Halloween 2011 – Pumpkin Pie Crème Brûlée

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The next dish that I made for our ‘Better Late Than Never’ Halloween dinner party was dessert – Pumpkin Pie Crème Brûlée.

I had seen an episode of Guy’s Big Bite where the host, Guy Fieri, cooked Pumpkin Pie Crème Brûlée. I thought it was something different; not just to try out but also to make, as I have never made crème brûlée before. I couldn’t think of a spooky name for this, yet my sister, on the night, said I should have called it crème boo-lée…hindsight is fabulous!

I had to change a couple of ingredients – the first being the turbinado sugar, which I’ve never heard of, or seen for sale here in the UK. After a quick Google, I found that demerara sugar was a good substitute. I also didn’t like the thought of using salty Ritz crackers (the only kind I know of) in the base, so used digestive biscuits instead which I would normally use when making a cheesecake. Heavy cream is called double cream in the UK and whilst I had bought cans of pumpkin out in the USA this summer, I’m sure you could steam some pumpkin flesh and whizz up to make a purée.

You need to allow time for the crème brûléee to set – suggested 6 hours in the recipe or overnight, which is what I did.

So here are the ingredients required to make this dessert. It makes 8 servings.

  • 3½ cups heavy cream (called double cream in the UK)
  • 32 butter crackers – suggestion Ritz crackers (I used digestive biscuits)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp freshly grate nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin purée
  • ¼ cup turbinado sugar (I used demerara sugar)
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter melted
  • 2-3 tbsp dark brown sugar

First off, I got all my ingredients together – first for the biscuit base…

…and then for the custard filling. I also set my oven for 150C.

The recipe online is back to front – giving you the method for making the custard first and then the base. I made the base first with the intention to crush up the biscuits and pecans in my food mixer, only to find that it was broken! Turns out in the end to be a blown fuse – thankfully – it was an expensive piece of kitchen equipment!

I had to use my smoothie maker instead and it did a grand job of crushing up the biscuits and nuts, even though I had to do it in several batches. As I was crushing them up I thought 32 might be too many (I was right) I used about 20 or so. To be fair, that was too many as well – but I had enough left over of both the biscuit base and the filling to make a couple more.

I dumped the crumbly mixture into a bowl and melted the butter in a pan on the stove.

I then poured the now liquid butter into the biscuit and pecan crumbles and stirred together to combine them – I think I could have done with a bit more butter which isn’t the recipes fault since I switched the cracker suggestion in it. That’s what I love about cooking – trial and error!

Once combined, I pressed the mixture into the bottom of some ramekins. The recipe calls for 8, 6oz custard cups. I don’t think mine were quite as big as I had lots of both the base and the custard left over! In the TV show, Guy also presses the mixture up the sides of the cups which I couldn’t manage to do. It’s no big deal since you don’t turn them out.

I set the ramekins aside to move onto the next step…making the custard.

I poured 2 cups of double cream into a sauce pan and added the cinnamon, ginger and freshly grated nutmeg. I also split the vanilla pod lengthways and scraped out the seeds which were put into the pot of cream along with the pod itself. I brought the cream to a boil and then removed from the heat to cool.

I put the sugar in a bowl and added the egg yolks. You could save the whites for making meringues; they can also be frozen for use on another day.

Then, taking the electric whisk to the eggs and sugar I gave them a good beating until the mixture was pale yellow and the sugar was dissolved.

To the now semi-cooled cream and spices I added the remaining cream (1½ cups) and ½ cup milk. I then slowly whisked in the yolk and sugar mixture, praying that I wouldn’t end up with scrambled eggs!

I then strained it through a sieve before whisking in the pumpkin puree.

Once everything was combined I then used a ladle to divide the mixture between the 8 biscuit lined ramekins. Next time I would put the mixture into a jug and pour it from that into them – I think it would be much easier. The custard smelled wonderful and I was hoping that they would taste as nice as they appeared to be looking!

I had already placed the ramekins into a deep roasting tin and having boiled the kettle, poured hot water around them, about half way up the sides. They call this a bain marie, which means water bath. This method of cooking helps the custard to cook with an even temperature.

Carefully I placed the tin into the oven and shut the door and set the timer. The recipe says 35 – 45 minutes – I always checked at the lowest time first as you can always leave a dish for a bit longer, but let it go too far and it could be ruined.

My crème brûlée were ready after 35 minutes, so I took them out of the oven and with an oven glove to protect my hand, lifted each dish out of the water bath to stop them from over cooking. I set them all to one side to cool completely before putting in the fridge for the next day when I would caramelise some demerara sugar on the top of them.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of me burning sugar with a culinary blow torch, but I do have a photo of the finished pumpkin pie crème brûlée! It was absolutely delicious and got a big thumbs up from everyone that night. The caramelised sugar was crunchy and complimented the sweet creamy custard filling and the biscuit and pecan base. It was an awesome dessert and turned out so well. I would definitely make this again!

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