Just in time for holiday baking, pastry chef and YouTube personality Claire Saffitz has published a follow-up to her bestselling debut cookbook “Dessert Person.” Her newest offering, “What’s For Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People,” features 100 pastry recipes created with efficiency in mind (aka: accessible for amateur chefs). Here’s a recipe excerpt from the cookbook, ideal for the winter season.
Sticky Pumpkin-Chestnut Gingerbread
Serves 12 to 15
Difficulty: 2 (Easy)
Active time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 40 minutes, plus time to cool
Special equipment: 13 × 9-inch baking pan (preferably metal), hand mixer
Neutral oil for the pan
6 ounces (170g) peeled roasted chestnuts (1 generous cup), from a jar or bag, rinsed and patted dry
¼ cup molasses (3 oz / 85g)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 (15 oz / 425g) can unsweetened pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ cups all-purpose flour (11.9 oz / 338g)
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ¾ teaspoon Morton kosher salt
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves
1¼ cups granulated sugar (8.8 oz / 250g)
4 large eggs (7 oz / 200g), at room temperature
2⁄3 cup neutral oil (5.3 oz / 150g), such as grapeseed or avocado
Toffee sauce and serving
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (5 oz / 142g)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar (7.8 oz / 220g)
1 cup heavy cream (8.5 oz / 240g), at room temperature
¾ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ½ teaspoon Morton kosher salt
Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the bottom and sides of a 13 × 9-inch pan, preferably metal, with neutral oil. Line just the bottom of the pan with a rectangle of parchment paper, cut to fit, and smooth to eliminate air bubbles. Brush the parchment with more oil and set the pan aside.
Cook the chestnuts and molasses:
In a small saucepan, combine the chestnuts, molasses, and ½ cup (4 oz / 113g) water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the chestnuts are soft and easily break apart when pressed against the side of the pan, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, uncover and mash the chestnuts with a fork or a potato masher to break them down into pieces no larger than a pea (don’t mash into a paste, though — you want them to add texture to the cake).
Mix the wet ingredients: To the saucepan with the chestnut mixture, add the baking soda and stir thoroughly to combine. The mixture will foam, which is normal. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl, then stir in the pumpkin, ginger and vanilla. Set the pumpkin mixture aside and let it cool to room temperature, stirring it occasionally (to cool it down very quickly, you can stir it in an ice bath — see Chilling in an Ice Bath, page 358).
Mix the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to combine. Make a well in the center and set the bowl aside.
Beat the eggs and sugar then stream in the oil: In a separate large bowl, with a hand mixer, beat the sugar and eggs on medium-low speed until the eggs are broken up, then increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the mixture is pale, mousse-y, and doubled in volume, about three minutes. Beating constantly, very gradually stream in the oil and continue to beat just until the mixture is smooth, thick and emulsified.
Make the batter: Add the pumpkin mixture to the bowl with the egg mixture and mix on medium-low just until blended, then scrape that mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix on medium-low, starting in the center and gradually working outward, until you have a smooth, evenly mixed batter with no traces of flour. Switch to a flexible spatula and fold the batter several times to make sure it’s evenly mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake: Bake until the surface of the cake is deeply browned and springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Set the cake aside.
Meanwhile, make the toffee sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar and ¼ cup (2 oz / 57g) water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the mixture is reduced and slightly thickened, about three minutes, then remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly add the cream (take care, it will sputter), stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth. Bring to a boil again over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the toffee sauce is slightly reduced and thickened, about three minutes longer. Stir in the salt and set the saucepan aside.
Soak the cake: Use a toothpick to poke deep holes all over the hot cake, then slowly pour 1 cup (8.2 oz / 233g) of the warm toffee sauce over the entire surface. Let the cake sit until it has absorbed some of the toffee sauce and is slightly warm. Cover the saucepan to keep the remaining toffee sauce warm.
Serve: Cut around the sides of the cake with a small offset spatula or paring knife, then use a serrated knife to slice the cake into a 3-by-4 grid to make 12 generous portions, or into a 3-by-5 grid to make 15 slightly smaller portions. Lift the slices out of the pan and transfer to serving plates. The toffee sauce will separate as it sits, so stir to bring it back together. If the butter in the sauce has started to solidify, rewarm it over medium-low heat. Pour the toffee sauce into a small pitcher or serving vessel and serve on the side.
Make it ahead? Ideally, no. The cake is best eaten slightly warm while the toffee sauce is glossy (the butter in the sauce will solidify when cool). Any leftover cake can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to two days. Rewarm it in a 300°F oven until the surface is glossy again, five to seven minutes. Any leftover toffee sauce, stored in a lidded container in the refrigerator, will keep for up to two weeks. Scrape it into a small saucepan and rewarm over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it’s glossy and fluid.
Use a stand mixer instead of a hand mixer? Yes. Combine the sugar and eggs in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and proceed with the recipe as written. After adding the pumpkin mixture, switch to the paddle attachment, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients to the bowl in two additions.