Pumpkin Creme Brulee
If you are looking for a Thanksgiving dessert that will absolutely knock the family’s socks off, this pumpkin creme brulee is the dish. Falling neatly in the middle between rustic family feast and haute cuisine, this dish is both familiar and elegant, featuring all your favorite flavors and textures of both creme brulee and pumpkin pie, and is certain to delight any and all of your Thanksgiving guests.
While creme brulee sounds intimidating, it is actually much easier than you think. With a thermometer and a bit of attention it is not at all hard to make, and I guarantee it will wow your audience. This illusion of difficulty comes partially from the necessity of a blowtorch, but mostly from the uncertainty of baking a custard. While it may seem easier at first glance to just toss your custards in the oven, it takes a lot of the control away from you. I prefer a stovetop custard because I can be with it the entire way and cook it to the exact right temperature for it to set.
Custard on the stovetop needs to cook to between 175 and 180 degrees fahrenheit. If you cook your custard to this temperature, it will set perfectly in the fridge. There is no guessing or fretting, you can be certain that when you pull it out, you will have a perfectly smooth and creamy custard with just the right texture.
And the blowtorch? That part is just pure fun.
Trust me, this is the dessert to bring to Thanksgiving this year.
Pumpkin Creme Brulee
2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tbsp brown sugar
6 large egg yolks
⅓ cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup pumpkin puree
Whisk together egg yolks, white sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and set aside. You will need to use a double boiler later, so it is good to mix these ingredients in a vessel that can be used for that.
Add the cream, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar to a smaller pot on the stove over medium heat. Stir them to combine well and allow the brown sugar to dissolve into the cream. Scald the cream, stirring often while bringing it to just before boiling. There should be bubbles around the edge, but not a proper boil. When you reach this state, remove it from heat.
Pour the cream in a small stream into the egg mixture while whisking. The small stream is important to keep the eggs from cooking on contact. When all the cream is added to the eggs, add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine well.
Take the mixture and heat it over a double boiler, stirring often until it thickens. You can try to eyeball it based on how well it coats the back of a spoon, but I would suggest using a thermometer. The custard will begin to set at around 160 degrees. You do not want to heat it beyond 185. 175-180 is your sweet spot. Remember that as much as you stir, the custard is likely to have variable temperatures throughout, so try to keep it mixing, and gauge the temperature at different places in the pot.
Once the custard has been brought to temperature, remove it from heat and divide it into 4 ramekins (should make around 4 servings at 5 oz. each). Put the ramekins in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to set. If you prefer, you can also make this in the morning or even a day or two ahead, just be sure to cover the ramekins so that they do not form a skin on the top of the custard.
When you are ready to serve, pour roughly ½ tbsp sugar on the top of each ramekin, spreading it evenly, and hit it with a blowtorch to create the sugar shell. This can alternatively be done under the broiler, but if you do it that way, you may overheat the custard and need to return the ramekins to the fridge and allow them to set again.