Creme brûlées are a dessert that never goes out of style. The silky custard is rich and satisfying, but it is that crackly, caramelized top that keeps people ordering it again and again. Creme brûlées aren’t the only dessert where you can brûlée the top and that same caramel layer can instantly elevate other desserts as well. This Brûléed Pumpkin Pie is the perfect example, since you get a classic pumpkin pie with a little something special by adding that top layer.
I bake, cool and refrigerate my pie before adding the topping. Be generous with the sugar before attempting to caramelize it. It may seem like a lot of sugar, but that all translates into a great caramel crust. The pie is substantial and needs a generous topping to go with it! The easiest way to brûlée the top of this pie is with a kitchen torch because it gives you a lot of control over how caramelized your pie gets. If you don’t have a kitchen torch (and they’re fun to play with!), then you can put your pie under the broiler for a few minutes. Cover the edges of the pie with a small piece of aluminum foil to prevent the crust from burning and then watch the topping as it cooks, since it will go quickly once it starts to brown.
Once you have brûléed your pie, it should be served right away. This way you’ll get crisp, dark caramel and rich, creamy pumpkin in every bite. The topping will soften and melt if you store the pie in the refrigerator overnight after brûléeing it. This will leave you with a dark caramel sauce on top of the pie, which won’t have the texture of the original topping, but will be delicious.
Freshly ground cinnamon is a great way to make the cinnamon flavor in your pie pop, but the same can be said for all of your spices. You want to make sure that they are as fresh as possible – even if you are using store bought pumpkin pie spice – so that your finished pie is flavorful and spicy.
Brûléed Pumpkin Pie
dough for one 9-inch pie crust
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree (or 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree)
1 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (whole or low fat)
approx 1/4 – 1/3 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 425F.
Roll out pie crust on a lightly floured surface and press it into a 9-inch pie plate. Flute the edge, as desired.
In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and salt until smooth. Whisk in milk. Pour mixture through a fine strainer and into the prepared pie shell.
Bake for 10 minutes at 425F. Lower oven temperature to 350F and bake for 30-35 minutes, until pie is set and jiggles only slightly when pan is gently tapped.
Allow to cool completely before serving or refrigerating.
Pie can be served at room temperature or cold.
Single Pie Crust
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into pieces
4-6 tbsp ice water
Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in butter (you can also use half butter, half shortening) with your fingertips, pressing it into the flour mixture and breaking it up, until mixture resemble very coarse sand and no pieces larger than a large pea remain. Using a fork, stir in ice water until dough almost comes together into a ball. Press dough into a ball with your hands and wrap in plastic.
Chill for at least 30-60 minutes before using.