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Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Crème Brûlées

October 28, 2009


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.desserts_pumpkincremebrulee_5

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

view printable recipe


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.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2009 11:09 pm

    Wow, this is fantastic! Such a great idea! Yum.

  2. October 29, 2009 4:41 am

    Oh this is a must try! Scrumptious!

  3. massybird permalink
    October 29, 2009 6:36 am

    Amy, I think a blowtorch would a handy tool that both you and B can share. It can be used in making your Brûlées or heating plumbing pipes while you build your house 🙂

    • October 29, 2009 7:15 am

      Very true! Actually, what I forgot to mention is that we *do* have a construction-grade blowtorch…we tried using it once on brulees. They burned almost instantly. 🙂 A little too much “firepower.”

  4. October 29, 2009 10:29 am

    just stumbled on your blog, and now i want to stumble mouth first into one of those pumpkin brulees! a kitchen torch is definitely on my wish list, but i think you’ve done a spectacular job without one.

    i’ve gone through the house construction thing. actually, it was a house remodel thing, which is worse. we were living in the house while tearing it apart and putting it back together again. it got old, very quickly. i think building one from scratch would be a LOT easier. good luck to you!!!

    • October 30, 2009 2:14 pm

      Thanks, Toni! Yes, remodeling would be a real challenge — being surrounded by chaos all the time. But, it must be fun once the projects are done…if you can keep sane until then!

  5. October 29, 2009 12:42 pm

    Wow. I can’t believe you’re in the process of building a house AND pregnant as I recall. You are wonder woman. Those brulees look delicious. My grandmother got a brulee torch last year so perhaps I should convince her to whip it out when I’m home so we can make these.

  6. October 29, 2009 6:18 pm

    Yum… these creme brulees sound fantastic. Love all of your pictures!

  7. October 29, 2009 8:40 pm

    I love creme brulee. And I’ve been jonesing for pumpkin anything. These are going on my to make list.

  8. October 30, 2009 12:57 pm

    These look amazing. Thanks for sharing

  9. Amanda permalink
    October 30, 2009 2:07 pm

    Great post!!!! I love pumpkin brulees. I am a pastry chef and use the same torch at home as I do at work. I got it at home depot and use it with the small blue canisters of gas. It has an on/off switch that I love and it was relatively cheap (appr. $35). It’s strong enough to do “girlie” household repairs but does not have all of the fire power men like to have. Thanks for your always inspiring posts.

    • October 30, 2009 2:15 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! That’s a great tip about the torch you picked up at HD…I might have my husband get one for me next time he makes one of his weekly trips there. 🙂

  10. October 31, 2009 7:35 pm

    oh my gosh this totally sounds like the perfect fall dessert 🙂
    love your photographs too!

  11. November 4, 2009 1:07 am

    oh my, that looks delicious!!

  12. November 4, 2009 3:10 am

    I agree with Amanda- a cheap hardware shop torch is a good way to go (I got mine for $10 here in Manila). And you can start from a safe distance so you can gauge if it’ll burn too quickly.
    But you did a great job with the cremes anyway! I’m convinced you don’t need one, heh 🙂

  13. November 5, 2009 9:51 am

    I just found your blog and am so happy I did! Delicious looking dishes and beautiful photos!

    Just wanted to say hi!

    Looking forward to reading more 😉

  14. Suzanne permalink
    November 12, 2009 1:21 pm

    How would you alter this recipe if using fresh pie pumpkins? Same amount?

    • November 12, 2009 2:22 pm

      Hi Suzanne; yes, I’d use the same amount of pumpkin puree as canned pumpkin.

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