Chefs, and pastry ones are no exception, tend to get bored with the commonplace. Even if everyone loves creme brulee, once you have mastered the perfect cooking method and time after time the result will be a silky custard, the sugar perfectly and uniformly burnt on top, how many times can one have fun making a vanilla brulee? That is when the experimentation and the deconstruction come in, either with the base recipe itself or with the decorating elements.
Everyone knows creme brulee means “burnt cream” – the first known record of it is buried in a French cookbook from 1691 and the French name stuck. I particularly like the Spanish version of it, called Crema Catalana, typically served on St. Joseph’s day on March 19 – it’s lightly scented with lemon and heavily peppered with cinnamon. The British, as usual, introduced their own version, called Trinity Cream because it made its appearance at Cambridge’s Trinity College in 1879.
A friend recently asked me for a Pumpkin Creme Brulee recipe and I am happy to oblige. A few creme brulee pointers:
The custard should be poured in shallow ramekins and baked in a water bath, with the water coming 1/3 up the sides of the ramekin. The pan should be covered with foil so the custard will cook evenly and you won’t end up with a curdled looking top.
- It’s a good idea, once the custard has cooled, to refrigerate it for 8 hours or overnight so when you go to brulee it, the egg proteins will not overcook.
- Sprinkle a thick layer of sugar just before serving – more than you think you are going to need. This will give you the cracked glass effect and it will help achieving an even caramelization.
- A torch will obviously work best because you can control the flame. Keep it at a good distance so that the sugar will not go flying everywhere and work in concentric circles, starting from the center out. If you don’t have a torch, just slide a pan with the ramekins on top under the broiler for a few seconds. Careful – the sugar will burn really quickly.
RECIPE – Yields 12 portions
1 1/2 C Heavy Cream
1C + 1T Milk
1C + 1T Maple Syrup
1C Pumpkin Puree
1 1/2 ts Cinnamon
A pinch of Nutmeg
A pinch of Salt
- Whisk cream, milk, maple syrup and pumpkin puree in a sauce pan and scald.
- Whisk yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. While still whisking start pouring the milk mixture into the egg one. Do not stop whisking to prevent the eggs from cooking.
- Strain the mixture through a chinois or cheesecloth.
- Pour into ramekins and bake (see above instructions) at 300F until set – about 40 mins depending on oven.
- Let cool in the water, then refrigerate.
- Brulee (see instructions above) right before serving.