If I told you that you could serve up a pumpkin spice dessert for Thanksgiving that was creamy, indulgent, no-bake, no-cook and easy to prepare ahead with no special tools—well, you’d probably think I was lying or, at least, overpromising, right? But the proof is right there in the picture, and this tiramisu achieves all of that and then some.
As I surmised when I made the chocolate-cherry tiramisu at Valentine’s Day this year, the classic Italian dessert is basically a dressed-up version of an ice-box cake. Layers of sweetened mascarpone cream and espresso-soaked delicate ladyfingers are accented with a hint of rum or brandy, and dusted with pure cocoa for a chocolate-y finish. I am a huge fan of tiramisu, and I enjoyed it most recently in its traditional Italian style when my friend, Peg, and I traveled up to West Virginia and Ohio for the Fiesta Factory tent sale.
But I came home thinking, “why couldn’t I give this scrumptious dessert a little Thanksgiving twist?” And so I did. Note that I have made several substitutions from a typical tiramisu recipe:
The recipe is made with raw egg yolks, so if you have health concerns about that, I’d encourage you to seek out an eggless or cooked egg recipe, or perhaps consider using pasteurized eggs. Also, planning ahead is more of a requirement than a convenience, as tiramisu improves after a 24-hour setup time. If you’re going to try the recipe for Thanksgiving, you might want to make it a couple of evenings ahead.
Ingredients (6 generous servings)
3 egg yolks, room temperature*
2 Tbsp. maple sugar (or use superfine if you can’t find maple)
8 oz. tub mascarpone, room temperature
5 Tbsp. Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter*
1 tsp. real vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. Pumking whiskey, divided* (see notes)
1 1/2 cups brewed light roast cacao with cinnamon*
7 oz. package ladyfingers (this might be labeled as biscotti savoiardi)
2 Tbsp. maple sugar, mixed with 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
The egg yolks should be room temperature for this recipe, but it is easier to separate the eggs when they are cold from the fridge. Save the whites for your weekend omelet.
If you don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s store, any other brand of pumpkin butter will work just fine. Homemade would be even better!
I found the Pumking Whiskey completely by chance when my husband and I traveled through New Jersey and Connecticut at the end of summer, and it’s a real treat. Distribution from this craft distillery is limited, but readers in the northeast U.S. should have little trouble finding it. Otherwise, go with spiced light rum, or perhaps even Frangelico.
My first impressions of the Crio Bru brewed cacao were only so-so, but I’ve grown to really enjoy this as an occasional alternative to coffee. Since the time I first discovered the company, it has added an array of new seasonal flavors, and the cinnamon is one of my favorites. It’s a limited edition that is currently only available in a sample pack, but the company just added another flavor—you guessed it, pumpkin spice!
I made this in a Pyrex dish that measures 8 ½ x 7” inches, but I’m sure you could also make this recipe work in an 8 x 8” dish. Or double the recipe and use a 9 x 13.
It helps to have an electric mixer (either stand or handheld) to make this dessert, but it can also be done with a whisk and a good strong arm. 🙂
In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whip eggs until they are smooth. Gradually add maple sugar and continue whipping until all sugar is dissolved into the yolks.
Add mascarpone into the bowl and blend on low speed until the mixture is evenly mixed, smooth and glossy. Fold in 2 Tbsp. of the Pumking whiskey, plus the pumpkin butter and vanilla extract.
Using a mesh sifter, sprinkle about half of the maple-spice mixture into the baking dish.
Combine brewed cacao and remaining Pumking whiskey in a flat bowl. Carefully dip the ladyfingers, one at a time, into the liquid. Turn only twice before arranging the cookies in the dessert dish. I have learned that it is very easy to make the ladyfingers soggy, so err on the conservative side. Repeat until you have a complete single layer of ladyfingers in the dish.
Carefully spread half of the pumpkin-mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers, smoothing it all the way to the edges of the dish.
