Egg-based custards require gentle cooking for a smooth consistency. To make creme brulee, you begin by mixing a custard of eggs, milk, heavy cream, and sugar. This one also has brown sugar, gingerbread spices, and pumpkin puree. Pour the custard into wide, shallow dishes — some have small ears, some are scalloped at the edges, some oval, most round (lacking these, substitute deeper, more narrow, ramekins). Set the dishes in a water bath, which insulates the custard, letting the eggs slowly come up to temperature. To get the characteristic caramelized tops, use a kitchen torch or set the dishes under the broiler and watch them carefully.
|1½||cups heavy cream|
|¾||cup whole milk|
|¼||cup brown sugar|
|1||cup granulated sugar|
|2||teaspoons vanilla extract|
|Pinch each ground nutmeg and ground cloves|
|Pinch of salt|
|1||cup pumpkin puree|
1. Set the oven at 325 degrees. Have on hand eight 5-by-1-inch ramekins and 2 rimmed baking sheets.
2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the heavy cream and milk. Heat until hot but not boiling.
3. In a bowl, whisk together the yolks, brown sugar, ½ cup granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pumpkin puree. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture.
4. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Strain the custard through it, using a rubber spatula to push through pumpkin puree. Scrape any puree from bottom of sieve and whisk into the custard.
5. Place the dishes on the baking sheets and transfer to the oven. Carefully pull out the shelf and pour enough hot water into the baking sheets to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 30 minutes or until custard jiggles very slightly in the center. (If using ramekins, cover them with foil, making sure it does not dip into the custard, and bake slightly longer.)
6. Remove dishes from water bath, wipe the bottoms dry, and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
7. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup granulated sugar over the tops of the custards. Using a kitchen torch, melt the sugar until it is a deep golden brown. Or, turn on the broiler. Place dishes on a rimmed baking sheet and slide under the broiler. Broil for 2 minutes or until the sugar is a deep golden brown. Cool for 1 to 2 minutes before serving.
Karoline Boehm Goodnick