You may have noticed a dearth of dessert recipes on this blog. That’s not to say I lack a sweet tooth (who doesn’t love chocolate!), but I’d rather have an appetizer or cheese over the calories that typically accompany a piece of cake. Plus, I don’t find it as enjoyable as preparing other courses. Baking generally allows little room for experimentation. It’s more of a science, with decorating the art form. Except for certain family secrets, most recipes have been tried, tested and not easily improved upon. You don’t need me to repeat them here. Nor would I waste your time doing so. Here’s an exception.
My favorite part of pumpkin pie is the filling. The crust, even when light and flaky, seems to add little to the experience. So when I came across a couple of recipes for pumpkin creme brulee, I had to try them. This does NOT give a true custard-like consistency. Slightly richer than traditional pumpkin pie (cream v. evaporated milk), it’s easy, delicious and fun to make. For an elegant presentation, serve it in miniature pumpkins or squash if you can find them.
Pumpkin Creme Brulee
Serves 8 (about the same as one pie).
8 pumpkin or squash shells, optional
1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
3 cups of heavy cream
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup of sugar plus 1/2 tbsp
1/2 cup of light brown sugar
1 and 1/4 tsps of cinnamon
2 tsps of vanilla extract
1/4 tsp of allspice
1/4 tsp of ground ginger
1/4 tsp of ground cloves
1/4 tsp of iodized salt
To make the pumpkin/squash shells:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off caps about 1/2 inch from the top. Scoop out the insides, leaving 1/4 inch or so around so that the shell remains stable. Discard insides or reserve for another use.
Mix 1/2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon together. Sprinkle inside of each shell with cinnamon sugar mixture. Wrap each shell with cap in tin foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. (Can be done ahead of time and set aside.)
To make the filling:
In a mixer with whisk attachment or a large bowl with whisk, mix together pumpkin, 1/2 cup of regular and light brown sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla, followed by spices and salt. In a medium saucepan, heat cream just to boil. Gradually add hot cream into pumpkin mixture.
Divide mixture evenly among shells or ramekins. If using shells, bake on a cookie tin at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until set. If using ramekins, for best results place in baking pan and add enough water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until custards are just set in center, about 20 minutes. (You can do this without the water, but cooking time will be less so watch that it does not burn.) Chill custards for at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. (Can be made 1-2 days ahead (like pie). Keep refrigerated and covered.)
When about ready to serve, let shells/ramekins come to room temperature, then sprinkle pumpkin with sugar. Using kitchen torch, melt sugar until dark but not burned. (If you don’t have a torch, you can use a broiler.) Let sit for a few minutes for sugar to harden. (You don’t need to refrigerate again unless you want the pumpkin to be cold, which is not my preference.)
To drink: eggnog or coffee (preferably spiked) or a glass of Sauternes also would be a delicious and festive accompaniment.