Day 2 of 31 days of pumpkin and we come to a custardy pumpkin crème brulée with a hint of cardamom. I love making desserts that come in individual servings. Maybe that’s because I hate sharing. This way, everyone gets his own ramekin and no one has to fight over who gets the bigger piece.
Since starting this project, I’ve learned something about sugar: there’s more than one kind. Of course, I always knew there was brown sugar, and dark brown sugar, but I haven’t really gone beyond that sort of basic knowledge of sugar. This week, I discovered demerera sugar and I use it in this recipe.
Demerera sugar takes its name from a colony in Guyana, which is where the sugar was originally refined. Now, it’s produced mainly in Mauritius. The light brown granules are relatively large and they don’t stick together like normal brown sugar. The texture looks perfectly uniform. That’s why I chose it for the sugar crust on top of the custard. I wanted perfect sugar crystals to carmelize into the perfect crackle. Et voilà.
The other wonderful ingredient in this dish is of course, cardamom. In this recipe, I use cardamom pods as well as powdered cardamom (both the green variety). Cardamom is expensive and can be difficult to find, so you can always skip the cardamom and this is still a great dessert, but if you have the opportunity to buy it this time, it is a wonderful, unique flavor that you can also add to Indian curries, tea, Nordic pastries and much more. Similar to ginger, it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. The pods are the best way to buy the spice, because the flavor stays fresh while it is trapped inside the pod. In this recipe, I have you crack the pod to release the flavor before adding it to the cream for flavor infusing.
Pumpkin Cardamom Crackle Custard
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
8-10 cardamom pods, cracked open
1 cup canned pumpkin
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
pinch of all spice
1/8 tsp cardamom
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 tsp Demerera sugar
small pinches of cardamom
1. Pour the cream into a small saucepan. Add the cracked cardamom pods and warm over medium heat until bubbles just begin to appear. Cover and remove from heat. Let steep for 30 minutes.
2. Remove pods from cream and discard them. Reheat cream until it just bubbles again. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Bring a teakettle’s worth of water to a boil and keep it hot. In a large bowl, add the pumpkin and then beat in the egg yolks. Add the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and cardamom and mix well. Add about half of the warm cream to the egg mixture, beating continuously. Continue to add cream until it is completely incorporated. Stir in the vanilla.
3. Place 6 ramekins in a baking dish. The ramekins should be close together but not touching. Ladle the custard into the ramekin dishes until each one is nearly full. Pour hot water into baking pan until ramekins are submerged halfway. Place baking dish in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until custard is set in the middle.
4. Using tongs, remove ramekins from hot water bath and let cool on the counter for 15 minutes. Then cool them completely in the refrigerator.
5. Preheat the broiler on maximum setting. Spoon a teaspoon of Demerera sugar on the top of each ramekin and place them in an ice bath in the baking dish. Sift a teeny tiny bit of powdered cardamom onto the top of each one. Place under the broiler and watch closely while the sugar caramelizes. (If you have a kitchen blow torch, this would be one of your opportunities to use it instead). Yank it out of the oven, just as the sugar melts and starts to brown. Either serve immediately or chill completely.