Repeat with the next layer of ladyfingers, top with the remaining mascarpone mixture, and sprinkle the top with the remaining maple-spice mixture. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving.
Who doesn’t love an English muffin? It’s a terrific change-up from the usual toasted bread for breakfast, and at our house, we’re eating a lot of them lately. They’re quick and simple to make, with or without a stand mixer, and you don’t even need to turn on your oven. My recipe makes 12, and though that may seem like a lot for one household, I’ll note that these muffins aren’t just for breakfast. They also make exceptional burger buns, and my husband uses them to make sandwiches to take to work for lunch, too!
My inspiration recipe comes from King Arthur Flour, my favorite brand. And while I would certainly disclose any financial agreements with vendors, I will be clear to say that KAF is not paying me to brag about their products (not yet, anyway, but I’m open, baking team). I just like them, and I trust their website for products, baking ideas and help when I need it.
Their recipe for Sourdough English Muffins does require the use of ripe (fed) sourdough starter, and although it typically calls for addition of commercial yeast (for quicker rise), it’s possible to omit it, and I’ve adjusted for that in my notes below. If you don’t have a starter, their yeast-risen English muffins are great, too. It’s tough to find yeast during the COVID-19 pandemic, but if you happen to have some in your pantry, you’re golden. Here’s a tip—you can ration your yeast by halving the amount called for in the recipe; just give it more time to rise. This is true for virtually any yeast recipe, by the way.
Let’s Get Cooking!
Because the KAF recipe yields 24 English muffins (holy moly, that’s a lot!), I’ve taken the liberty of adjusting all the ingredients by half. Additionally, I always swap in some portion of whole grain flour in place of white, and I usually add some milled flax seed because I cannot leave well enough alone. You decide, based on your own experience and comfort level. If you notice grainy spots in my technique photos, this is the reason. They literally are grainy spots.
When these are completely cooled, you can put them in a sealed plastic bag. They’ll keep on the counter for up to a week, or you can put them in the freezer. No need to thaw them before toasting. I hope they turn out great for you!
Ingredients and Tools
(weight measurement included for seasoned bakers; if you’re baking these for the first time, please see notes section for tips on the best way to accurately measure your flour for baking)
1/2 cup (114g) ripe sourdough starter* (stirred down before measuring – see notes) 1 cup (227g) warm filtered water (ideally, about 110° F) 1/2 tsp instant yeast (optional, for quicker rise) 1 Tbsp. (12g) sugar 3 1/2 cups (422g) all-purpose flour* (see notes for measuring and substitutions) 1/4 cup (22g) nonfat dry milk* (see notes if you don’t have this) 1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt 2 Tbsp. (28g) butter, room temperature Additional flour for dusting counter for kneading Cornmeal for dusting muffins before baking
If you don’t have a kitchen scale, use this method for accurately measuring flour in baking
For sourdough science nerds who may be wondering, my starter is 100% hydration; I feed it (once or twice a week) 90/10 high protein bread flour/freshly milled rye flour
You may substitute whole wheat flour up to 1/3 of the total amount of flour
If you don’t have nonfat dry milk, adjust the water to 3/4 cup and use 1/4 cup regular milk along with it
Stand mixer or large bowl and heavy wooden spoon Plastic wrap and clean lightweight kitchen towels Electric griddle or pan for stove-top “baking” Heat-safe spatula for turning Cooling rack for finished muffins
In a mixing bowl, bring your starter to room temperature, or at least allow some of the refrigerator chill to wear off. Combine with warm water until it’s an even slurry, and stir in the sugar (and instant yeast, if using) a minute or so to dissolve sugar.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, dry milk and sea salt until well blended. Add to the wet mixture and stir with a heavy wooden spoon or blend in stand mixer until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Switch to kneading hook or turn the dough out onto a floured countertop. Knead until the dough feels a little less shaggy and more organized. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest about 20 minutes.
