Cocktail Tricks and Sweet Treats: Four Fall-Inspired Recipes

Whether you’re heading to a party or just hanging at home, try your hand at one of these four recipes for an extra special Halloween treat! From pumpkin mousse to a candy-infused twist on an old classic, we have three Halloween-ready desserts that will surely satisfy any sweet tooth. Plus a holiday-ready specialty cocktail!

Caramelized Pumpkin Mousse Karen Morgan, Blackbird Bakery

Courtesy of Blackbird Bakery

Karen Morgan turned what many might have considered a culinary handicap — a Celiac diagnosis— and used it to her advantage to kickstart Blackbird Bakery, her gluten-free specialty baking outfit headquartered in Austin, Texas. Her single guiding principle?

“All of my recipes have to be just as good, if not better than what came before, which means each treat has the same taste, texture and appearance as their gluten-based inspirations.”

Not only are these mini “pumpkins” adorable and fit for any holiday table, they’re equally as delicious!

Take 4 of your navel oranges (the fifth is for zest in the mousse) and carve out ridges with a canneling knife so it resembles a pumpkin—from stem to stern. Reserve these strips as you will use them to make the tendrils for the top of the pumpkins. Next, slice the bottom of the orange off, very straight and level, so it can sit up without rolling. Slice the top of the orange off, but not too far (literally 1-inch from the stem, down along the curvature of the orange).

Remove the insides with a melon baller. A grapefruit spoon is too destructive.

Place on your serving platter or a cookie sheet with no sides.

For the Candied Orange Zest: In a non-reactive saucepan, combine 1 cup water with 2/3 cups sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the reserved orange zest strips. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to sit in the syrup for five more minutes. Line a plate with sugar. Using a paring knife, transfer the zest strips, one at a time, to the sugar. Drizzle sugar on the exposed side and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Wrap the strips around bamboo skewers to form the tendrils. Set aside overnight to dry out completely.

For the Almond Paste: In a food processor, mix the almond meal and the 1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar and pulse to combine.

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add to the almond meal mixture and pulse several times, then beat on high for several seconds until you have a soft sticky paste. Knead in confectioner’s sugar until firm.

Measure out 1/4 cup and set aside. Wrap the remainder in plastic wrap and store for up to one year.

Dust a counter with confectioner’s sugar and knead the food coloring into 1/4 cup of the almond paste. Form four stems and shape them to the top of your reserved oranges. Insert a couple of the candied orange zest strips into one of the stems. Repeat until all four of the oranges are ready.

Next, make the mousse: Combine the maple syrup, light brown sugar, water, and sea salt in a non-reactive saucepan and boil to the soft ball stage, 239°F. This happens quickly, so don’t leave the pan alone. Be very careful as you work so you don’t burn yourself.

While the sugar is coming to temperature, whip the egg yolks in your stand mixer with the whisk attachment on high until you have a pale vision in your bowl, thick with promise.

When the syrup comes to temperature, with the mixer still running, immediately pour the syrup very carefully between the side of the bowl and the whisk into the egg yolks. The egg yolks will swell up and then begin to thicken. Whip for 10 minutes on the highest setting. Add the butter, a few cubes at a time, whipping until you can no longer see the butter.

Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the spices, salt, and pumpkin. Grate the orange zest right over the mixture so you capture as many of the oils as possible.

Mix with a large spoon until very smooth. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Pass the mixture though a very fine sieve. You should only have a couple of teaspoons of solids left in the strainer when you are finished.

Fold the strained pumpkin into the reserved buttercream. Whip the heavy cream with the Cointreau and sugar until it holds perfectly soft folds.

Cover the gelatin sheets with 1/4 cup lukewarm water and allow to sit until very soft in a non-reactive saucepan. Place over low heat to melt the gelatin. The moment the gelatin foams on the bottom of the pan, quickly remove, whisk, and pour into the pumpkin mixture. Whisk the pumpkin mixture until very smooth.

Fold in the whipped cream. Place the bowl over an ice bath and stir the mousse until piping consistency. Fit a pastry bag with a 1 1/2 inch plain tip. Pipe into the prepared pumpkins. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and set.

Refrigerate until ready to serve, lightly covered with plastic wrap.

