October 7, 2009
Pumpkin recipe contest produces pleasing results

*Note: This story has been updated to include the winners' names.

You know you've tasted some delicious desserts when you can try nine pumpkin confections and still want to sneak a few more bites.

This past weekend marked the annual Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin and Harvest Festival and with it the "Best Pumpkin Dessert" recipe contest.

I was fortunate to have been asked to serve as one of the contest's judges this year. Tough gig if you can get it.

We viewed, we tasted, we voted. And in the end, three home cooks walked away with cash prizes and bragging rights.

First place, and $350, went to Lee Ann Duclo for her pumpkin cheesecake. The cheesecake had a delicate pumpkin taste, silky mouthfeel and just the right amount of tang.

Malinda Cirimele earned second place and $100 for her pumpkin spice latte fudge. This is a recipe that I will be trying out soon (like this weekend). It tasted so reminiscent of a pumpkin spice latte that the only thing missing was a burned tongue.

Third place went to Carol Dyer for her unusual, but delectable, pumpkin dip. This is a sweet dip, to be served with cookies. I thought the idea sounded strange at first glance, but the dip had a wonderfully spicy, pumpkin flavor and creamy texture.

Click the link below to get the recipes.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time:1 hour, 25 minutes Serves: 8 to 10 people Notes: Recipe printed with permission from the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin and Harvest Festival.

For the crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
8 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:
Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 eggs, beaten

For the topping:
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor, blend crumbs and melted butter until moist, but not wet. Press into the botton and up the sides of a springform pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the brown sugar. Blend in pumpkin, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly mix in eggs and then pour into the crust in the springform pan. Bake for 55 minutes or until the center is set. Turn off the oven and remove the cheesecake.

In a medium bowl, mix together the sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla. Spread the mixture over the top of the cheesecake and return to the warm oven for 30 minutes. Remove the cheesecake and let cool to room temperature before removing the springform sides.

(Appetizer's note: many cheesecake recipes call for the cakes to be refrigerated for at least 4 to 6 hours or overnight before removing the springform sides and serving)

Pumpkin Spice Latte Fudge
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes, plus additional time to let fudge set
Serves: Yields about 48 small square pieces
Notes: Recipe printed with permission from the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin and Harvest Festival.

2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons espresso powder
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter a 9-by-13 inch pan and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, espresso powder, half-and-half, pumpkin, corn syrup and pumpkin pie spice. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. As soon as boiling starts, stop stirring and attach a candy thermometer. Allow the mixture to reach the soft ball stage, about 235 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool down to about 110 degrees. Stir in the white chocolate chips, butter and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and allow to set for several hours at room temperature. Cut into squares.

Pumpkin Dip
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: None
Serves: Yields 4 cups
Notes: Recipe printed with permission from the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin and Harvest Festival.

2 cups canned pumpkin
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cups powdered sugar

Gingersnaps or sugar cookies

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine pumpkin, cream cheese, cinnamon and ground ginger. Beat until well blended. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Serve dip with gingersnaps or sugar cookies.

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