Digging Into Fall Desserts

Lynn Cline - November 14, 2017

If you need a little inspiration in choosing the desserts you'll make for this year's Thanksgiving, read on...

“The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star.”
~ Brillat-Savarin, 1838

When it comes to the desserts we favor this time of year, pumpkin pie rules. And while we now know that pumpkin pie wasn't actually on the menu when the pilgrims and the Native Americans gathered at Plimoth Plantation for the first “Thanksgiving” feast in 1621, the dessert is as synonymous with the holiday as turkey.

The Northeastern tribes likely presented pumpkins to the early settlers since they grew them, along with other squash, and consumed them after roasting and boiling. But pumpkin pie as we know it didn't appear until some 50 years after that first Thanksgiving feast in New England.

In 1651, according to the online reference "What's Cooking America," the first recipe for pumpkin pie appeared in “Le Cuisinier françois.” Written by France's 17th-century top chef Francois Pierre la Varenne, the cookbook is considered to be the founding text of modern French cuisine. The recipe for “tourte of pumpkin” reads like this: Boile it with good milk, pass it through a straining pan very thick, and mix it with sugar, butter, a little salt and if you will, a few stamped almonds; let all be very thin.  Put it in your sheet of paste; bake it.  After it is baked, besprinkle it with sugar and serve.”

Surely this dish did much “for the happiness of mankind,” as expressed in the opening quote above by Brillat-Savarin, because less than two decades later, pumpkin pie recipes abounded in an array of English cookbooks.

Finally, some 150 years after France produced the world's first known pumpkin pie recipe, America got its own version with a recipe that was remarkably similar. It appeared in Amelia Simmons “American cookery, by an American orphan,” published in 1796 and it was the first American cookbook to be written and published in America.

Since then, countless autumnal desserts have been “discovered” and taken their place at the Thanksgiving table, right next to the pumpkin pie. You'll find pecan and sweet potato pies along with a wide range of fruit options—apple, cherry, lemon meringue and even the New England cranberry pie.

If you need a little inspiration in choosing the desserts you'll make for this year's Thanksgiving, read on. You may even be motivated to head right on out the door and try some of the delectable desserts you can order right now at some of our favorite Santa Fe restaurants.

Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen offers a fine selection of seasonal desserts you can enjoy after a meal or for Afternoon Bites. You can also order a full pie for your Thanksgiving feast or bring one to a holiday party. It's wise to order in advance, as their apple crumble, mixed berry, sweet potato and pumpkin pies may well sell out. And don't forget to say “Happy Birthday” when you stop by because Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen celebrates five years this month.

Arroyo Vino's seasonal menu also features pumpkin in a rich dish called Slow-Roasted Pumpkin. Made with pumpkin custard, buttermilk ice cream and chestnut cake, it offers a perfect combination of autumnal flavors. You could also dive into the decadent Dark Chocolate & Macadamia Nut, a concoction of marshmallow fluff, salted caramel and macadamia ice cream.

More pumpkin awaits at Arable in Eldorado, where the pumpkin custard-soaked cake with maple whipped cream will make you forget all about pumpkin pie.You could also try the dreamy, creamy Butterscotch Budino, an irresistible concoction of organic custard with sea salt caramel and espresso whipped cream. Savor it alone or pair it with house-made ginger ice cream and salted caramel. And chocolate-lovers will undoubtedly go for the organic chocolate cake served with house-made lavender ice cream and fresh berries.

James Campbell Caruso is one of Santa Fe's top chefs and his desserts at La Boca will leave you giddy. It's a hard choice between the Hazelnut Torrone, which combines hazelnut semifreddo with chocolate coffee sauce, and the Gateau Basque, an out-of-this-world vanilla cream tart with brandied cherries and crème fraîche. If you can't decide then go for vanilla bean ice cream with brandied cherries, and an order of the polvorones, festive pecan wedding cookies rolled in powdered sugar.

Dessert at The Teahouse will also get you in the holiday spirit. There's nothing like fragrant gingerbread this time of year, and here it's served with lemon curd and whipped cream. There's also an appealing pear crisp. But if you really want to celebrate the season, go all out with the Santa Fe Chocolate Cake. This dark chocolate cinnamon cake is covered with a dark chocolate and Chimayo red chile ganache, and who wouldn't want a piece—or two—of this to top off your holiday feast?