Maybe you have a guest who isn't a pie lover. Pumpkin Sour Cream Creme Brulee is the dessert for them. Creamy and luscious with a hard crack sugar top!
Part of attending culinary school is getting a taste of reality and acquiring practical skills by completing an internship. When I attended school, halfway through the 2-year program, students were required to work in a restaurant, bakery, private club, or any other institution that required food service workers.
One of my internships was as an assistant to a pastry chef. Responsible for desserts of three restaurants, the pastry chef had plenty of work for me to do. I needed to hit the ground running.
I have a very distinct memory of making pumpkin creme brulee. The pastry chef often donated desserts for fundraising chef events held by charities. And it was my job to make the desserts for one such event. I think it was day three for me in the pastry kitchen.
My assignment was to make pumpkin creme brulee. And boy, did I make pumpkin creme Brulee, panful after panful - enough for 300 small foil ramekins. Learning by repetition!
The appeal of a classic
The appeal of creme Brulee can't be overstated. The creamy center is maybe a little eggy but definitely a custard. But it is the top, the hard crack sugar, that is hard to resist. Just breaking and cracking the sugar adds to the experience of eating this classic dessert. The partnership between caramelized sugar and the velvety custard is a classic. There is the impression that creme brulee is fancy, maybe out of reach for anyone other than a chef. But of course, it's not.
The secret to making a silky smooth creme Brulee is controlling the heat. If the custard is cooked at high heat and too quickly, the eggs may scramble. Also, using sour cream requires slow and medium heat. If cooked rapidly and over a high flame, sour cream will separate and look curdled. Slow and steady wins the race.
Another requirement for creme Brulee, in my opinion, is vanilla. I like to use a vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped out. If you can get a vanilla bean for anything less than a king's ransom, it is worth it. I put the bean in the pan with the cream to steep as the cream comes to temperature.
For pumpkin cream Brulee, I also add a cinnamon stick. It is, after all, pumpkin spice season. Again, this is steeped in the cream. Have a bowl with egg yolks combined with pumpkin puree and sugar off to the side, waiting for the cream to get hot. Also, use a fine-mesh strainer on top of the bowl of pumpkin puree as it will catch any bits of overcooked egg, the vanilla bean, and the cinnamon stick as you pour in the cream.
Only cook the cream until small bubbles from at the sides of the pan. This is the visual clue that the cream is hot enough. Then ladle by ladle introduce the cream to the eggs to gently bring them to temperature. The purpose of slowly adding the hot cream is to prevent the eggs from scrambling.
The Brulee mix is ready to be portioned out into ramekins or creme Brulee dishes. The secret to creamy custard is to bake the creme Brulee in a bain-marie. I put the dishes on a sheet pan or in a roasting pan and then pour in the Brulee mix. Less chance of spilling. Fill all the dishes and pour hot water into the sheet pan or roasting pan. It should come halfway up the sides of the creme brulee dishes. This will help regulate the temperature at which the custard bakes. It also helps to achieve the silky smooth texture you crave.
There is no denying that part of the appeal of this dessert is the top. Cracking into the burnt sugar to expose the creamy interior is part of the fun. The flavor of the burnt sugar is a tasty contrast to the pumpkin spice custard. I generally use a torch to caramelize the sugar.
Pumpkin Sour Cream Creme Brulee has many attributes that I can speak of. But one that is particularly popular this time of year, is the fact that this dessert is a definite make-ahead recipe. Make it one or two days ahead of Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, it needs to be refrigerated to set up. After it has cooled after baking, cover the top of the ramekin with plastic wrap tightly so that it doesn't sag onto the top of the custard. This will help prevent a skin from forming.
You can make a big show out of caramelizing the sugar in front of your guests. It is best to torch the sugar just before you serve dessert. Look like a pro!
Need another Thanksgiving dessert idea - https://tenpoundcakecompany.com/creamy-pumpkin-cheesecake
Pumpkin Sour Cream Creme Brulee
- fine mesh strainer
- heat-proof spatula
- 2 medium bowls
- 8 ramekins or creme brulee dishes
- sheet pan or roasting pan
- 2 cups heavy cream 16 ounces, 475ml
- 1 cup sour cream 8 ounces, 226 grams
- 1¼ cups pumpkin puree 10 ounces, 233 grams
- 7 egg yolks
- 1 cup, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar 9 ounces, 254 grams
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla bean
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 8 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- Preheat oven to 325 °.
- Pour ½ cup of heavy cream and sour cream into a medium-sized saucepan. Whisk together until completely incorporated. Add another ½ cup of cream to the pan and whisk together. Add the last cup and whisk until the cream is smooth and completely mixed.
- Split the vanilla bean down the middle to expose the seeds inside. Add to the cream mix. Also, add the cinnamon stick.
- In a medium bowl, add the egg yolks and the pumpkin puree. Whisk together until the egg yolks are completely incorporated. Add the granulated sugar and the ground nutmeg to the pumpkin mix. Whisk everything together.
- Over medium heat, slowly heat the cream mix. Sour cream will curdle if heated too quickly and with high heat. Continuously stir with a spatula to make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. After 6-7 minutes, you will see small bubbles on the sides of the pan. Take the pan off the heat.
- With a ladle, add a small amount of the heated cream mix to the pumpkin. Stir together with a whisk. Add another small amount of the cream mix to the bowl of pumpkin. You are tempering the eggs with small amounts of hot cream. By slowly adding the hot liquid, the eggs will not be scrambled. After you have added about ⅓ of the hot cream mixture to the bowl and whisked everything together.
- Completely whisk the pumpkin and cream mixture in the pan together.
- Have a fine-mesh strainer sitting on top of a bowl.
- Pour the creme brulee mix into the waiting bowl with the strainer. This will catch any overcooked pieces of egg and the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.
- Have hot water ready for a bain marie.
- Place the ramekins or creme brulee dishes on the sheet pan or roasting pan.
- Add ½ cup of the creme brulee mix to each ramekin or dish.
- Place the sheet pan or roasting pan on a rack in the middle of the oven.
- Pour the hot water into the sheet pan or roasting pan so that it comes up to the middle of the creme brulee dishes. This is baking in a bain marie. This helps to regulate the temperature at which the creme brulee bakes.
- Bake for 45 minutes. I rotate the pan after 20 minutes so that the dishes in the back of the oven are in the front.
- The creme brulee should look set on top. It may giggle if you gently shake the dish. The top of the creme brulee should not look like the mix has been souffled, meaning puffed up. This is a sign that the creme brulee has been overcooked.
- Take the dishes out of the water as soon as you can touch them. Refrigerate.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle the top of the creme brulee with 1 tablespoon of sugar. I have used turbinado(raw) sugar for this recipe. But you can use granulated sugar as well.
- Brown the sugar with a torch until caramelized and set.
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