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Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream That's the Closest You'll Get to Pie in Frozen Form

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You might, understandably, be tired of pumpkin spice. Food companies seem to lean on the warming blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves as a surefire way to entice people to try anything from lattes to scones to cereal. Though the trend has reached slightly laughable heights (pumpkin spice wine anyone?), there's a good reason why it persists.

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream with Brown Butter Pie Crust Swirl & Almond-Maple Crunch
Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream with Brown Butter Pie Crust Swirl & Almond-Maple Crunch

The spice blend is classically autumnal. Comforting and nostalgic, it conjures up cozy Thanksgiving dinners and mugs of steaming apple cider and fires crackling away in the hearth. And flavor-wise, I firmly believe pumpkin pie could be one of the more brilliantly conceived fall desserts. It has perfectly contrasting textures (flaky crust against that impossibly creamy filling), balance (just enough spice to counter the creaminess and the sweetness), and a striking color (that beautifully autumnal shade of orange).

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Instead of fighting the swelling tide of the Pumpkin Spice Nation, let's roll with it. In fact, let's go one step further. Let's eat as much pumpkin pie as we can, while the season is here.

In this spirit, I bring you pumpkin pie ice cream. You can make this your new classic Thanksgiving dessert in place of pie (it's a very nice approximation), or you can have it alongside your pies. I even served a scoop over apple pie for breakfast this week.

And while pumpkin pie ice cream is nothing new—I see it in stores all the time—after careful and considerable research, I didn't find many that really transform pie into frozen form. Most "pumpkin pie" ice creams merely include pumpkin and some form of pumpkin spice. But that's forgetting the best part: the crust! I found the base for this recipe in the Nielsen-Massey archives, and I knew I needed to dress it up to make it worthy of a place on the Thanksgiving table.

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To faithfully recreate the dessert, you'll make three components. Feel free to leave off the almond-maple crunch, which simply adds another layer of texture, although it's easy and quick to make and the leftovers are a nice topping for yogurt. But, I digress.

The crunch is optional, but highly recommended.
The crunch is optional, but highly recommended. Photo by Posie Harwood

First, you'll whisk together a simple pumpkin ice cream using canned pumpkin and lots of spices. The recipe has no eggs, so you don't need to fuss with a custard base.

Next, you'll make a simple pie crust. Since you're going to crumble it up, you can just roll out the dough and bake it in a flat disc on a cookie sheet. Once baked, you'll brush it with brown butter and sprinkle it with sea salt and bake it again to get it nice and crisp. This adds seriously addictive flavor and also helps prevent the crust from getting soggy in the ice cream.

Once you crumble up your crust into pieces, you'll add it to the ice cream right before it's finished churning. The ice cream will still be rather soft, so transfer it into a freezer-safe container (I use a metal baking pan lined with parchment) and freeze it until firm.

The topping is simple: Toast some almonds on the stovetop, pour maple syrup over them, toss to coat, then spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool. As soon as they come off the heat, sprinkle cinnamon over top of the nuts for its warming flavor.

And there you have it: The best parts of ice cream and pumpkin pie in one delicious scoop. Happy Thanksgiving, and may you enjoy at least two desserts this year.

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Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream with Brown Butter Pie Crust Swirl & Almond-Maple Crunch

1e4d7b52 fd4f 4798 ae19 d0f715768358  ry 400 Posie Harwood
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Makes 1 1/2 quarts

For the ice cream

  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (preferably Vietnamese)
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk

For the crunch + crumble

  • 1 cup roughly chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (the real deal!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dough for a single 9" pie crust, divided
  • 4 tablespoons Butter
  • Flaky sea salt

Posie Harwood is a writer, photographer, and food stylist based in New York. You can read more of her writing here.

How do you feel about pumpkin pie spice? Love it? Sick of it? Let us know in the comments!


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