Pumpkin spice and brown sugar creme brûlée

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A few years ago there was a run on cans of pumpkin at the grocery store. For some reason, it was just gone. I learned my lesson and made sure to stock up on pumpkin well in advance of pumpkin season. So I have a fair amount of pumpkin sitting around, waiting for some baking love. I also have a brûlée torch sitting around, waiting to set sugar in fire. The obvious solution was to make pumpkin creme brûlée.

Creme brûlée is one of those dishes that sounds really difficult because of the fancy name, but is pretty easy to put together. It’s a great dessert for dinner parties, as you can bake and chill the custard ahead of time, and then just caramelize the sugar as people are finishing their dinner.
As the custard baked, I realized that I’d probably be content to bake this just for the smell. Breathing in the spices will make you feel like you’re being enveloped in a warm hug. The spices do not overpower the dish, as so many pumpkin dishes are wont to do. The finished custard is creamy, but light, and the crunchy brown sugar adds a punch of smoky flavor.

Pumpkin spice and brown sugar creme brûlée

Ingredients
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light/golden brown sugar
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups heavy whipping cream
8 tablespoons raw sugar or light/golden brown sugar

Heat 12-15 cups of water in a pot on the stove. Preheat oven to 325°F. Whisk pumpkin, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks and vanilla, then spices and salt. Bring cream just to boil in medium saucepan. Gradually whisk hot cream into pumpkin mixture. (You’re tempering the eggs, or slowly adding the hot cream, so as not to cook the eggs.)

Divide mixture among eight 5×1-inch ramekins*. Divide ramekins between 2 large roasting pans. Add enough hot water to pans to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until custards are just set in center, about 35 minutes. Chill custards until cold, about 6 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

ETA: I found this makes for a better crust- remove custards from the fridge for 30 minutes prior to torching. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon raw sugar over pumpkin custard in each ramekin. Using kitchen torch, melt sugar until deep amber. (Alternatively, use broiler. Place ramekins on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with brown sugar [not raw sugar] and melt directly under broiler until deep amber.) Refrigerate 15 minutes to allow sugar to harden. Allow creme brûlée to sit for 5 minutes before digging in.

*You can use 3 inch diameter ramekins with 1 1/4 inch high sides. Bake for 50 minutes. If you want to make a thicker custard, lower the cooking temperature to 300 degrees and cook for a longer time.

Recipe via Epicurious

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