Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone, and so have the pumpkin pies! As pumpkin pie is not a great favourite in our house, we usually opt for something else made with pumpkin...pumpkin cheesecake is often one of our choices. This year I decided to make pumpkin creme brulee.

The custard has pumpkin puree, dark rum and, or course, spices. The crunchy caramel topping gives way to a cold, creamy custard...I could never get tired of this dessert!

As I still had some pumpkin puree left from when I made the Sour Cream Spiced Pumpkin Streusel Cake , this worked out well. I also had some whipping cream to use.

This dessert is best made the day before so that it can chill and set completely before the sugar is caramelized on top. I also prefer to make it in individual sized ramekins, but it can be made in one large dish and portioned at the table.

To make the custard, whisk together:

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 egg yolks

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, scald:

2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum

Turn the oven on to 325F to heat. Have a roasting pan or ovenproof dish ready; make sure it has a flat bottom. Place 4 individual ramekins into the roasting pan, and set aside.

Whisking constantly, slowly add the hot whipping cream to the pumpkin mixture. If you add the hot cream too quickly, the egg yolks will cook and scramble.

Pour the custard into a jug, if that makes pouring it easier for you.

Divide the custard evenly between the four ramekins.

Pour hot water into the roasting pan, until it comes about 1" up the sides of the ramekins.

Place the roasting pan carefully into the oven.

Bake until the custard is set in the more jiggling when gentle tapped. This should take about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and, as soon as they are cool enough to touch, take the ramekins out of the water, put them on a tray and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to serve the creme brulee, sprinkle:

1 tablespoon sugar

as evenly as possible over the top of the cold custard, making sure to spread it all the way to the edges.

Use a blowtorch to melt the sugar, moving it around as the sugar melts and caramelizes to avoid burning the sugar.

Leave the creme brulee for 5 minutes before serving; this allows the hot melted sugar to set.

Use a spoon to crack the hard, caramelized sugar open so that the creamy custard can be eaten. Yummy! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • This dessert does not offer a lot of flexibility, but the few things that can be played with will transform it. Spices can be played with...try fresh ginger, infused in the cream and rum; add a pinch of ground cloves or allspice; add vanilla or almond extract.
  • Brown sugar can be used instead of white. Maple syrup can also be used. You can substitute it directly, or if you feel that will be too sweet, use 1/4 cup of maple syrup in place of the 1/3 cup of white sugar.
  • Baked butternut squash or sweet potato can be used instead of pumpkin. 
  • No rum? Use orange liqueur instead, and add a bit of grated orange zest to your custard.
  • When you are ready to caramelize the sugar on top of the custard, you can use brown sugar if you prefer. The most important things to remember are that the sugar is spread evenly so that it melts and caramelizes evenly, and to keep the blow torch moving to prevent burnt spots.
  • If you don't have a blowtorch you can caramelize the sugar under the broiler. Turn it on to get really hot, then place the custards as close to the flame as possible. Keep a close eye on the sugar, and turn the custard as needed to prevent burnt spots.
  • Nuts such as hazelnuts or pecans can be finely ground in a food processor along with some sugar. Spread this on top of the custard and then caramelize, being extra careful not to burn the nuts.
  • Add finely chopped white chocolate to the bottom of the ramekins before adding the custard and baking. The white chocolate can also be added to the warm whipping cream, and whisked until it melts, before proceeding with the recipe. You will need 3 - 4 ounces of chocolate.
  • The baked and chilled custard can be served topped with whipped cream, without the crunchy layer of sugar.
  • Remember to save the egg whites and freeze them for another use...meringue, buttercream or angel food cake are a few options. When using the egg whites, defrost them and measure them in a measuring jug. 1 liquid ounce of egg white = 1 egg white.
  • The reason for baking the custard in water is to ensure an even bake, as the water helps to regulate the temperature.
  • The custard can be baked and kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • This recipe will make 4 - 6 creme brulees, depending on the size of your ramekins.

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