Caramel Pumpkin Custards

You know how sometimes you see a recipe and you get all excited and you either cut it out of the magazine or newspaper or save it from a website or print it out and then you put it away so you’ll remember to make it and then you lose track of it and it’s like months before you find it again?

Well that didn’t happen to me.  No sir.  From the time I saw this recipe on the San Francisco Chronicle website until I started mixing the ingredients together was like about 4 ½ minutes.  I’m not sure why it took so long.

Holy pumpkin monkeys, people!  This stuff is amazing!  I had never, ever in my life put pumpkin and caramel together, and was totally incredulous to find out that unbeknownst to me, all this time, they are really best friends.  Pumpkin and caramel.  BFF.

So this is the part where I tell you all the ways that I didn’t follow the recipe… but there were really only a couple of them this time.  Firstly, the original recipe used a large round baking dish, but I wanted to use little ramekins so I could serve this in individual portions.  The beauty of this is that you can make the custard ahead of time and just make one or two at time if you wish.  I’ve held the custard mixture in the refrigerator for 3 days and they still cooked up beautifully.

The second change I made was to use my own caramel recipe which I totally love and adore.  But I’m happy to tell you that I’ve also made this using Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, and it was awesome.  So if you’re short on time, you can totally skip making the caramel and substitute a good store-bought one.

Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly.  Oh, and when you get to the part where it says the brandy is optional?  Don’t believe it.  The brandy is not optional.  Unless, of course, you don’t like brandy, then, well, just leave it out I guess.  But I may or may not have added just a tad more than the tablespoon called for.  I found out that pumpkin and brandy are also very good friends.

So, The Husband has requested that I make these instead of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, and I don’t think he’s going to have to lobby very hard for that one.  As much as I love my pumpkin pie, I’m fairly certain these little custards are going to be replacing it this year.  We’re pretty excited about that.  Here’s the recipe…


Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle

Instead of the round 2-quart baking dish called for in the recipe, I used individual ramekins, so either works well.  I also substituted my own caramel sauce recipe for the one they used.  I wasn’t able to create a good caramel with theirs.  You could also substitute a good store-bought caramel sauce and skip that step entirely.  I’ve made this with Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce and it was delicious!  The recipe states that adding the brandy to the custards is optional, but I highly recommend it.  Not optional in my house.

Makes 7 or 8 small custards or one large

For the caramel sauce

   (or substitute a good store-bought variety)

1 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons butter

½ cup heavy cream

For the Custards

3 large eggs

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

2 cups whipping cream

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon molasses

3 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon brandy (optional)

1 cup softly whipped cream for garnish (optional)

To make the caramel sauce

In a heavy small saucepan or skillet over medium heat, stir the granulated sugar until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and boil without stirring until sugar turns golden brown, about 3 minutes. Depending on your heat, this can happen really fast.  Once your sugar has  melted and turned a golden brown, immediately stir in the butter.  Remove from the heat and let it rest for a few moments and then slowly add the cream.  It will sputter a bit, but just keep stirring it in.  Once the cream is incorporated, pour about a tablespoon or more into each ramekin and swirl a bit to coat the bottom and a bit of the sides.  Set them aside to harden.  (Alternately, pour the whole thing into the your round baking dish, swirl to coat the bottom and a little of the sides and set aside to harden).

If using store-bought caramel sauce, heat it briefly in the microwave until it is a pour-able consistency.  Pour a little into the bottom of each ramekin and then refrigerate to harden while you make your custards.

To make the custard

Place a 9 x 13 baking pan on the middle rack of the oven and fill halfway with hot water (if using one baking dish) or about ¼ full of hot water if using individual ramekins.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until frothy. Mix in the pumpkin, 2 cups of cream, brown sugar, flour, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, salt and brandy, if desired.  Pour into the caramel-coated dishes.

Place the ramekins or baking dish in the pan of water and bake, uncovered, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out almost clean but with a little custard clinging to the pick, about 1 hour 45 minutes for the large dish and 30-35 minutes for the ramekins. The custard will jiggle slightly and the top will be puffed.

Remove the dish from the water and cool to room temperature. (At this point, the custard may be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Cover with plastic wrap and bring to room temperature before serving.)

To serve, run a small knife around the edge of the custard and invert onto a rimmed platter. Do not be concerned if some of the caramel stays in the dish. Serve at room temperature drizzled with a little more caramel sauce and softly whipped cream, if desired.

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