Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Crème Brûlée

5 Comments 01 December 2010

I’d sorta kinda maybe promised a lovely lady on Twitter that we were going to do a picture and link-fest post on all the recipes that I made for my family’s Thanksgiving feast. A kind of how-it-went post with plenty of pics to oooh and ahhh over. It didn’t work out, though. So in order to make up for that (and, well, because we also wanted to cook something), we bring you a scrumptious, post-Thanksgiving, but Damn This Is Good No Matter When dessert.

Neither my sis nor I have ever made crème brûlée before. I almost wrote “from scratch”. Heh, how else would one make it? And, well, maybe my sis has, I don’t know. Anyway! Is anyone tired of pumpkin yet? Dumb question? I know – how could you ever get tired of pumpkin? If you are, just please hush and go with this. We wanted to make a custard-based something and we had (almost) all the ingredients for this one already. Everyone, wallet and taste buds, wins. As usual, when you’ve never made something before, there’s lessons learned. We’re here to share those with you, dear fellow Forkers, and maybe you’ll benefit from our oopsies. Well, not really oopsies so much as impatience…ies? In the end, it all worked out, because dayum these things taste good. Tip: stock up on an extra can or two of pumpkin now in case you want to make this later in the winter. Most stores don’t sell pumpkin puree after the Holidays.

One last thing: I’m in love with the cookbook we got this recipe from, Bon Appétit Desserts by Barbara Fairchild. It’s enormous, like some long-awaited bible of desserts. This is the only recipe we’ve made from it so far, but it is a big beautiful book and I love love love how it’s organized. I love the chapter breakdowns. I love the recipe index at the front of each chapter. I worship the cheesecake chapter (we’re making one from it this coming weekend – squee). The only complaint I have is that there’s not near enough pictures of finished recipes. Other than that, there is a fantabulous amount of information and great-looking recipes in this book. I don’t think one could blog this one in a year alone. But you never know.

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee

There’s a whole can of pureed pumpkin in this sitch, ya here? Along with other goodies like white and brown sugar. More to come!

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee

One of the fun things about being an adult is you get to play with your food. I begged sis not to stir the spices once I’d tossed them in. I had the idea to swirl them for a picture. Tada! Very earthy, yes?

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee

Next you add in some heavy cream. Yes, a lot of it. Hush.

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee

After you’ve ladled the mixture into your ramekins, it’s time for a bath! A hot water bath for the custard, that is. I wish you could’ve seen me, the cook who hates getting near high heat (I’ve burned my hands pretty good a time or two), sliding these pans full of boiled water into the oven. Good times. We’ll charge admission next time.

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee

When they’re done you get these cute, slightly jiggly cups of deep pumpkin color. The smells surrounding you are warm and inviting. You’ll want to rip into one right away, but you must resist. No, really, you don’t want the wooden spoon across the knuckles, do you?

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee

That’s as close as you’re allowed at this point.

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee

After the custards have chilled for a while (we cheated and stuck ours in the freezer to speed up the process), sprinkle on about a tablespoon of brown sugar on each.

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee

Here’s the fun part. Or what’s usually the fun part. Here’s where you’d either flare up the old broiler in the oven, or you could break out that nifty mini crème brûlée torch. You know you want to, the torch that is. I would’ve loved to, but since we didn’t plan far enough ahead, and I was too lazy, I didn’t go over to my mother-in-law’s to borrow hers. Next time for sure! But you can use the broiler to melt and slightly burn your sugared custard tops.

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee

But this is where I was a little disappointed. That’s not really how crème brûlée looks, right? Sis, who is great at pushing on through and saying it’s OK to pretty much everything I hesitate on, pushed through and said it was OK. Still, I had hoped the broiler would produce a nice, glassy-looking crème brûlée top. Oh well. Maybe this is how it’s meant to be when one can’t be bothered to borrow a torch.

And then, behold, the next day – a miracle! You chill the dessert again for several hours and even overnight if you need to, and when I got one out the next day to sacrifice it to my taste buds and tummy, there was a very pretty, glassy-looking top on it! Cue the heavenly choir. I suppose chilling it is what helped to ultimately achieve the traditional crème brûlée glassy texture. So lesson learned, people. Do this one a day ahead, or early on in the day so there’s plenty of chilling time in the fridge if you’re serving it that evening. But no more than that. Two days later the sugar had melted. It still tasted good, but obviously wasn’t ideal.

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Creme Brulee

And that’s a wrap on our first ever crème brûlée! It tastes a lot like pumpkin pie. Why not make pumpkin pie, then, you ask? Well, sometimes life brings you pie and sometimes it brings you crème brûlée. Personally, I’ll take either, and I’d definitely make crème brûlée again.

Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Crème Brûlée

From Bon Appétit Desserts cookbook by Barbara Fairchild; You can also find it at Bon Appetit’s site.

Prep Time: 10 minutes    Cook Time: 40 minutes (chilling time also required)    Level: Intermediate   Serves: about 5-8, depending on ramekin size

  • 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (urrr, we didn’t have this, so left it out)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 8 tablespoons raw sugar or golden brown sugar
  • 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. This is where we opted for caution, held the pan directly over the bowl and poured. The liquid wants to run down the side of the pan every time and this helped it from escaping the bowl and ending up all over the counter and floor.

    Divide mixture among eight 5×1-inch ramekins (or 6-8 8 oz. ramekins if you have them). 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.

    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.

    (Cook’s note: maybe my broiler is overactive, but when it started to burn instead of melt, we removed the ramekins from the oven. Next time I won’t put them right smack dab under the broiler.)

    Refrigerate 15 minutes to allow sugar to harden. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 hour ahead. Keep chilled.


    There was a great tip in the cookbook for removing the ramekins from the hot water. Carefully slide a spatula underneath the ramekin while holding it at the same time with a pair of silicone-tipped tongs (these won’t slip on the ramekin as much). Gently and carefully lift the ramekin from the water and place on a protected surface like hot pads, or we used a baking sheet so it would be easier to move all of them to a more convenient part of the kitchen.

    As I noted above, we stuck our custards in the freezer for the first round of chilling to speed up the process, but that’s only because we were short on time. It did work well enough. We left them in there for about 30-40 minutes.

    These tasted best to me after being well-chilled overnight.

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    - who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

    Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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    Your Comments

    5 Comments so far

    1. Kati says:

      MMMM! Yummy! This is gorgeous and delicious. Thanks for posting, Kmont!

    2. christine says:

      Yum and beautiful, too!
      I love just about anything made with pumpkin.

    3. Hilcia says:

      Oh, I almost missed this one. This looks fantastic and since I’m one of those who loves anything pumpkin, this recipe is now mine!

    4. Angie says:

      I think I saw this tip on Good Eats about using a water bath – place the ramekins in the empty pan in the oven, then pour the water in, so you don’t have to transport the pan full of hot water. It will also help keep water out of the creme brulees which (according to Bobby Flay) will help make sure the creme brulee firms up.

      • KMont says:

        It’s been so long since we’ve made these that I can’t be sure if that’s what we did, but I know we’ve used that same idea for other similar recipes calling for a water bath in the oven. Thank you for posting the tip! Lord knows I need reminders, and often. 😀

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