My family’s Thanksgiving always included “pumpkin pudding.” I wish I could say that the pudding starts with a freshly baked pumpkin, lovingly mashed and blended with fresh cream, eggs, spices. In reality, it was (and still is!) canned pumpkin purée and evaporated milk, mixed with spices exactly as directed in the recipe on the can of Libby's pumpkin, but baked in a dish instead of a crust. I can say that we have never stooped to buying cans of that already-spiced pumpkin pie filling instead of straight pumpkin purée -- because we do have our standards (and our spice drawer). The pudding is served chilled, scooped from the dish and topped with whipped cream. Real whipped cream. The whole business is divine. People ask for the recipe.
This pudding can and should be baked the day before Thanksgiving—both texture and flavor are enhanced with a night in the fridge. I make a lot of pudding, as my mother always did, because we are devoted to leftovers. We eat pumpkin pudding with a side of Bea's No-Peel Apple Crisp for as many days and meals as it lasts, starting the day after Thanksgiving. It would not be possible to eat so much, especially with whipped cream, if both the pumpkin and the apple had crusts. So, you see, ditching the crust is quite brilliant: It’s not just an emergency, last-minute, no-time-to-make-a-crust kind of crisis thing, but a good plan to have from the start. A triple recipe for filling (three regular 14-ounce cans or one large 28-ounce plus 1 regular can of pumpkin purée) will fill two 2- to 2 1/2-quart baking dishes. Baking time will be somewhere between 55 and 65 minutes at 350° F—use the knife test for doneness. —Alice Medrich
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
Pour into glass or ceramic baking dish. A good thing to know is that you can fill a baking dish deeper than a pie crust, but it’s best not to exceed a depth of about 1 1/2 inches. Baking times vary with depth, size, and type of baking dish, so you just have to watch and check (see note above). Bake until knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack, then refrigerate overnight, until ready to serve. Serve with whipped cream.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).