We recently hosted a dinner party and I wanted to bring a little flair of the Fall season. With Thanksgiving coming, I decided to make a pumpkin crème brûlée. I would consider myself an expert when it comes to make these cute French desserts. I've made crèmes brûlées so many times (lavender, banana, cherry, masala chai, green tea, lemon, chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch), I could make them with my eyes closed, except the brûlée part . That would end badly, I’m sure.
The result was predictably delicious. Crème brûlée flavored with just about anything tastes great, but that doesn’t give you license to make a turkey-flavored version. If it was made savory though, it might be interesting. Something to think about. At any rate, pumpkin crème brûlée is a familiar, yet fresh take on Thanksgiving dessert that deserves a place at your dinner table.
Servings: 8 mini-ramekins
8 ounces canned pumpkin purée
4 egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon extract
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1-3/4 cups heavy cream
5 ounces vanilla chips (white chocolate)
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of sugar without any water over high heat. It's important to watch the sugar carefully; as soon as the edges of the pan start caramelizing, immediately add the pumpkin purée. Gently jiggle the saucepan in circles for about 3-4 minutes. The pumpkin mixture should be thick. Turn off the heat. Add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon extract, nutmeg, ground ginger and clove. Allow to cool completely.
In another saucepan, combine the cream and milk. Bring to a near boil. Turn off the heat and immediately add the vanilla chips. Using a spatula, keep stirring until the chocolate is fully incorporated (see tips). Strain the dairy liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl to remove any solids.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1-½ tablespoons of sugar until they become pale yellow. Add the remaining cinnamon extract, pumpkin mixture and salt.
Combine the dairy liquid with the egg mixture by slowly adding a ladle of the dairy liquid at a time to prevent the yolks from curdling.
Strain one more time through a fine mesh and discard all the solids (if any).
Fill 8 (2-ounce) ramekins with the crème brûlée custard. Place them in a warm water bath in a deep baking pan. The water should go half-way up the side of the ramekins (at least a 1-½-inch-high level of water). Loosely cover the dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Open the oven and remove the aluminum foil and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. The texture of the crèmes brûlées should be a little jiggly but not liquid (the custard will get firmer and creamier as it chills in the refrigerator).
Allow the crèmes brûlées to cool completely first, then plastic-wrap each individual cup and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. The fat from the cream may pick up other food odors from the refrigerator if the cups are not sealed properly.
When serving, unwrap the cups and sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sugar in each cup, then caramelize with a culinary torch.
I used Guittard vanilla chips that I bought directly from a local market but if you can't find any, you can replace them with white chocolate chips.
A pinch of salt brings out the flavor of the dessert and enhances its sweetness.
I use McCormick cinnamon extract. If you don't have any, ground cinnamon will work as well.
While letting the vanilla chips steep in the dairy mixture, it's preferable to stir the mixture until the liquid is smooth rather than whisking, so you create as little milk froth as possible. You don't want a latte foam to form.
If you don't own a blow torch, you can place the crèmes brulées under the broiler until the sugar caramelizes. But if you decide to make this dessert quite often as we do, a culinary torch is a good investment.
Set aside the egg whites in the refrigerator and save them for making tuiles cookies, meringues or French macarons.
You can check out more crème brulee recipes such as my masala chai crèmes brulées.