Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

This is a really lovely dessert I have made several times during the past few weeks. It is a breeze to make and tastes delicious. The hint of spices, beautiful creamy texture and mild pumpkin flavor make it the perfect dessert for a holiday meal or a dinner party. My favorite part is that I can make this a day or two ahead and not worry about it again until everyone has finished their main course. I just take it out of the fridge, fire up my blow torch and within minutes it’s ready.

I like to serve it in 1/2 cup ramekins, which is just the right amount of dessert after a big meal. The first recipe I followed used larger cups and less eggs, therefore increasing the cooking time in the water bath to more than an hour. Although I only had my 1/2 cup ramekins, I didn’t expect there would be a great difference in cooking time. Oh, how wrong I was. I thought I had plenty of time to pick my kids up from school before returning to a perfect dessert. So upon opening the oven door about an hour later, my beautiful crème brûlées had turned into a wrinkly and solid and completely uneatable version of what they should have been. Lesson learned –  check the size of your ramekins and adjust accordingly. And after about 30 minutes of cooking time, check your custards and give them a little shake. They are ready when they still have a slight wiggle in the center.

Another near mishap occurred when we made this crème brûlée in one of my “cooking get-togethers”. We accidentally used 2 instead of 1 cups of pumpkin puree, with the same amount of sugar, eggs and cream. It still turned out wonderful, just a bit more pumpkiny and took a few minutes longer to set. The recipe below asks for only one cup of pumpkin puree for 2 cups of cream, but if you like a stronger pumpkin flavor, go ahead and use more.

Makes 8 1/2 cup sized crème brûlées

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup roast pumpkin, strained through a fine-mesh strainer
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 8 teaspoons of raw sugar

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 325 F (160C)

Arrange 8 (1/2-cup) ramekins or custard cups in a large metal baking pan lined with a folded dish towel.

In a medium saucepan, heat whipping cream and milk just to a boil around the edges of the pan. If you use a vanilla bean, split it open lengthwise, scrape the seeds into cream, then add the vanilla bean. Turn heat to very low, cover and infuse for 20 minutes.

Combine pumpkin puree, 2/3 c brown sugar, egg yolks, spices and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk thoroughly. Add vanilla extract if using.

Heat a teapot full of water to use in the water bath for baking the crème brûlées.

Ladle by ladle, SLOWELY whisk hot cream into pumpkin mix (if you used a vanilla bean, take it out and pour infused hot milk through a strainer into a separate bowl before adding it to pumpkin puree). Be careful or you’ll get “scrambled eggs” if you pour too much hot liquid too quickly into the pumpkin mix.

Divide mixture evenly between the ramekins. Pour hot water into the roasting pan to come half way up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully place roasting pan in oven.

Bake until custards are just set (centers should be a little wiggly when given a gentle shake), 30-35 minutes.

Carefully take roasting pan out of oven, remove ramekins from water bath and place on wire rack.  Cool crème brûlée to room temperature, then place in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or up to two days.

When ready to serve, evenly spread 1 teaspoon of sugar over the custards. Using a torch or under the broiler, melt and caramelize sugar. Allow sugar to set for a few minutes before serving.

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