (90 calories from fat), 11 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 50 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 150 milligrams sodium

Spiced Pumpkin Cannoli

Who says the Thanksgiving pumpkin dessert has to be a pie? We decided to tinker with tradition just a bit by turning the usual pumpkin-pie filling into cannoli. Same great taste, whole new packaging.

We suggest garnishing the ends of the cannoli with chopped pistachios or chocolate, but feel free to improvise with whatever toppings inspire you. Chopped candied pecans would be particularly good.

Start to finish: 20 minutes, plus cooling time

12 cup firmly packed brown sugar

14 cup flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground dry ginger

14 teaspoon nutmeg

3 large eggs

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

30 miniature or 15 large purchased cannoli shells

Chopped pistachios or chopped dark chocolate, optional

In a medium saucepan off the heat, whisk together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the pumpkin puree.

Set the pan over medium heat and, whisking constantly, bring it to a simmer. Cook until the mixture thickens, for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the ricotta. Set it aside and allow it to fully cool.

When the pumpkin mixture has cooled, spoon it into a zip-close plastic bag and snip one corner. Gently squeeze the bag to pipe the mixture into the cannoli shells. After each shell is filled, gently press both ends of each into the chopped pistachios or chocolate to lightly coat the exposed filling. Refrigerate until ready to serve. These can be prepped 2 hours ahead of time.

Makes 15 large or 30 miniature cannoli.

Nutrition information per serving (based on 15 servings): 210 calories (90 calories from fat), 10 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 60 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 60 milligrams sodium

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