When the sun begins to dim, and costumed children stir impatiently at the dinner table, their parents coaxing them to eat one more bite before the sugar celebrations begin, something magical happens. Halloween night transforms neighborhoods into open thoroughfares, luring neighbors out to say hello, amid twinkling orange lights and luminous glow sticks. There are tricks and there are treats, and yes, I do believe, there is magic.
I love Halloween, I always have. As a child, it was about creativity, crafting cunning costumes, and staying out late on school nights. The candy, of course, was a sweet bonus.
But these days, I have grown to love the other side of this spooky holiday. I love how we can all transform, for just one night, into something otherworldly. And that includes desserts.
I may love sneaking a piece or two (okay, three, but I promise, ahem, that’s it) of candy from the children’s candy hoard, but truth be told, I much prefer the creative desserts that are inspired by the Halloween season. This year, I am churning a brew of another sort: Pumpkin Ice Cream. And squishing it between sinful Peanut Butter Sugar Cookies.
As I retrieved my chilled treats to photograph, my always Halloween-ready cat, Zoe, came to investigate. I dare say she was impressed and ready to take a lick.
Pumpkin Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart.
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1 cup skim milk
• 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, divided
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• pinch of salt
• 4 egg yolks
• 1 cup canned pumpkin
In a medium sauce pan, combine the heavy cream, skim milk, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt, and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to stir, dissolving the sugar, and bring the cream mixture to about 175 degrees (about 8 minutes). Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and allow the spice infused cream steep for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl, and slowly add the remaining sugar, whiskingfor about 4 minutes, or until the eggs are light in color and thick. When the cream finishes steeping, ladle 1 cup of the hot cream in a drizzle into the eggs while whisking to temper. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan, and gently cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 8-10 minutes. You will know the custard is ready when you are able to coat the back of your wooden spoon and run your finger down, leaving a line.
Prepare an ice bath. Strain the mixture into the prepared bowl of the ice bath. Let the ice cream custard cool for 1 hour in the ice bath, stirring periodically. Meanwhile, stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla into the canned pumpkin. After the custard has cooled, whisk together the pumpkin into the chilled ice cream custard. Chill the pumpkin custard overnight in the refrigerator.
Place custard into the chilled bowl of your ice cream maker and churn for about 30 minutes. It may be served immediately or stored in an airtight container in the freezer.
Peanut Butter Sugar Cookies
Makes 24-30 cookies.
• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup powdered sugar
• 1 egg
• 1/3 cup peanut butter
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2 1/2 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Mix in the granulated and powdered sugars and mix thoroughly. Add the egg and mix until well incorporated. Add the peanut butter and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir into the butter mixture until just combined.
Divide the dough into two place in the center of two separate plastic wrap sheets. Form each into a disk and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
Work with one disk at at time. Roll the cookie dough to 1/4 inch thick. Use your favorite cookie cutter to cut the cookies; a 2 1/2 inch cutter is a good size. If the dough has softened while you rolled and cut, place in the refrigerator or freezer to firm up a bit while you roll out the rest of your dough. You can also store the cut cookies in the freezer for future batches.
Bake the cookies for about 8 minutes, until they are baked and a light golden color. Carefully transfer to a wire baking rack to cool completely.
Adapted from Peanut Butter Sugar Cookies on Food.com.