Pumpkin Creme Brulee

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Because we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters this year (or any year), I was able to take the pumpkins from our pumpkin-off and cut them up shortly after we carved them in order to make use of all that lovely pumpkin flesh.  And I ended up, after hacking and cutting and boiling and puréeing, with 14 cups of usable pumpkin goo.  So you’re going to get a lot of pumpkin recipes.  I hope you like pumpkin.

I have never made crème brulée before.  But for many years, the Pie and I were in possession of a tiny butane brulée torch.  Then about two years ago I decided we were never going to make crème brulée and I got rid of it.  And THEN, after doing that, I discovered how freaking easy they were to make.  Yes, I did kick myself a little.  Not to fret, though: you can do the bruléeing with the help of your broiler.  It doesn’t do as even a job as a torch, so you have to rotate your ramekins while you’re doing it, but it does work.  And this pumpkin crème brûlée from The Foodess looks too easy and too lovely to resist.  In fact, way easier than regular crème brûlée.  So we’re doing it.

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Preheat your oven to 325°F and set a kettle of water on the boil.  Find a large baking dish and eight 3/4 cup ramekins.  You’ll note here I used four ~1 1/3 cup ramekins.  You may need two baking dishes.

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In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups whipping cream to a simmer.

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In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups pumpkin purée (the plain stuff, not the pie filling), 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 5 egg yolks (save the whites for something awesome), 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, a sprinkle of salt, and 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Ever so slowly, dribble the hot cream into the pumpkin mixture and whisk it up.

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Divide the mixture among your ramekins and place them in the baking dishes.  Pour boiling water into the dishes until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

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Then pop that in the oven, middle rack, and bake for about 35 minutes (with my larger ramekins I baked mine for 55 minutes), until the centres of the puddings are just set.

Transfer the puddings to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then chuck them in the fridge for at least two hours.  You can make these the day ahead, and you can even freeze the chilled ramekins to eat later.  Just wrap them up carefully before freezing.

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Just before serving, you can take the puddings out of the fridge (or freezer) and sprinkle the tops of each with about 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (the plain white stuff works best for caramelizing).  If you’ve got one, use a brûlée torch to quickly and evenly caramelize the sugar and then serve immediately.

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I didn’t have a brûlée torch (see above(, so I used my broiler.  Thing is, even if you move the puddings around under the broiler (easier said than done), they still don’t caramelize evenly.  So I had some charred spots and some spots that were hard and crackly, but not brown.  Not to mention that all that time under the broiler heated up the pudding itself, which is supposed to be served cold.  Alas.  But they were still super tasty, with a nice crackly top, despite what this picture may be telling you.

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Italian Pot Pies

Because the weather outside refuses to cooperate, I wholeheartedly reject the idea that it is actually spring out there.  Accordingly, I’m still making the steamy comfort food characteristic of the winter months.  These little pies come out of the oven molten hot, and the tart flavours of the sauce really accent the classy biscuit topping.

This is a Martha Stewart recipe, and it’s quick and easy and a great way to use up leftover spaghetti sauce.  Normally the Pie and I use stuff we make ourselves, but tonight I was lazy and so I followed the recipe (shocking, I know).  I apologize in advance for the lighting in the photographs.  It was late in the day and it’s been a rainy week.

Preheat your oven to 450°F and position your rack on the lowest or second-lowest possible level.

In a saucepan or large skillet over medium heat, warm up about 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add in 1 medium onion and 2 carrots, finely chopped.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until tender (about 8 minutes).

Add in 1 pound or so of lean ground beef.  Break up the meat with a utensil and cook until no longer pink (about 5 minutes).  You could also definitely do a vegetarian version of this, just omit the meat and ‘beef’ up your sauce a bit.  I suggest cheese.

Pour in 2 cups tomato or spaghetti sauce and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary, and a pinch of salt.  As an aside, I got the above mortar and pestle for about 2 bucks at IKEA.  It’s a very handy thing to have around.

Make a well in the centre and pour in 1/2 cup milk and 4 tablespoons melted butter.  Stir just until dough comes together.

Set 4 8-ounce ramekins on a baking sheet.  Spoon in the meat mixture.

Mound spoonfuls of dough on top.

Bake until the topping is golden and you can stick a toothpick in it and have it come out clean (about 12 minutes).

Be careful, it’s hot!