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
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
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.
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