A pumpkin pie that I would love is an ongoing project. I’ve tested dozens of recipes but haven’t yet found the favorite one. As soon as I hit it I’ll certainly share my discovery with you. Meanwhile, there’s a whimsy but tasty alternative. Caramelized phyllo rounds (or it can be any other shape appealing to your eye) can be made a day in advance and they would still preserve their crispiness if you store them in an airtight container away from moisture. But the whole stack shouldn’t be assembled more than 2-3 hours in advance to ensure crispy pastry. I served the napoleons with caramelized spicy-salty walnuts, candied ginger, and some maple syrup drizzled over.
Also there’s a thought worthy to be mentioned. I found that the baking of phyllo flattened under a weight is a great solution when the store bought phyllo pastry turns out to be too dry and too fragile (due to improper storage, I suspect) to be used for any other baking needs requiring rolling-shaping. Nothing has to be wasted, it still can be transformed into delicious stuff. There are thousands of possible filling variations as well as presentation options.
For the caramelized phyllo rounds:
- 8 phyllo sheets, thawed if previously frozen
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- About ½ cup granulated sugar
- About ½ cup gingersnaps crumbs (store-bough are just fine, this is not a suggestion to get rid of the gingersnaps made earlier)
For the pumpkin marshmallows (marshmallow recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan):
- ½ cup unsweetened pumpkin puree, not a pumpkin pie filling
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- ¾ cup cold water
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 2 tbsp light corn syrup
- Two ¼-oz packets unflavored gelatin
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- Cinnamon for dusting
- Candied ginger for serving
- Caramelized spicy-salty walnuts (use this recipe, replace the pecans with walnuts if you wish) for serving
- Maple syrup for serving
Make the phyllo rounds:
Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
Cover a working surface with a large sheet of parchment paper. Place 1 sheet of phyllo on the parchment paper, with one long side parallel to the edge of the work surface. Brush the phyllo sheet with the melted butter, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of granulated sugar followed by a tablespoon of the crushed gingersnaps. Cover the rest of the phyllo with plastic wrap first and then with a damp dish towel (avoid direct contact of the phyllo with the wet towel to prevent the phyllo from getting soggy). Repeat with three more phyllo sheets brushing the top of the last (4-th) sheet with butter and sprinkling with sugar and cookie crumbs. Using a large cookie or biscuit cutter cut out 3-inch circles (you should be able to get 12 of them). Carefully, using an offset spatula, transfer the circles onto the prepared baking sheet. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the top of the cutouts and place another cookie sheet or a large baking pan on the parchment paper. Slide into the oven and bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the phyllo rounds are crisp and golden brown. Cool completely on a cooling rack with the baking sheet still on the top. Do not remove the upper baking sheet until completely cool. Repeat with the remaining 4 phyllo sheets. You will need 24 rounds total to assemble the napoleons. But don’t throw away the scraps. Cut them into different shapes and bake the same way, under the baking pan. They will make tasty phyllo crackers.
Make the marshmallow and assemble the napoleons:
In a small bowl combine the pumpkin puree, spices, set aside.
Put 1/3 cup of the water, the sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup-without stirring-until it reaches 265 F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining water ( a scant 7 tbsp) and let sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it.
Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy, add the salt and continue beating until firm but still glossy-don’t overbeat them and have them go dull.
As soon as the syrup reaches 265 F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beaters and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla extract. Using a rubber spatula, transfer about a cup of the whipped mixture into the bowl with the pumpkin puree. Fold in until incorporated, then fold the lightened pumpkin puree into the rest of the whipped meringue.
Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Then pipe it onto the phyllo rounds placed on a cooling rack. Set aside 8 rounds with pointy marshmallow tips (they will be the tops of the napoleons). Flatten these points on the others with a water-moistened finger. Let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place, for about an hour – hour and a half. Assemble the napoleons by stacking the phyllo rounds one on top of the other on a serving platter (or individual plates). Lightly dust with cinnamon. Drizzle with maple syrup. Serve with caramelized spicy-salty nuts and ginger if you wish.