I love the idea of pie. If asked what my favorite dessert is, I wouldn’t hesitate to shout S’MORES, with pie as a close second. Yet not many pies are baked in my house. Sadly there is not even one pie tin amongst the numerous baking pans and dishes stacked in my cupboards. Pie dough and I do not see eye to eye. It likes to crumble, tear, fall apart, and bring about fits of swearing in my kitchen. No matter the recipe. No matter the “fail-safe” instructions given by the most optimistic of bakers. In the end, I have never looked at a pie I made and said to myself, that was worth it. However, you will find many tart pans in my cupboards. The idea of shoving the dough into place is much more comforting to my baking soul. The patterned edge does all the work, shaping the dough to look as if I spent way more time on it than I did in reality. So, I make tarts. And when I’m feeling extra lazy, crumbles aren’t too bad either.
I ventured to think up every one of my favorite fall dessert flavors and incorporate them into this tart. It began with the crust. Pecans ground to a coarse meal and processed with cinnamon, ginger, molasses, and maple syrup. The addition of coconut oil instead of vegan butter added even more flavor. After baking the crust to toasted perfection, I began thinking about my favorite pumpkin filling. It’s one that does not require baking, and in my opinion packs the best flavor. I roasted a small sugar pumpkin, and pureed its flesh with my own pumpkin spice mix, a scoop of coconut whipped cream I had made while the pumpkin was roasting, and some maple syrup for natural sweetness. I filled the tart pan with the filling and popped it in the freezer to set. While I was whipping the coconut whipped cream earlier I was thinking about something to drizzle on the desert for an extra layer of fall flavor once I had topped it with the coconut whip. A caramel sauce. A vanilla caramel sauce. A salted vanilla caramel sauce. So I began reducing coconut milk fat and maple syrup on the stove down to a dreamy, dark caramel sauce that received a splash of vanilla and few dashes of salt once finished and then set aside to cool. Once the tart was chilled I removed it from the pan, spread on the coconut whip, drizzled the whole tart with the salted vanilla caramel sauce, and took a bite. Hot-damn if I did not just create the best pumpkin dessert of my life.
Gingersnap Pecan Crust
2 cups raw pecans
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
3 tablespoons coconut oil melted
Salted Vanilla Caramel
1 can full fat coconut milk chilled overnight
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 can full fat coconut milk chilled overnight
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut whip
Place a glass bowl and the whisk attachment you will be using to make the coconut whip in the freezer to chill.
For the crust, preheat the oven to 350F. Process the pecans, salt, and spices until they resemble a coarse meal. Add the molasses, maple syrup, and coconut oil. Process until the dough is whirling around your food processor as a large sticky ball. Press the dough into a 4″ x 14″ rectangular, or an 8″ – 9″ circular, tart pan. Bake for 12 minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the caramel sauce, remove the chilled can of full fall coconut milk from the refrigerator, open, scoop out 1 cup of the thick cream that should have separated from the water, and place it in a small sauce pan on the stove. Add the maple syrup, turn on the burner to high, and whisk to combine into a smooth mixture. Bring to a boil, and slightly reduct the heat to allow it to continue boiling without spilling over the sides of the sauce pan. Allow the caramel sauce to boil for 15 minutes, whisking vigorously every 3 minutes, which should reduced it’s volume to about half. Remove the pot from the heat and add in the vanilla and your desired amount of salt. Whisk the caramel well, and transfer to a glass jar on the counter to let cool, uncovered.
For the coconut whip, remove the chilled bowl and whisk attachment from the freezer. Scoop the thick coconut cream from the chilled can that should have separated while chilling overnight (just as it was done above for the caramel sauce) and place it in the chilled bowl. Using the chilled whisk with either a hand held or stand up mixer, whip the coconut cream until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to keep chilled while you prepare the filling.
For the pumpkin filling, roast one small sugar pumpkin (cut in half, seeds removed) cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment in the oven at 350F for 25-35 minutes (depending on the size of your pumpkin). Once cooled, scoop out the flesh into the bowl of your food processor and puree. Leave 1 1/2 cups of the puree in the processor bowl, and store any extra puree in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Puree the 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin with the coconut whip, maple syrup, salt, and pumpkin pie spice (1 teaspoon cinnamon, heaping 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, heaping 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon allspice, 1/8 teaspoon cloves). Spread the filling evenly inside of the cooled tart shell and place in the freezer to set for 15 minutes.
Remove the chilled tart from the freezer. Gently press up from the bottom of the tart pan, releasing the sides from the shell, and place on a serving board or plate. Top with coconut whip and drizzle with caramel sauce. Slice. Eat. Share. Be merry. Happy fall.