Serves 4

Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Flan Laura Sawicki, La Condesa

Local culinary wizard and La Condesa’s resident Pastry Chef, Laura Sawicki, is no stranger to intriguing flavor combinations and unexpected sweet pairings. Earlier this year, FOOD & WINE Magazine recognized her as one of the Best New Pastry Chefs of 2012, commending her “use of interesting/unique Mexican ingredients” in her dishes. This recipe is no different as she puts a seasonal spin on classic Mexican flan.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Banana Cream Pie Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar

Coming up with inventive and (what some might call) “junk food”-laden edible delights is the heart and soul of Christina Tosi’s kitchen creativity. Recognized as the 2012 James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year, she is a proud member of the Momofuku Restaurant Group. If you’ve ever tried her Crack Pie or Compost Cookie (among her many, many other incredibly tasty creations), you’ll understand exactly why she is so deserving of this accolade.

To help you make the most of any leftover Halloween candy, here is the perfect recipe straight from the dessert queen herself!

Banana Cream Filling: You have to plan ahead for this one. Buy bananas that are ripe and then let them get nearly black/brown before accepting them as the rrrrrripebananas needed for this recipe. Another great option: at the bakery, we peel just ripe bananas, freeze them, and let them finish developing flavor in the freezer for 2 days or up to 2 weeks.

1. Combine the bananas, cream, and milk in a blender and puree until totally smooth. 2. Add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and yolks and continue to blend until homogenous. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan. Clean the blender canister. 3. Bloom the gelatin in cold water until soft and tender. 4. Using an All Clad Balloon Whisk, agitate the contents of the pan and heat over medium-low heat. As the banana mixture heats up, it will thicken. Bring to a boil and then continue to whisk vigorously for 2 minutes to fully cook out the starch. The mixture will resemble thick glue, bordering on cement, with a color to match. 5. Dump the contents of the pan into the blender. Add the bloomed gelatin and the butter and blend until the mixture is smooth and even. Color the mixture with yellow food coloring until it is a bright cartoon-banana yellow. (It’s a ton of coloring, I know, but banana creams don’t get that brilliant yellow color on their own.) 6. Transfer the banana mixture to a heat safe container, and put in the fridge for 30 to 60 minutes — as long as it takes to cool completely. 7. Using the All Clad Balloon Whisk, whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar to medium-soft peaks. (When you pull the whisk away from the whipped cream, the mounds of cream hold their shape softly.) Add the cold banana mixture to the whipped cream and slowly whisk until evenly colored and homogenous.

Chocolate Crust: 1. Heat the oven to 300F 2. In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in the bowl with a rubber spatula until well combined. 3. Add the butter and mix until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters. 4. Spread the clusters on a parchment (or Silpat-lined) sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Let the crumbs cool to a warm temperature. 5. In a clean, medium sized bowl, with the All Clad Potato Masher, break down the chocolate crumbs along with the 85g (6 tablespoons) of melted butter, until a fine, but moist graham cracker crust-like texture. 6. Transfer the mixture to a 10-inch pie tin. With your fingers and the palms of your hands, press the chocolate crust firmly into the tin, making sure the bottom and sides of the pie tin are evenly covered. 7. Scoop half of the banana cream into the pie shell. Cover it with a layer of sliced bananas and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (or your favorite Halloween candy bar cut into small pieces), then cover with the remaining banana cream. The pie should be stored in the fridge and eaten within 2 days of when you make it.

But what’s a holiday celebration without a specialty drink in hand?

Zombie d’ Chambon Brian Dressel, Midnight Cowboy

Brian Dressel is one of the masterful bartenders serving up unique libations at new Austin hotspot Midnight Cowboy, and he created this potent cocktail just in time for your Halloween revelry.

“This drink is made in honor of Hugo Chambon Rothlisberger, the brand ambassador for Pierre Ferrand spirits. He recently got married, so I wanted to make a Zombie-style drink using exclusively his spirits. It is a potent mixture, sure to shake the cobwebs from anyone.”

Although the cocktail has yet to make its Midnight Cowboy menu debut, it’s already a quick favorite of Alamo Drafthouse Beverage Director, Bill Norris. But if you’d rather leave the stirring and shaking to a pro, then you can sip this Zombie d’ Chambon at Midnight Cowboy beginning this weekend, through Halloween.