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love thy pumpkin

Recipe: pumpkin crème brûlée

Pumpkin season is upon us and I’m not referring to pumpkin spice lattes, although they are certainly out there. I’m talking about cute chubby toddlers staggering around pumpkin patches like small drunk people. Or carving your Halloween pumpkin into The Death Star. Roasting pumpkin seeds to snack on later. I don’t overdo it in our house because I understand the dangers of pumpkin fatigue – it has to last through the holidays. But I do get excited about trying something new and pumpkiny every autumn. And don’t you think they should have been named plumpkins?


eggs, vanilla bean, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpkin, cream



I know it is de rigueur to break down a whole pumpkin, but I have a lot of canned pumpkin in my pantry throughout the year because I make Kaweah’s dog treats from scratch every few weeks. It’s especially handy when you need just a little bit of pumpkin to make pumpkin crème brûlée, and Kaweah didn’t mind sharing because she’s sweet like that.

scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean

steep the vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the cream

whisk the yolks and sugar together



Crème brûlée is such an easy dessert as long as you don’t mind washing your fine mesh sieve, baking in a water bath, and using the Flaming Propane Torch of Awesome Hot Fire. The little kitchen torches don’t work at our elevation, so we have a standard propane torch from the hardware store. Whenever I make crème brûlée, I can see Jeremy’s eyes darting in the direction of the fire extinguisher. Good man.

slowly whisk the hot cream into the egg mixture

strain the custard

stir in the pumpkin purée



Two tips on baking the custards in a water bath: 1) place a dish cloth underneath the ramekins so they don’t go sliding and sloshing around when you move the pan and 2) boil a pot or kettle of water to fill the pan. You could pour room temperature water in and let it heat up in the oven, but that requires more oven time and I also feel it’s a less efficient use of energy. It’s also up to you if you want to pour the boiling hot water into the pan and then move everything into the oven or if you want to fill the pan when it is already in the oven. There is potential danger in both methods, but it makes for exciting times.

fill the ramekins

pour hot water into the pan

baked and chilled



The custards are done when they are mostly set, but still jiggle a little in the center. The jiggly center ensures a creamy, silky texture – although the pumpkin purée adds a bit of graininess to it. Let them cool and then refrigerate them to chill completely. This will take a few hours, so if you plan to serve this at a party, give yourself plenty of time for the custards to chill or else they’ll be room temperature and runny.

sprinkle sugar on the chilled custard

torch it

a nice layer of caramelized sugary goodness



Another reason to have the custards fully chilled before serving is that the heat from caramelizing the sugar will warm up the layer underneath. So it’s best to have it as cool as possible. And don’t skimp on the sugar or you’ll wind up with a thin wimpy crust that will most likely melt. What you want is to be able to give the burnt sugar a nice sharp tap with your spoon to get that satisfying crack.

When Jeremy tasted the pumpkin crème brûlée he exclaimed it was pumpkiny. I can definitely detect the pumpkin, but it isn’t overwhelming. And as I mentioned before, the addition of the pumpkin adds a slight grain to the otherwise smooth creaminess of the custard. But if you love or even like pumpkin, it’s a nice and easy make-ahead dessert for the holidays or any special dinner.


finish with a dollop of whipped cream and a shard of pumpkin seed brittle

yes, yes of course



Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
[print recipe]
slightly modified from A Cup of Jo

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
sugar for torching

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Set a kettle of water to boil. When the water boils, remove from heat. Heat the cream, vanilla bean and vanilla seeds, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the cream to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Cover the pan and let steep for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean pod and cinnamon stick from the cream. Discard the pod and stick. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar together. Slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from curdling (i.e. cooking). Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Whisk in the pumpkin purée.

Line a deep baking or roasting pan with a kitchen towel. Arrange 4-6 ramekins (6-8 ounces in volume, each) on the towel. Stir the custard to mix the spices and pumpkin that may settle to the bottom. Fill the ramekins. Place the pan in the oven and carefully pour the hot water from the kettle into the pan to a minimum of 1-inch depth – taking care not to let any water get in the custards – or fill the pan before carefully transferring the pan to the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes (30 minutes for me). When the custards are mostly set except for a little jiggle in the center, remove the pan from the oven. Carefully lift the custards out of the pan and let cool on a cooling rack. Cover the custards with plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until completely chilled.

Sprinkle a tablespoon or more (depending on the surface area) on each custard. Using a propane torch or a broiler, caramelize the sugar until it is melted and a deep brown color. Garnish. Makes 4-8 crème brûlées depending on the size of the ramekins.


more goodness from the use real butter archives

pumpkin cake w chocolate ganache & salted caramel cream cheese frosting pumpkin tea cake pumpkin bread pudding pumpkin peanut butter dog treats

25 nibbles at “love thy pumpkin”

  1. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    I want this in my life ASAP. YUM!

