I thought I would share a little dessert I put together last week since it would be a perfect do-ahead (even a day or two) treat for Thanksgiving. After making pumpkin kamut scones last week I had some leftover pumpkin puree to use up. In fact, when I reflect upon my method of creating recipes, I cannot help but admit that most of my original creations, indeed the majority of what we consume over here, is born of an egg white here, extra buttermilk there, a third of a can of chipotle chilis, etc.
For instance, an egg yellow (or “orange” for many non-English speakers) in my imagination equals:
-Richer, more sumptuous soft-scrambled eggs with creme fraiche and chives
-Zabaione/ Sabayon cream
-Custard based ice cream
-Pastry cream for a simple fruit tart
-Glaze for croissants (hey, who needs an excuse to make croissants?), turnovers, and pies
-Buttercream frosting for filling macarons
-Crème brûlée or pots de crème
The majority of my egg yolks lately end up in crème brûlée –with the crunchy sugar layer for me and my husband and without (!) for my kids. In this case, however, I had a couple of egg yolks and leftover pumpkin puree. For my love of most things pumpkin, I am altogether ambivalent about pumpkin pie, which technically uses many of the same ingredients as a pumpkin custard. The spices here are what make the recipe.
This is such an easy dessert to make ahead of time that I will publish it now for those of you in charge of Thanksgiving dessert. Even if you have not been assigned dessert, this is a phenomenal desert to make this time of year when the days are barely warm and the nights frigidly cold (or if your heater goes out–argh!). I prefer my pot de crème slightly warm from the oven or at room temperature. As for the crème brûlée variation, if you have never experienced the delightful contrast of the warm and crunchy sugar, the pleasure of cracking it with your spoon Amelie style, and then diving into the cold creamy custard beneath, you have missed a crucial, mandatory even, milestone in life. This is a seriously delicious treat.
In terms of making the pumpkin pots de crème your own, you can certainly make them healthier by lowering the amount of cream and using half and half or milk instead, but it will not be as smooth a custard. The spices here are what I felt would best compliment the pumpkin without being the same old pumpkin pie spice kit. Feel free to change it as you wish–just make sure that whatever you choose you let steep for a proper amount in the hot cream to infuse it with more flavor. The only one I urge you not to forgo is the bay leaf because it is really unusual and intriguing with the pumpkin. Finally, if you do like to have the thin caramelized candy layer on top of your pots de creme, either use a blow torch (really, they are not that expensive), culinary torch, or put them under the broiler for 2 minutes.
Pumpkin Pots de Crème/ Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
(Makes 4-8, depending upon the size of your ramekins)
2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream, preferably organic
1/2 bay leaf
1/4 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1 lightly smashed cardamom pod
dash of freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar (or combination of white and brown sugars)
1-2 teaspoons extra sugar if making crème brûlée, optional
Boiling Water, kitchen towel, casserole dish for the oven, ramekins
Preheat the oven to 300F degrees and have a pot of boiling water at hand. Prepare a baking casserole dish by lining it with a cloth napkin or kitchen towel and confirm that all the ramekins fit inside. You will be filling the dish with boiling water so it reaches half way up the sides of the ramekins.
Heat the cream with all of the spices except the vanilla extract until the edges just start to bubble and steam rises. Remove from heat and let it steep for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture and remove all of the spices. In a mixing bowl vigorously whisk together the sugar and the egg yolks until thick, yellow ribbons begin to fall from the whisk, about 5 minutes.
Whisking constantly, slowly pour the warm cream mixture into the sugar-egg mixture, followed by the pumpkin puree. Pour equal amounts into your ramekins (4 large or 8 tiny ones) and nest them into the towel lined casserole. Pour the boiling water into the casserole, careful not to drip any into the ramekins so that the water goes half way up the sides of each ramekin. Cover loosely with tin foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until each ramekin sets. The custard should jiggly uniformly and not look like liquid. Remove from the oven and set each ramekin atop a cooling rack. Eat warm or refrigerate for several hours (or a couple of days, covered with plastic wrap).
If making crème brûlée, lightly sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons (err on the side of less here) equally over the top of each ramekin. Torch with low flame, moving in little circles until the entirety of the sugar caramelizes or put directly under the hottest broiler for 1-2 minutes, checking to make sure it does not burn to black. Let sit for 2 minutes before serving.