Stella Parks' delicious desserts

Indulge your sweet tooth this Thanksgiving with these delicious twists on traditional desserts from Stella Parks, pastry chef with Table 310 in Kentucky.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Brownies

Serves 12

Ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour

¾ cup cocoa, preferably Dutch process

2 sticks unsalted butter

¾ cup dark chocolate chips or chunks

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

½ tsp. kosher salt

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, ½ tsp. ground ginger, ¼ tsp. ground cloves, and ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg)

¼ cup pumpkin seeds or chocolate covered sunflower seeds

Method

Preheat the oven to 300° and lightly grease a 10" cast iron skillet (or 9" x 13" brownie pan).

Sift together the flour and cocoa, then set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Once melted, increase the heat to medium and cook until hot and bubbly. Immediately remove from heat, add the chocolate, and whisk until smooth.

Combine the eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and spices in a medium bowl. Use a hand or stand mixer (fitted with a whisk attachment) to mix the ingredients on low speed until fully moistened. Increase speed to medium and whip for about five minutes, or until the mixture has lightened in color and increased in volume.

Shut off the mixer and pour in the butter/chocolate mixture all at once. Mix on low speed until combined, then add in the flour/cocoa mixture. Keep mixing on low until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Stop mixing and stir with a rubber spatula, to make sure no unmixed pockets of batter remain. Adjust spices to taste.

Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan, using the back of a spoon to smooth.

Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and bake for about 30 minutes. The brownie is very dense and will retain its heat and keep cooking for quite some time, so it's alright if it seem a little underdone.

Cool to room temperature before cutting. Stored in an airtight container, the brownies will keep for about one week.

Brown Sugar, Pear and Pistachio Cake

Serves 12

Ingredients

CAKE

4 sticks butter

2 lbs. (6-8) winter pears, or unripe Bosc or Bartlett pears, scrubbed clean

6 large eggs

3 cups brown sugar

3 tsp. baking soda

1½ tsp. baking powder

1½ tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

3 tsp. vanilla extract

4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 lb. (3 cups) toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

GINGER BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

1 cup egg whites, about 10 large eggs, at room temperature

1½ cups sugar

½ tsp. kosher salt

8 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into 2-inch chunks

4 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger

2 tbsp. powdered ginger

OVEN-DRIED PEAR CHIPS

¾ cup pear juice (or water)

¾ cup sugar

Juice from half a lemon

3 very pretty, symmetrical winter (or Bosc or Bartlett) pears

Method

CAKE

Adjust oven rack to center. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment, then lightly butter and flour.

In a small lightly colored saucepan, melt butter over low heat. When it has completely liquefied, turn heat to medium to brown the butter. It will bubble, and brown bits will form on the bottom of the pan. When the sputtering stops, strain butter through cheesecloth, and set aside to cool. You should have 1½ cups.

Core the pears, leaving the peel on, and shred using the large side of a box grater or the medium-size grating attachment on a food processor. Gather shredded fruit into a triple thickness of cheesecloth or a thin cotton dish towel, and squeeze the liquid from the pears, capturing ¾ cup of pear juice (for the pear chip recipe).

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then drizzle in brown butter and add vanilla. Add flour, and stir until just incorporated. Stir in shredded pear and pistachios gently. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes have puffed and are lightly browned. Remove to a rack and let cool entirely before peeling away the parchment paper.

To assemble the cake, generously spread buttercream frosting between layers before stacking. Frost the sides and top once with a thin "crumb coat." Chill cake for 30 minutes, then frost sides and top again with a thick layer. Chill well. Decorate with pear chips.

Make Ahead

GINGER BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set it over a pan of barely simmering water. Whisk the mixture gently until it warms to between 145 and 150 degrees. Remove from heat. Using a mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites double in volume and turn snowy white and the bowl is completely cool, about 10-15 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add in butter, one chunk at a time, giving each addition several seconds to incorporate. (You'll see the meringue deflate during the first few additions.) Add in vanilla and both gingers, and continue whipping until evenly incorporated. Store in the refrigerator up to one week. Whip again before frosting.

OVEN-DRIED PEAR CHIPS

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Combine pear juice (or water) and sugar in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Stir in lemon juice. With a sharp knife or a mandoline, slice both sides of the pears vertically into ¹⁄8-inch-thick chips, placing each slice into the syrup as soon as it's cut. Let slices stand for ten minutes. Remove each slice, letting the excess syrup drip back into the pot, and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake until the slices feel very dry, about 1½ hours, turning them over midway.