Servings: Serves 4
To make pumpkin mousse: Put gelatin in a small bowl; add 1/4 cup cold water and stir to dissolve. Pour 1 inch of water into a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and maple syrup in a stainless steel bowl that will fit over the boiling water, functioning as a double boiler. Whisk in rum, spices, salt, and white pepper, and place bowl over the saucepan. Whisk briskly until mixture thickens, triples in volume, and holds whisk lines for 10 seconds (5 to 10 minutes). Remove bowl from heat. Add gelatin mixture and whisk until it melts into mousse base. Whisk in pumpkin.
In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to whip heavy cream on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. Clean and dry the beater; then, in another medium bowl, whip egg whites on medium-high speed until they are frothy and no longer liquid. Add cream of tartar to egg whites, whip for another minute, then begin adding granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time. After each addition, whip for 30 seconds. When all has been added, whip until the whites are shiny, smooth, voluminous, and hold firm but not dry peaks.
Scrape whipped cream over pumpkin mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula or bowl scraper. Be sure to place spatula in center of bowl, scrape the bottom, and bring bottom over the top. Rotate bowl 45 degrees and repeat motion. Continue folding mixture together until all cream is incorporated. Add whipped egg whites and repeat folding technique until fully incorporated. Divide mousse evenly among 4 martini or wine glasses and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
To make gingersnaps: Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add brown sugar; cream it with butter until the mixture lightens in color significantly and increases in volume, 6 to 8 minutes. Add egg and beat until incorporated.
Toss flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl with a whisk. Using a rubber spatula, fold mixture, in one or two turns, into the egg-butter mixture. Once everything is partially folded together, mix on low speed for 1 minute until ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Add molasses and mix on low speed to incorporate. Cover or wrap dough, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 1 week.
Half an hour before baking cookies, preheat oven to 350°. Grease a baking sheet with butter or nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment. Place turbinado sugar in a small bowl. Meanwhile, pinch off a slightly rounded tablespoon of dough for each cookie and roll into balls. Drop balls into turbinado sugar and roll them around until fully coated. Place cookies on prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart and press thumb in each to flatten a bit.
Bake half of cookies for 13 to 15 minutes (these are extras for you to enjoy at your leisure). Bake the rest of cookies for 20 minutes to make a crumb topping for the mousse; these should spread, rise, fall, crack a bit, and take on a dark golden brown color. Once they have cooled, grind in a food processor.
To make maple crème fraîche: Whisk crème fraîche and maple syrup together in a small bowl until the mixture holds the lines of the whisk, about 1 minute.
To serve, remove chilled mousse from refrigerator. Top glasses with a heaping tablespoon of maple crème fraîche, and sprinkle with gingersnap crumbs; serve immediately.
From the November 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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