It's that time of year again: Everything seems to be flavored with pumpkin, at grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants. Yes, we have the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte (which doesn't taste very much like pumpkin to me), but there's also pumpkin flavored cookies, pasta sauce, cereal, sandwich cookies, on and on.
So it's a good thing I happen to love pumpkin, especially in desserts. Which is why I'm going to add to the craze by sharing this recipe for pumpkin creme brûlée. It's easy and a great make-ahead dessert, especially for Thanksgiving.
You'll need some special equipment, starting with ramekins, which are the little white ceramic cups like the one in the picture above, and are cheap and easy to find at any kitchen supply store. You'll also want a mini torch, just because they are super cool and fun to use--though if you don't have one, you can just put these custardy treats under the broiler.
At the end of the process, you'll have leftover egg whites, which you can save for healthy egg white omelets (to offset the creme brûlée), or for meringues or macarons. Put them in a plastic container with a label of how many egg whites are in there. Though if you forget, usually an egg white measures out to be 1 liquid ounce, so you could measure it out that way.
Pumpkin Creme Brûlée
(adapted from Thanksgiving 101)
Yield: 8 servings
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup packet light brown sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 15-ounce can solid pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I use a heaping teaspoon because I like cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
To caramelize the top of custard:
1/3 cup of brown sugar or white sugar, depending on your preference
Place a rack in the center of the over and preheat to 350 degrees.
In a medium saucepan, heat cream over medium, stirring often, until simmering. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar until it's dissolved. Boil about 3 cups of water.
In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, pumpkin, spices, and salt. Gradually whisk in the hot cream mixture. Pour equal amounts (about 1/2 cup) of pumpkin custard into 8 6-ounce ramekins. Place ramekins into large roasting pan and place in the oven. Pour enough boiling water around the cups to come 1/2 inch up the sides. (Be careful not to get the water into the custard.) Bake until the custards are set but jiggle a little when gently shaken, or until a knife inserted into the center of custard comes out almost clean. Custards will continue to cook when removed for oven. This takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove custards (carefully) from water and cool completely on a wire rack. Cover each custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. (Custards can be made 2 days ahead.)
To caramelize the tops, either use a hand-held propane torch or position a broiler rack 6 inches from heating element and preheat the broiler. Dust the tops of the custards with white sugar or rub 1/3 cup of brown sugar through a wire sieve over each custard. If using torch, simply burn away. If using broiler, put the custards on a baking sheet and broil, watching carefully to avoid scorching until sugar caramelizes, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.