Stretch out the dough and spread the soft butter over it. The KAF recipe suggests adding the butter at the start, but I’ve learned to add fats after the flour is fully hydrated, so this is my method. Fold the dough up with butter inside and continue kneading, about 10 minutes by hand or 5 to 6 minutes by machine with dough hook. This part will get messy, but keep at it and eventually, the butter will work its way through the entire dough. You want smooth and even dough—soft and slightly tacky, but not sticky. Shape dough into a tight ball (if you imagine squeezing it around and toward the bottom, you’ll get a feel for this), place it in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap or lid and let it rise at room temperature until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in size. If your room is warm and you used additional yeast, this will be about 60 minutes. If you didn’t use yeast, it may be a couple of hours—give it the time it needs. Gently deflate the dough by pushing the center with your closed fist (one day soon, I’ll explain why I hate the term “punching down your dough”). With lightly oiled hands, reshape it into a ball, cover the bowl and put it into the refrigerator overnight. This step is beneficial either way, but especially important if you did not add yeast. Sourdough bakers already know that cold fermentation is a magical thing, and this down time in the fridge will result in extra flavor and improved texture.
In the morning, turn the cold dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and cut it into 12 roughly equal pieces. The simplest way I’ve found to do this is the cut the ball in half, then each half into halves, and each resulting half into thirds, like 12 little pieces of pizza. Shape each wedge into a tight ball, and flatten each ball with your fingertips onto a piece of parchment paper, sprinkled lightly with corn meal. They should measure about 3 1/4” across, or the size of—you guessed it—an English muffin! You will probably want to do two cookie sheets, each holding 6 muffins. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with additional corn meal.
If the dough is still cold, it will probably shrink back—that’s OK. Cover them with plastic and let them rest 15 minutes to relax the gluten, then flatten them again. Cover the muffins with loose plastic wrap, lay a clean lightweight kitchen towel over the plastic and allow the muffins some privacy in a warm (but not hot) spot in your kitchen. I usually slide the pans into the oven, where it’s quiet and not at all drafty.
About 2 hours later, your muffins should look soft and puffy. My last batch rose to about 1/2” thickness, but they will puff more when you introduce them to heat.
If you have an electric griddle, heat it to about 325° F. If not, you can do it stove-top in a cast iron pan or griddle over medium-low heat. Our gas range has a “griddle in the middle” that allows me to do 6 muffins at a time; in a skillet, you’ll probably want to limit to 3 at once. I kept the flame pretty low because it’s better to cook them a tiny bit longer than to burn them.
When the griddle or pan is radiating consistent heat (you should be able to feel it easily with your hand about 6” above), gently place the muffins onto the surface. They will puff a bit more as they cook, but they won’t spread outward the way cookies do. Still, try to keep a bit of room between them so you can wiggle in a spatula when it’s time to turn them over.
After about 7 minutes, your muffins are probably ready to turn. Check by gently lifting up one edge and peeking underneath. If it looks golden and toasty, it’s time! Gently turn them without flipping too hard—you don’t want to deflate them in the process.
Give the second side about 6 more minutes, then check for doneness and remove them to a cooling rack to calm down. The sides of the muffins will still feel a bit soft, and that can be a little unnerving until you’ve made them a few times. Here’s a simple tip for testing doneness: when you turn over the first muffin, tap the cooked side lightly with your fingernail or the tip of your spatula. If it sounds hollow, you’re good. If it still feels a little soft or spongy, they probably need another minute. To be certain, you can slide the finished muffins onto a cookie sheet and into a pre-warmed 350° F oven for a few minutes to finish any raw insides.
When the muffins have completely cooled (and please, not one second sooner), use the tines of a fork to split through to the middle, all the way around.
This will allow you to easily break them open later, for the beautiful nooks and crannies that I’m probably not allowed to talk about because of trademark rules.
But just look—can you think of a better way to describe those butter-loving pockets?