Custards will give family a new reason for thanks


Pumpkin creations offer an interesting change from pie as holiday sweet treat


November 16, 2003|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

Pumpkin is without a doubt the quintessential ingredient when it comes to Thanksgiving desserts. Pumpkin brownies, a whipped-cream-filled pumpkin roulade, a dense pumpkin spice cake and that traditional favorite, pumpkin pie, are all dishes I've offered as finales to this holiday meal. This year, though, I've created a new confection: Pumpkin Custards With Pecan Toffee Topping.

The custards take only a few minutes to assemble and about 40 minutes in the oven. Purchased pumpkin puree is blended with sugar, cream and eggs. Then a trio of spices - cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg - plus a hint of bourbon are added to provide a burst of flavor. This custard mixture is ladled into small individual ramekins, souffles or custard cups, then baked in a water bath until set. Chopped toasted pecans combined with toffee bits are sprinkled over the silky, smooth custards when they come out of the oven. Chilled and served with dollops of whipped cream, these little custards would make an irresistible ending to that all-American feast held on the fourth Thursday in November.

I discovered that these custards have another advantage for holiday cooks. They can be prepared two days ahead and kept refrigerated until needed, leaving you free to concentrate on the bird and trimmings on turkey day. In addition, a single recipe will yield 12 servings, enough to serve a crowd on Nov. 27.

Pumpkin Custards With Pecan Toffee Crumble

Serves 12

2 cups heavy or whipping cream, divided

one 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin seasoned with spices)

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

8 large egg yolks

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons bourbon

2/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans (see Note)

1/3 cup English toffee bits (see Note)

Arrange a rack in center and lower positions of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready 12 (6-ounce) ramekins, souffles or custard cups and two large baking pans (9-by-13-inch Pyrex dishes work well).

Whisk together 1 1/2 cups cream, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until lukewarm.

Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer to blend. Gradually beat in sugar until mixture thickens and is lighter in color, 2 to 3 minutes or longer. Add pumpkin mixture and bourbon; beat until just blended.

Divide custard mixture evenly among the ramekins. Place half the ramekins in each of the baking pans. Pour enough hot water into the baking pans to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake custards until a tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.

While the custards are baking, mix together the pecans and toffee bits in a small bowl. Remove custards from oven and while still in the baking pans, sprinkle the center of each custard with some of the pecan-toffee mixture.

Carefully, with potholders, transfer ramekins to cooling racks and cool 1 hour. Cover custards with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, 2 to 3 hours or overnight. (Custards can be prepared 2 days ahead; keep refrigerated. Bring to room temperature 15 to 30 minutes before serving.)

To serve, whip remaining 1/2 cup cream and garnish each serving with a generous dollop.

Note: To toast pecans, spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on center shelf of 350 degree oven until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and transfer nuts to a work surface to cool.

Note: Hershey's Skor-brand English Toffee Bits work well in this recipe. They are available in the baking section of many supermarkets.

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