If halloween were a more elegant holiday than it is, this is what I would serve at halloween parties – smooth, silky creme brulee with a hint of roasted pumpkin and fall spices, topped with spicy garam masala pumpkin seeds. As it is, we’ll save this for fancier events and stick to the garish chocolate and peanut butter combinations tonight. I’m a creme brulee fiend – I can never resist ordering it for dessert when we’re out for dinner – so when Trevor made this amazing version at home he won me over all over again. This recipe is all him, so I’ll let him tell you its story…
A couple of months ago, when we started cutting into our very first home-grown Sugar Pie pumpkins, I decided I really wanted to do something besides endless pies with them. My first thought was ‘Oh! pumpkin creme brulee!’ The pumpkins we grew have a lot of natural sweetness, and would be perfect for a light creme brulee. A quick google, however, revealed that I wasn’t the first, or even the fifth person to think of it. The internet is full of pretty well-established pumpkin creme brulee recipes.
Demoralized, I decided to play with the flavors of roasted pumpkin seeds. Rather than salt and oil, I settled on the sweet, caramel-y flavors of Indian spices with a little kick. Cumin, masala, and chili powder paired nicely with the sweetness of the ginger and the nutty seed flavor. So I made these once, and they were gone in about a day, (mostly my fault).
I figured that the crunchy, crystallized seeds would be the perfect garnish for a bruleed crust, and would add a little something different to the pumpkin creme brulee recipes that were already out there. So with the seeds as a starting point, I threw some darker, intense spices into the milk while making the custard. Adding too much pumpkin to a creme brulee recipe is problematic for the final set of the custard, so the autumn flavor really has to come from the spices. The amounts aren’t enough to hit you over the head, but it’s definitely more than your classic vanilla bean dessert. It turned into a classy dessert with a little something extra, and I think it made Katie pretty happy. So it’s all good.
Garam Masala Pumpkin Seeds
Makes 1 cup of seeds.
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ⅛ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ⅛ tsp ginger
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ tbsp canola oil
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine sugar, salt and spices.
- Combine pumpkin seeds and oil in a separate bowl, stirring to coat seeds completely. Add half of the sugar mixture to the seeds and stir to coat.
- Spread the seeds evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 30 min, stirring every 8-10 minutes, until the seeds just begin to brown, and become crunchy.
- Before the seeds begin to cool, add the remaining sugar mixture, and stir to coat.
Pumpkin Creme Brulee
Serves 4. Adapted from The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts.
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- ⅛ tsp ground ginger
- 3 whole cloves
- ⅛ tsp ground cardamom
- ⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup pumpkin puree
- 4 cups boiling water
- ⅓ cup white sugar (for sprinkling)
- ⅓ cup turbinado sugar (for sprinkling)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Combine milk and cream along with the spices in a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat until the mixture begins to steam heavily and give off a nutty aroma. Do not let the mixture come to a boil.
- Remove from heat and allow the milk to steep for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar and egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
- Strain the whole spices and any skin that formed from the milk mixture. Add the strained milk to the egg yolks and sugar, stirring constantly. Once combined, add the pumpkin puree and mix until smooth.
- Divide the mixture between four creme brulee dishes, and set in a large baking dish. Fill the baking dish with boiling water so that the water reaches to just below the lip of the creme brulee dishes. Bake in the oven for 30-40min, checking after 30 minutes for done-ness. The custards should be firm, but jiggly. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight, covering with plastic wrap, but ensuring the wrap does not touch the surface of the custard.
- Combine the two sprinkling sugars in a small bowl, and remove the dishes from the refrigerator, uncovering them carefully. Spread the sugars evenly in an ⅛” layer over the top of the custard, taking care not to disturb the surface.
- Move a lit pastry torch over the surface of the creme brulee such that the tip of the blue flame is about 1 ½” away from the surface of the sugar. Keep the torch moving over the sugar until it begins to bubble slightly and turn a light brown.
- Allow the sugar to cool. Sprinkle masala pumpkin seeds over the top and serve immediately.