It’s October and it really is pumpkin madness month! I’ve raved about the fall season and how it is my favorite: the gorgeous fall colors, the cooler weather, the crisp morning air, the dramatic changes in foliage, the squirrels busily hoarding nuts for the winter. It’s nature’s most spectacular display of color, and a wonderful way to get ready for the long winter ahead. Dan loves watching his football games, wearing flannel and sweatshirts, while I like my cozy cable-knits, cups of hot cider, and autumn baking.
One thing at first I had to get used to when moving to the US was the incredible pumpkin overload that sets in during October. The whole world revolves around pumpkin and becomes crazy for these orange gourds: pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pies, pumpkin scones, pumpkin soups, pumpkin bread, pumpkin curry, pumpkin beer, pumpkin spice tea, pumpkin pancakes, just to name a few. The frenzy for pumpkin is everywhere and now I can’t get pumpkins out of my head! I see pumpkins on the doorsteps of homes, pumpkins at the entrance to grocery stores, pumpkins by the hardware store, and the effect is that at the end of the day, I close my eyes and all I see are pumpkins! In past years, I admit I would get a little bit overwhelmed by this madness and my way of tempering October’s palate has been to offer some other recipes that feature other fruits and spices, like the subtle sweetness of pears in my Pear Gruyere Scones or the smoky flavor of Spanish paprika in my Empanadas Tucumanas. But today, I’ve succumbed to the pressure of this sunset-colored fruit and bring you something a little bit different: pumpkin pots de crème! Do not be intimidated by the French name of this dessert. If you’ve tried my Lilac-Chocolate Pots de Crème, you probably remember I described this custard as a “pudding for grown-ups.” It’s the most delectable and easiest dessert ever, and I have yet to meet someone who does not like pots de crème. Ironically, I confess, whereas I have been resistant to the pumpkin madness, I have succumbed to the obsession of all things pots de crème. Every week I made pots de crème in a new flavor: honey-lavender pots de crème, raspberry-rose pots de crème, lemon pots de crème, coffee pots de creme…you get the idea. And so it is that I discovered that by taking my pots de crème obsession to the next level, I could jump on the bandwagon of pumpkin madness as well. I believe in the power of pots de crème to bring love and joy to the autumn season and to elevate the flavor of pumpkin as well.
This dessert is so easy! In 20 minutes or less, you have whipped it together and even assembled the tools you need for the bain marie. They are made with the simplest of ingredients, and can be made ahead. I was afraid that the pumpkin puree would make my pots de crème too runny, but I discovered that by using enough yolk and omitting milk and sticking straight to heavy cream, I could get a good pots de crème consistency. The minute they were out of the oven, I ate half a batch, so beware! They are incredibly addictive. Because of the richness of this dessert, I like to serve them in very small custard cups or ramekins, preferably 2 oz ones. It’s truly the perfect petite size! I used small canning jars for this purpose and have been taking a miniature jar full of pumpkiny pots de crème goodness to my work assignments; it is bound to brighten the lunch hour.
I’ll bet if you didn’t have a pumpkin obsession, then this dessert will totally take you there. No other dessert will bring you so much deliciousness as these pots de crème, and if you happen to have pumpkin left over from a visit to the orchard, it’s a nice variation from the traditional pumpkin bread and pumpkin pies that tend to get the most of this autumnal fruit. So I hope that in the month of October, you’ll carve out 20 minutes to whip this recipe together. This showstopping French custard will win you over with its silky smooth texture and medley of fall flavors. They will make a truly unique treat! And if you have a little bit of discipline and can wait until they’ve cooled off and set for a few hours, you will have the most satisfying, creamy dessert full of the bold autumnal flavors of pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, and maple.
Pumpkin Pots de Crème
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 40-55 min.
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- ½ tsp vanilla powder
- ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 5 egg yolks
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Have a roasting pan and 7 ramekins ready.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon regularly, until the sugar melts.
- Cook, stirring continuously, until both sugars melt and the butter and sugar come together. At first, the sugar and butter will combine and puff up a little bit, with some bubbles in the mixture. After about 5 minutes, the mixture should begin to look smooth and satiny, and should brown lightly.
- Reduce the heat and stir in the maple syrup. Cook for another minute, until the mixture smells nutty, but make sure that it does not burn.
- Slowly add ¼ cup of the cream, stirring well to combine. Continue adding the remainder of the cream in small increments and continue cooking over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
- Remove from the heat and set aside.
- While the cream and sugar mixture cools down, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin puree, and salt.
- Slowly add ½ cup of the hot sugar-cream mixture to the yolk mixture to temper them, doing so gradually. I like to test the temperature of my cream-sugar mixture before adding it, but making sure it does not burn my finger. If it is too hot for my finger, it probably will burn the yolks too. The goal is to warm up the yolks slightly. Otherwise, you will be left with some scrambled eggs.
- Pour the yolk mixture into the remaining sugar-cream mixture in the saucepan, whisking well. Cook for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens and achieves a thin pudding consistency.
- Meanwhile, boil some water to have ready for the bain marie and baking process.
- While the water heats, pour the custard into the prepared ramekins, tapping each one of them gently to remove bubbles.
- Place the roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and gently place each ramekin into the roasting pan. Pour the boiling water into the roasting pan so that the water comes up about halfway up the side of the ramekins. This is the bain marie method, and it will allow the pots de crème to bake evenly.
- Bake them for 40 minutes if you make them in 2oz ramekins, and for 55 minutes if you use 4oz ramekins. To check for doneness, gently shake each ramekin. It should look fairly set. If the pots de crème jiggles too much, it needs to bake longer.
- Remove the roasting pan from the oven and the ramekins from the roasting pan. Let them reach room temperature. Place them in the refrigerator. To serve, I prefer my pots de crème to be served at room temperature, so I would remove them 1-2 hours in advance of consuming. You can certainly eat them if they’ve just been removed from the refrigerator, it’s just a matter of preference. I find them to be creamier and more pudding-like when they have stood at room temperature for a little bit. You can decorate the pots de crème with unsweetened skyr, candied nuts, or flakes of salt. I’m such a purist that I really like them with no topping, but a topping can add a bit of interest and look really pretty. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.
© 2021 Carol’s Baking Adventures