Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Crème Brûlées
I think I’ve mentioned here before that B and I are in the process of building a house. And we’re doing a good chunk of it ourselves, which means that the past, oh, 8 months or so have been very, very packed. My dear husband amazes me — the things he just knows how to do (though, of course, there’s been a lot of things to learn along the way, too!) And since he’s been building things and helping his Dad with projects since he was very young, he had a vocabulary around tools and construction techniques that, frankly, was Greek to me. Let’s just say it’s been, and continues to be, a huge learning experience for both of us! All very positive — we’re thrilled with how the house is coming along, it’s been an incredibly rewarding process so far, and we just can’t wait to move in (probably later in the spring.)
One of the steep learning curves I’ve had is what all these construction tools are and what they’re used for. For instance, one of the tools we’ve acquired in the process of building a house is a miter saw, which B tells me is really useful for quickly making angled cuts. Apparently it is much more efficient than using a table saw for the same purpose. I do love finding out about well-designed tools of any kind, those that perform their function really well, so I was kind of tickled about this miter saw acquisition.
And cooking, of course, has these types of situations too, right? For instance, take crème brûlée. Making these pumpkin and brown sugar crème brûlées — which are utterly fantastic; like smooth, creamy, custardy pumpkin pie but better (in my opinion) because of the dairy and silky smooth texture — made me realize that there’s one tool that would really, really make my life easier, at least when it comes to crème brûlées: a kitchen torch. I usually use the broiler, but you know what? It just doesn’t do the trick — it burns the sugar in spots, doesn’t melt the sugar in other spots, and just generally falls short of creating that perfect thin, shattering sugar crust.
So if you have a kitchen blow torch, I’m envious! I hope to add it to my “toolbox” sometime soon. These crème brûlées are going to be making many more appearances in our kitchen this winter, maybe even this Saturday night for Halloween! Their lovely orange hue and pumpkin flavoring make a sophisticated, festive dessert. Blowtorch or not.
Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlées
adapted from Bon Appetit
half of one 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons raw sugar or golden brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugars, egg yolks, spices and salt.
In a medium saucepan, heat the cream just to a boil, then slowly whisk it into the pumpkin/egg yolk mixture to temper the egg yolks. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a separate bowl (I used a large liquid measuring cup with a pouring spout.)
Divide the mixture among four 5×1 inch ramekins.* Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan or sheet pan, and fill the pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custards are just set in the center, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove from the hot water bath, and let the ramekins cool slightly. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator until cold, about 6 hours.
To serve, sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over the top of each ramekin. Place the ramekins under the broiler to melt the sugar, or use a kitchen torch to melt the sugar. Chill for 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 servings.
*you can also use 3-inch diameter ramekins with 1 1/4 inch sides; increase baking time to about 50 minutes.