Saturday, November 17, 2018


This year’s Thanksgiving menu presents some challenges, with guests who are variously vegetarian, gluten- and dairy-intolerant. Then there’s me—I don’t eat sugar, or honey or maple syrup. But I love a challenge in the kitchen!

(For readers who don’t know about Thanksgiving: it’s an American harvest holiday—día de acción de gracia—celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. Roast turkey and pumpkin pie are two of the traditional dishes served for the festive meal.)


I’m starting with dessert. Here’s this nice pumpkin from the garden. With the guests’ dietary restrictions, traditional pumpkin pie, with wheat–flour crust and dairy in the filling, is out.  I found a recipe for a pumpkin pudding from Valencia (eastern Spain). Called arnadí, it is thickened with almond flour and egg yolks, studded with almonds and pine nuts.

The dessert is said to be Moorish in origin, with a name that comes from Arabic. But in that era, it probably was confected with edible gourd, carrot or, possibly, eggplant, as squash and pumpkin were unknown (they came later from the New World).

The traditional Valencian recipe calls for an equal weight of cooked, mashed pumpkin and sugar, producing a dense paste more like candy than pudding. Modern versions use half the amount of sugar.

Mashed pumpkin is spiced and sweetened, mounded in a cazuela and studded with almonds and pine nuts.

Baking sets the pudding and toasts the almonds.

Serve the pudding in wedges or scoops.

I used a small, thick-fleshed pumpkin (pie pumpkin) weighing about 5 ½ pounds. Any winter squash—acorn, butternut, hubbard or delicata—or sweet potatoes can be substituted. They may be more or less sweet-fleshed, so taste the mixture as you add the sugar gradually. The pulp can be cooked by oven-roasting or steaming. Cook it a day before you make the pudding, so it can drain overnight.

My portion, no sugar.
For my no-sugar dessert, I removed a big spoonful of the pumpkin puree with almond flour, spices and eggs before adding the sugar. I sweetened it very slightly with stevia, a non-caloric sweetener and baked it for a shorter time.

I’m thinking this pudding could also be baked in a pie crust as a dairy-free variation on traditional pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin-Almond Pudding

Mashed pumpkin is spiced with cinnamon, ginger, lemon and orange zest, thickened with almond flour (on the right) and egg yolks, sweetened with sugar, studded with almonds and pine nuts.
Serves 8.

1 medium pumpkin (5 ½ - 6 ½ pounds, to make about 3 cups of cooked and drained pulp)
2 1/3 cups almond flour (unsweetened ground almonds)
1 ½ cups sugar
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon powdered ginger (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
Olive oil
¼ cup whole, blanched and skinned almonds
1 tablespoon pine nuts
Whipped cream or Greek yogurt to serve (optional)

One day before making the pudding:

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Cut pumpkin in half through the stem end. Scoop out and discard seeds. Place the pumpkin halves cut-side down in a rimmed baking sheet. Roast 30 minutes. Turn cut-side up and roast until pumpkin is very tender when tested with a skewer. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. (Turn off oven.)

After roasting, scoop out flesh.
When cool enough to handle, scoop flesh from the pumpkin shell. Place it in a sieve over a colander and allow to drain overnight. (Discard the skin.)

To make the pudding:

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Place the pumpkin in a large mixing bowl and use a potato masher to mash the flesh (or put it through a potato ricer). Drain off any liquid that accumulates in the bowl. 

Stir in the almond flour. Reserve 2 teaspoons of the sugar and add enough of remaining sugar to the pumpkin-almond mixture to sweeten it to taste (taste it before adding the egg yolks). Beat in the egg yolks, lemon and orange zest, cinnamon, ginger and salt.

Lightly oil an earthenware cazuela or oven-safe 8-inch glass pie dish. Mound the pumpkin mixture in the cazuela. Use a knife or spatula to shape it into a smooth peak. Drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with the reserved 2 teaspoons of sugar.

Make a pattern with almonds and pine nuts.
Place the whole almonds in a small bowl with a few drops of oil and coat them lightly. Stick the almonds, pointed end down, into the surface of the pudding, creating a pattern. Repeat with the pine nuts.

Bake the pudding 40 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 400ºF and bake until almonds are beginning to brown, 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Chill the pudding. 

To serve, spoon the pudding into dessert cups or slice into wedges and place on plates. If desired, serve accompanied by whipped cream or yogurt.

Pudding is good served with whipped cream or a dollop of Greek yogurt.

More recipes with pumpkin:

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