Autumn Desserts Beyond the Pie

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I know, I know. Fall and winter mean pie — pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, maybe pecan … but what about those of us who don’t love pie? Or can’t eat it?

Gluten sensitivities and allergies are increasingly common these days, so I have assembled a selection of seasonal sweets that can be made dairy free, wheat free and without rolling out pastry dough.

Red Wine Poached Prunes

Serves 4 generously

I was in Charleston, South Carolina, on a girls’ weekend recently and, as we finished our meal, it was suggested that we each pick a dessert from the menu to pass around so we could taste a variety.

One of the ladies chose red wine poached prunes. I snarked, “You are not invited to the next trip!” She insisted they were delicious; I insisted that they were breakfast food for bubbes seeking to maintain regularity.

Well, talk about eating your words. The prunes were sweet and flavorful, soaked in a red wine syrup infused with cinnamon. Ours were served on a bed of whipped mascarpone cheese, so the presentation was beautiful, and the rich, creamy cheese delivered a velvety contrast to the sweetly spiced prunes and wine.

If a pareve dessert is desired, you could skip the cheese and ladle the prunes and syrup over a sponge cake or sorbet.

  • 1 pound pitted prunes
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium-sized saucepan, place all the ingredients and bring them to a boil.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes.

Cool — either slightly or completely — and serve as desired.

Note: If serving over mascarpone cheese, allow 1½ cups of cheese to soften to room temperature, add 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar and whip with a fork. Place a scoop on a plate and top it with prunes and syrup. Garnish with a mint sprig if desired.

Sweet Potato Pudding

Serves 4-6

This is essentially the filling of a sweet potato pie without the fuss of the crust. It’s a bonus for the host, as it keeps for several days in the fridge, making it an ideal do-ahead dessert. This version is pareve, but it can be made dairy using milk and nonfat milk powder in place of the almond flour and almond milk. Coconut milk and coconut flour/powder can also be used.

This makes a small batch, but can easily be doubled or tripled as needed.

It is fine on its own, but can be dressed up with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, or topped with crumbled ginger snaps, candied ginger, toffee bits, candied nuts or caramel sauce.

  • 1½ pounds sweet potatoes
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Scrub and prick the sweet potatoes and bake them for about 45 minutes until cooked through and totally soft. Cool.

Coat a small, 1-quart baking dish with nonstick spray.

When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the flesh and mash until totally smooth. Set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk all remaining ingredients and then mix them with the potatoes until smooth and completely blended.

Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake for about 50 minutes until the texture is firm. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

Pear Clafouti

Pear Clafouti
SlatteryMedia / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Serves 4-6

This dessert is midway between a custard and a cake. It is offered here with pears, but any seasonal fruit can be used, making this a simple and delicious year-round treat. Try it with apples, plums, berries, peaches or pitted cherries.

Because this is a dense hybrid of a cake and custard, the flour is less of a concern than in traditional cakes, so almond or coconut flour could be substituted for a gluten-free dessert. Nondairy milk and nondairy ricotta cheese may also be used for a pareve dish.

  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups chopped pears
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a deep dish pie plate with oil.

Scatter the pears in the prepared pie plate and spritz with lemon and sprinkle with sugar; mix.

In a blender, mix the milk, ricotta, eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla until smooth.

Pour the milk mixture over the pears and spread it with a spatula to distribute the batter and fruit evenly.

Bake for about 35 minutes until golden brown; the center of the clafouti should be slightly rounded. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

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