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Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Published on September 1, 2013 . Blog, Charlotte Taylor, Issue 59


What a beautiful time of year this is – just pure beauty. Trees showing off their colors and the temperatures begging us to get outside and enjoy it all.  Whether you are planning a fall wedding or planning for the holidays, the countdown is officially on. The seasons change and the holidays begin. Want to venture out with an impressive dessert that is simply luscious? Have you ever thought Crème Brûlée would be the answer? It is easier than you think. Oh my heavens. Not only could we just stop right there but, we’re gonna kick it up a notch and make Pumpkin Crème Brûlée. I mean, come on ya’ll, it’s fall!

Crème Brûlée, or ‘burnt cream,’ dates back to the late 1600’s as we know it today. If you’ve never tried this delicacy, it is a dessert made of a rich custard base and topped with a layer of crunchy caramel. That crunchy, sugary, caramel top that makes Crème Brûlée a Crème Brûlée is done at the last minute under a broiler or right at the table by sprinkling sugar on top and ‘burning’ it. Traditionally it is made in individual shallow porcelain dishes called ramekins. This allows them to be placed under the broiler/torch to melt the sugary topping and porcelain can handle those ‘fridge to broiler’ temps.

If you decide to torch yours at the table, small kitchen torches are available at most kitchen shops or superstores for twenty dollars and up. Wouldn’t it be great fun for your guests to have a torch at the table? It’s not hard, I promise. Just be smart and all will be well. If you don’t have a kitchen torch readily available, you can try the redneck version of this by using your husband’s propane torch – which is quite possibly the category we fall into. (The guests will never know if you do that little trick in the kitchen). But, you will go the classy route, I am sure, and use a small, much more attractive kitchen torch or use the super safe route, your broiler.

Contrary to popular belief, Crème Brûlée is truly very easy to make. Even the first time I attempted this, no 911 calls were made and the desserts turned out beautifully. You will seriously be looking for other recipes you can torch next.

What You Need (Yields 6 Servings):

  • 6 – 6 oz ramekins
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground allspice
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¾ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ tsp. good quality vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 Tbs. pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • 1∕3 cup granulated sugar (more for the topping)
  • 1 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar

What To Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 300. Fill a kettle with water and heat to boiling.
  2. In the meantime, pour cream into a small saucepan and whisk in the cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg.
  3. Set over medium-low heat and warm the mixture until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and steam begins to rise from the surface, about 3 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from the heat and let sit to cool.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, salt, pumpkin puree, and both sugars until smooth and blended.
  5. Slowly pour in the cream mixture, stirring until blended. Divide the mixture among the ramekins and place in a large baking pan(s).
  6. Add boiling water to fill the pan halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the custards are just set around the edges, about 30 minutes. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let them cool to room temperature.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
  8. Just before serving, remove the little jewels from the refrigerator and discard the saran wrap.
  9. Set each on a sturdy, fire resistant surface and sprinkle 1-2 tbsp. granulated sugar evenly over the surface of each custard. Shake from side to side to spread sugar out evenly.
  10. Using a kitchen torch, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, move the flame continuously in small circles over the surface until the sugar melts and lightly browns evenly, OR, place dishes on a baking sheet and place on the closest rack to your broiler and watch carefully until they have reached an even golden color. Be patient. Just when you think nothing is happening, the sugar will begin to melt and things start happening very fast. Remember, it is melted sugar – the equivalent to molten lava. Handle with care. The melted sugar on top will remain wet looking, however it quickly cools and hardens ever so wonderfully. Serve immediately and ENJOY!