Try this decadent apple and rosemary-infused flan instead of pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving. (Photo/Courtesy Bren Herrera)

Countdown to Thanksgiving: 3 sinfully sweet alternatives to pumpkin pie

Say what you will about the Thanksgiving meal, but no matter how many courses are served there is always ­– and we mean always – room for dessert. And while traditional Thanksgiving sweets include apple pie and sweet potato soufflé, there’s plenty of inspiration among the Latin repertoire of desserts to include a treat or two that will make guests forget the urge to dig into the usual offerings.

Take for example, vegan chef Terry Hope Romero’s pumpkin churros. Crisp on the outside with a creamy interior, these churros are a whimsical alternative to pumpkin pie. Then there’s a sweet potato tart tatin by chef David Guas. Of Cuban descent and New Orleans-raised, Guas is an expert pastry chef, restaurant owner and cookbook author who breaks down the steps to an impressive dessert that’s rich with seasonal flavors and warming spices. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Latin celebration without the inclusion of flan. Food blogger and expert Bren Herrera shares with us her recipe for a three-apple and fragrant rosemary-infused flan that’s indulgent and far more interesting than the usual apple pie.

pumpkin churrosPumpkin Churros

From “Vegan Eats World,” by Terry Hope Romero (Da Capo Books)

Makes about 20-22 four inch churros

Churro dough

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cups water

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

⅔ cup pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon vegan margarine

Mild flavored vegetable oil for deep frying, enough for about 2 1/2 inches

Cinnamon sugar: 1/3 cup sugar plus 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Pour sugar and cinnamon into a dinner plate and stir to combine, then spread evenly in the dish. On another plate spread layers of paper towels or crumpled brown paper bags and have it nearby where you’ll be frying the churros.

2. In a deep cast iron pot pour enough oil to reach at least 2 ½ inches. Heat the oil over medium high heat; the oil is ready when it’s rippling and a small chunk of bread fries and turns golden immediately. If you have a thermometer the oil should be at 350 degrees, but if it passes the fry test it’s ready.

3. While the oil is heating, in a mixing bowl combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. In a large saucepan combine water, brown sugar, pumpkin puree and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, then stir in margarine to melt. Turn heat to low and slowly pour in a little of the flour mixture at a time, mixing constantly with a large fork (never use a wire whisk as the dough will just get gummed up in the wires). When all the ingredients are moistened, turn off the heat and switch to a rubber spatula and continue to stir the dough until it’s smooth and just cool enough to handle.

4. Fit a very large pastry bag with a large star tipped nozzle; the tip should be at least ¼ inch wide. Use the rubber spatula to pack the dough into the bag, then firmly twist the top to press the dough through the nozzle. Squeeze a length of dough about 4-5 inches long into the hot oil, either looping the ends together or into a straight line. If you prefer, use kitchen scissors to snip of the end of the dough as it lowers into the oil.

Cook’s note: If you don’t feel comfortable lowering dough directly into hot oil, squeeze a dough loop onto waxed paper, then carefully lift it into the oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes, turning over once with a wire skimmer, until churros are puffed and golden. Lift from the oil, allowing excess to drip off and place on the paper-lined plate to drain. When cooled after 1-2 minutes, flip churros a few times in the cinnamon sugar and serve warm.

Sweet Potato Tart Tatin_Ellen SilvermanSweet Potato Tart Tatin

From “DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style” by Chef David Guas and Raquel Pelzel  (Taunton Press, 2009)

Yield: 6 servings

1 sheet all-butter, store-bought puff pastry, thawed

3/4 cup sugar [plus 1 tablespoon for pastry]

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

1½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, ends removed, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds

1 large egg

1 tablespoon milk

For serving ice cream [optional]

Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the puff pastry sheet on your work surface and cut out a 10-inch circle. Set the circle onto the prepared baking sheet. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and refrigerate.

Place 3/4 cup of sugar in a small saucepan and cover with 1/4 cup of water. Gently stir with a spoon to make sure all of the sugar is wet (it should have the consistency of wet sand), place a cover on slightly askew, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Keep the mixture covered until the syrup is clear and producing syrupy-looking medium-size bubbles, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to cook until the sugar is a light butterscotch color and its temperature reaches 320°F. Turn off the heat (the sugar will continue to cook in the pan even though the heat is off). Once the temperature reaches 350°F (this will take only a few minutes), whisk in the butter, 1/2 tablespoon (1 piece) at a time, waiting until each addition is completely incorporated before adding the next. Stir in the vanilla and the salt, and pour the caramel into a 10-inch cast iron skillet.

Cover the caramel with the sliced potatoes, starting in the center and overlapping in a spiraling outward circle as you go. Top with the puff pastry circle. Beat the egg and the milk together and brush over the pastry, and then sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake until the edges are deep amber and the pastry is puffed and golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a large plate (make sure the diameter of the plate is larger than 10 inches!). Slice into wedges and serve with or without ice cream.

AppleRosemaryFlansizedThree apple and rosemary flan

6 tbsp. sugar

4 whole eggs, whisked

3/4 cup 3-apple purée (honey crisp, gala, pink lady)

1- 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

3/4 cup 2% or whole milk

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

3 sprigs of rosemary, chopped and divided

For apple purée

Wash, rinse, and peel apples. Core and chop them, removing core. Chop up apples into small chunks. In medium sauce pan, cook apples and 2 sprigs of rosemary in 2 cups boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until apples are tender. Drain and rinse to stop cooking. Add apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar to food processor. Blend until super smooth with no chunks. Do not add water.

For custard

In a bowl, combine eggs, sweetened condensed & whole milk, apple purée, extract.  Whisk for about 2 minutes. Set aside.

For caramel

Add sugar to the aluminum flan mold and bring to medium-high heat. Allow all of the sugar to melt down until golden caramel, stirring constantly. Do not allow sugar to burn. When sugar is fully dissolved into caramel, carefully coat the bottom and sides of the flan mold using hand towels to hold the pan. Use a brush if you are not experienced in handling extremely hot caramel. Let sit for two minutes until sugar sets. Pour flan mixture into pan using a medium mesh hand strainer.

Baking the flan

If you have a traditional 10″ flan pan, cover entirely with aluminum foil. If using a more updated version, cover lid and shut tight with latches. Add two cups of water to a large saucepan and gently place flan pan into the baño de Maria. Bring to boil for 45-60 minutes or until custard is fully cooked, but not too firm. Once the flan is fully cooked, immediately low heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove flan pan from the baño de Maria and discard excess water from saucepan.

Do not remove flan from pan. Refrigerate for 7-9 hours or overnight. To serve, loosen the sides of the flan all the way around using a butter knife. Take a large plate, place upside down on top of flan and flip!

Garnish flan with baked apple slices and rosemary sprig, if desired.

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