Hello friends! I’m so excited to be baking together with you again here at Cook the Vineyard. I’m a cookbook author and cooking teacher, and I’m passionate about demystifying baking. (You can find out more about me and my latest book, The Everyday Baker, in “The Cook and the Book” section of Cook the Vineyard.)

We created this Baking Together column so that we can form a baking community on Cook the Vineyard where everyone can feel free to share their baking highs and lows and everything in between. With each new column, I’ll include a recipe. (This time it's Pumpkin Cream Cheese Tart with Crushed Pretzel Crust; our first recipe was One-Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes with an easy Milk Chocolate Frosting.)

After you try the recipe, we’d love your notes and ideas in the comments section below the recipe. What did you and your family think of the recipe? Did you change it up, vary the flavors, add special decorations, create a unique presentation or add a new serving component? Maybe you used your homemade puree made from roasted sugar pumpkins or butternut squash? We want to know so we can try it ourselves! 

I’m a firm believer that every day is a great day for baking and with the leaves falling and a solid chill in the air, I’m thinking it’s the perfect time for a pumpkin dessert. (And oh yeah, there’s that little holiday feast we’re all making menus for!) This month, I’ve selected a three-part pumpkin tart with a crisp crust, a creamy filling and a luscious whipped cream. Now I know that might sound intimidating but all the components can be made in separate, make-ahead steps so you can best manage your baking experience (Remember Rule #3!). To help you make a realistic action plan, let me break it down.

Part One: The Crust

In lieu of the sometimes problematic and often stressful rolled dough crust (we’ll tackle this another time), I’ve chosen a press-in style crust; but instead of cookie crumbs, I’m using finely crushed pretzel crumbs. It’s a lovely salty-sweet complement to the pumpkin filling. The crust can be baked, cooled, covered, and stowed at room temperature for up to two days before filling and baking.

Part Two: The Filling

Cream cheese partners with the pumpkin puree to make a luxe, rich filling that’s part cheesecake and part traditional pumpkin pie. I’ve kept the spices simple (cinnamon and nutmeg) but please feel free to add a little ground ginger or a skosh of cloves. The filling can be made, covered, and refrigerated up to one day before filling and baking the tart. Keep in mind that if the filling is used straight from the fridge, the tart will likely need a few extra minutes in the oven so please follow the doneness test as your guide. The baked and cooled tart can be refrigerated for up to two days before serving.

Part Three: The Whipped Cream

The tart is delicious unadorned but a dollop or two of white chocolate whipped cream adds an extra special touch. The cream is smooth, silky and holds a lovely peak. What makes this whipped cream even more special is that adding a little white chocolate to the heavy cream stabilizes it (read: no weepy, watery whipped cream) so you can make it at least one or two days in advance. File this recipe away to use every time you are serving whipped cream and want a do-ahead version. The melted chocolate-cream mixture can be cooled, covered, and stowed in the refrigerator for up to two days before whipping. The whipped cream can be covered and refrigerated up to two days before serving.

Planning ahead is the key to success especially during the hectic winter holidays and this easy-to-manage tart fits the bill for stress-free entertaining.

I’m looking forward to baking together again and please keep us posted on your baking results! (Remember, please leave your comments over on the recipe — you’ll see the comments section right at the bottom!)

P.S. If you’re just joining us, please check out my “Six Steps to Better Baking.” It’s a fun summary of some of the key baking principles I’ve learned over the years that will truly help you meet with success. Each step is equally weighty, and it’s important to think about each one every time you are heating the oven and cracking open that bag of flour.


Author photo: Winnie Abramson; tart photo by Abigail Johnson Dodge.