Pumpkin pie is a wonderful dessert, but it isn’t the only treat that you can make with pumpkin during the fall baking season. Pumpkin can be incorporated into a wide variety of muffins, breads and cakes. It can also work its way into fall versions of even more classic desserts, such as a creme brulee. My Vanilla Bean Pumpkin Creme Brulee puts a seasonal twist on a timeless classic, adding pumpkin puree and a bit of spice for a dessert that captures the fall flavors you love in an elegant way.
This creme brulee is flavored with vanilla bean and a little bit of nutmeg, but also contains pumpkin puree. Vanilla bean really gives a beautiful flavor to any milk or cream based dessert, and it uplifts the pumpkin puree, keeping the dessert feeling rich but light. Nutmeg enhances the vanilla bean without making the custard to spice-heavy. As much as I enjoy pumpkin pie spice, creme brulee isn’t a dessert that you want to turn into a spice-bomb.
Be sure to use pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling, which may contain additional sweeteners in it. Pumpkin puree should be nothing more than pure pumpkin! Most commercially made pumpkin purees will be quite smooth, but the custard should be strained before baking just to ensure it doesn’t contain any lumps.
The custards can be prepared a day or so in advance and stored in the refrigerator, but they should be bruleed just before serving. For the brulee, a generous amount of sugar should be added to the top of the custard and spread (or shaken) until it is even. Then, the sugar can be caramelized with a kitchen torch until it is golden. If you don’t have a kitchen torch, you can pop the custards until a hot broiler for a minute to caramelize them.
And if you love the idea of a brulee, but you just can’t help yourself from sticking with a pumpkin pie for your next pumpkin dessert, let me point you in the direction of my Bruleed Pumpkin Pie, which features a caramelized topping exactly like the one you would find on a creme brulee. It’s an easy variation on a traditional pie and one that will make your dessert a little bit more memorable!
Vanilla Bean Pumpkin Creme Brulee
1/2 vanilla bean
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 300F. Arrange six, shallow 6-oz ramekins in a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Split vanilla bean and use the back of a knife or a spoon to scrape out the vanilla bean seeds. Add vanilla bean seeds and pod to heavy cream and milk. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes.
After vanilla has finished steeping, remove vanilla bean pod, then bring back to a simmer
In a medium bowl, whisk together sugars, egg yolks, pumpkin and nutmeg.
Slowly stream the hot milk mixture into the pumpkin mixture, while whisking continuously to temper the eggs without cooking them. Strain pumpkin custard through a fine strainer into a large measuring cup to remove any lumps.
Divide the pumpkin mixture evenly between the prepared ramekins. Fill the baking dish containing ramekins with hot water, until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the custards are set. (if using deeper ramekins, baking time will be slightly longer and yield will be one less). Allow them to cool in the water bath, then refrigerate until cold (at least 2 hours). Custards can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
Just before serving, top each custard 1-2 tsp of sugar, turning the ramekin to coat the surface of the custard.
Caramelize sugar with a kitchen torch or by putting ramekins under the broiler for about 1 minute, watching closely.