  2. Twila says:

    I think its easiest to pour the hot water into the pan in the oven – from a tea kettle! These look wonderful and I hope I have a chance to try them. Also have in mind to finally poach a proper egg myself.

  3. Alana says:

    I’m looking for blogs that will have Thanksgiving recipes. I just “Liked” “Cooking With Mr. C.” on Facebook. (also a bog) I hear he dedicates November to Thanksgiving recipes. I will check you out. Thanks. Alana

  4. Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) says:

    This looks and sounds lovely & delicious! So many recipes this time of year have pumpkin kind of “forced” into them just to make them seem more seasonal, but I bet pumpkin puree would be right at home in creme brulee… yum.

    (Now I just have to buy myself a Flaming Propane Torch of Awesome Hot Fire!)

  5. Bob Gordon says:

    Enjoyable blog. The photos make it really easy to imagine making this dessert. I live at elevation as well, so knowing the little kitchen torches are cute but not the best is helpful if I go this route. I think we would use our electric water heater tea kettle to heat the water. Takes minutes and an easy time saver.

  6. 50 Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipes says:

    […] 5. Pumpkin Crème Brulee from Use Real Butter […]

  7. Kristin says:

    Mmmm…looks delicious & my husband will LOVE It. Definitely going to give this one a try!

  8. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    Plumkins- I’m not going to forget that. Or this!

  9. Melissa Marie says:

    YEARS ago, a friend and I had pumpkin creme brulee at lunch at a restaurant near my office. The restaurant subsequently closed and I’ve been missing this ever sense. I will have to make this… but first, a torch!

  10. Stephen Andrew says:

    Yes. I want this. I make pumpkin treats for my shiny black dog too :) taking your note that it could stand to be more pumpkiny, I might roast the canned pumpkin on a cookie sheet first just to burn out some of the excess water. I do that for my pumpkin pies (okay I add a little butter and brown sugar too) and it makes the flavor deeper. Thanks as always for a gorgeous post.

  11. Mrs Ergül says:

    How did you end up with such a nicely rounded dollop of whipped cream?! I want to make creme brulee the next time I have excess yolks!

  12. Sophie says:

    Ready to get out my torch for these! I’m throwing a dinner party next week and make-aheads are always a good choice. I LOVE creme brulee, how good do these look! And i agree, your whipped cream dollops are beautifully crafted :)

  13. Sophie says:

    Jen, you’re the best! Thanks for the inspiration I always find on your blog and THANKS for making me look like a star at my dinner party. These desserts were an amazing finish to our meal and everyone raved about how good they were. They had no idea how simple they were to make, too! So easy, and your instructions were perfect. I’m going to make these repeatedly! Delicious!

  14. Darlene says:

    I have many sugar pumpkins from our friends garden and used one of them for a trial run for Thanksgiving dessert. I substituted coconut milk for the non-dairy crowd. Delicious! It has been declared a success.
    Thank you for the recipe.

  15. Darlene says:

    I have many sugar pumpkins from my friends garden and used one for a trail run for Thanksgiving dessert. I substituted coconut milk for my non-dairy family. Delicious! It has been declared a success. Thank you for the recipe.

  16. jenyu says:

    Thanks, guys!!

    Mrs Ergül – Oh, I piped it using a 1/2-inch wide plain tip :)

    Sophie – so glad to hear it!

  17. Autumn and Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup | Tara's Multicultural Table says:

    […] Use Real Butter: Pumpkin Creme Brulee […]

  18. Glazed carrots with whole spices and rosemary | dinners for winners says:

    […] with reminiscing and levity. Later it took three of us to get a torch burning to finish the creme brulees (worth it! They were awesome), and we finished the night with a pot of my mom’s thick-as-tar […]

  19. Dorothy says:

    Looks great! If I wanted to serve these tomorrow, could I prepare and bake the custard today and chill it for the next 24 hours or so, or is that too long? Don’t want anything to separate!

  20. jenyu says:

    Dorothy – yes, you can do that!

  21. Tara says:

    This was absolutely perfect! Such a great autumn dessert. I am not a huge pumpkin lover, but this seemed to have the perfect amount.

  22. Pumpkin Creme Brulee | Tara's Multicultural Table says:

    […] from Use Real Butter, from A Cup of Jo Serves […]

  23. Bonnie says:

    If you’re making these ahead, do you caramelize the sugar ahead or do that just before you serve?

  24. jenyu says:

    Bonnie – just before you serve. If you caramelize ahead, it will be a puddle of caramelized sugar when you serve it.

  25. Anna says:

    One word yummmmmm! You always have such delicious looking pictures. I can’t wait to try this new custard flavor. Thank you so much and hope you’re enjoying the lovely pumpkin season :)

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