Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Lieu of Pie.....

So thanksgiving has come and gone and I didn’t get pie… but I got my pumpkin fix anyhow (and really, my mom is better at pie making anyways, hi mom!). Instead, This recipe from the Autumn 2009 LCBO Food and Drink intrigued me. As luck would have it I had all of the ingredients in my pantry to make this pumpkin butter shortbread torte. Think of it as a sexed up version of pumpkin pie. Tender shortbread flavoured with orange zest and Chinese five spice powder, gets sandwiched with a sweet and spicy pumpkin butter full of fresh ginger. The shortbread gets baked into disks and layered with the pumpkin butter then left to chill so that the cookies soften into a cake-like texture, and the orange and spice flavours meld together into something far tastier than the sum of its parts.

But lets talk about its parts anyways.

The cookie layers: The orange five spice shortbread, was a simple shortbread that came together easily. My only change to the recipe was to substitute milk for the cream. The dough tasted really good, with the bright orange zest being a good counterbalance to the warm spices and slight fennel aftertatse. The cookies had a good texture and I would love to make these on their own as individual cookies. The only issue is that the original recipe said the dough would make 7 layers for the torte and I only got 6 layers, which were quite thin. Not that I am complaining, 6 layers is a lot of cookie. I don’t own a 8 inch tart pan, mine is 9 -inches so I did not get pretty fluted edges for my layers because I had to trace around a circle to get my cookie layers even. I think that next time I make this, I might try making mini tortes using my 3-ich tart rings or even pumpkin butter sandwich cookies. The baking time was originally 12 minutes, I had to reduce to 10 minutes because the cookies were quite thin and my oven is crazy hot. Some of my layers got a bit browned on the edges. Of course, those layers ended up being placed on the bottom when I assembled the torte, but that is our secret.

The pumpkin butter:

Pumpkin butter tastes like a cross between pumpkin pie and a spicy jam. It is sweet and thick and spicy, liberally flavoured with fresh ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange juice.

The recipe called for 4 cups canned pumpkin. I suppose fresh would work, but canned is more convenient, and I find has less liquid in it and I decided that it might be better for the torte to have a firmer filling. The pumpkin and spices get cooked together for 40 minutes to intensify their flavour.

3 cups of pumpkin butter gets used for the torte, which means you will have extra. That’s ok because this stuff is also great on my cranberry scones or, you know, by the spoonful.

When it comes together, this torte is tall, sleek and modern and if you make this spread out over a couple of days, takes very little effort. I threw together the pumpkin butter and shortbread dough the night before, baked the cookies in the morning, assembled the torte before running off to class, and it was ready for that evening.

The layers softened up nicely, the torte easily sliced open to reveal sexy pin-striped insides. It has the nostalgic flavour of pumpkin pie, but the exotic hint of citrus and anise, made it much more mysterious and elegant than mere pie, the ingénue of pumpkin desserts.


Pumpkin Butter Shortbread Torte

Makes about 5 cups pumpkin butter (3 cups get used for the torte the rest is great on scones)

Makes 6-7 shortbread discs (you could probably make smaller cookies out of these)

Serves 12


Pumpkin butter:

  • 1 (796 ml) tin pure pumpkin puree or 4 cups
  • ¾ cup orange juice (about 2 oranges)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Shortbread layer

  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons half and half cream or milk (I used 1% milk)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • icing sugar for dusting

    1. For pumpkin butter: stir all ingredients together in a heavy bottom saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature before chilling completely. Makes about 5 cups of which 3 cups will be used for the torte.
    2. For the shortbread layers: beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg, orange zest and cream. In a separate bowl, sift flour, 5 spice powder, baking powder, and salt and add to butter mixture, stirring until, combined. Shape dough into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
    3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    4. Cut dough into 6 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 piece of dough to just over 1/8th inch thick. Use the fluted edge of an 8-inch remove-able bottom tart pan to cut out a large disc, reserving scrap pieces of dough. Transfer the disc to a parchment lined baking tray (you can use the flat bottom portion of the tart pan to lift the disc. Repeat with remaining discs of dough , rolling a seventh disc with the scraps (for some reason I didn’t have enough left over for a seventh cookie layer I only got 6 really thin ones). Bake for 10-12 minutes (fitting up to 2 cookies per baking sheet) until just the edges brown. Let cool before assembling.
    5. To assemble torte, lay one shortbread disc onto a plate. Spread about ½ cup pumpkin butter evenly over disc and top with another shortbread disc. Repeat until all layers are assembled. Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight before slicing, so that the layers will soften and slice evenly. To serve, dust top of torte with icing sugar.

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