Even though we have been well into the fall season for quite some time now (and almost into winter for that matter), I still feel I should mention my love of pumpkin spice lattes, and how their arrival on the Starbucks menu gets me giddy with anticipation for the upcoming "sweater" weather every year. I had my first of the season a while back, when I was still living in New York, and the tantalizing aromas from the cinnamon and nutmeg combined with the rich espresso got me thinking: wouldn't these flavors make for an excellent dessert? I felt inspired. The wheels started churning and I began to brainstorm the perfect vessel for my pumpkin latte creation.
At first I thought cupcakes, perhaps with a pumpkin cake base topped by a mocha buttercream, but that idea didn't leave me too excited. After several "rough" recipes, I came up with the idea for a crème brûlée that would marry the flavors of pumpkin pie and a latte into one smooth and silky custard. I did some research on crème brûlées and the different ingredients and techniques often used to create them, and was able to come up with a recipe that I felt would mimic the pumpkin spice lattes I've come to love so much.
I am not a very patient person, so I really try my hardest to get a recipe right the first time around. I don't have the time or tenacity (or money) to try a recipe over and over until I get it right. (A personality trait I should probably work on...) So I have to say I was thrilled when this recipe came out damn near perfect on my first try. I felt I achieved the balance of flavors I was looking for, and everything went smoothly (even the texture of the custard) just as I had hoped. At least until I broke out the blow torch, which was an experience all on its own.
Pumpkin Latte Crème Brûlée
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half & half
1 cup pumpkin puree (just to clarify, this is the same as pure pumpkin)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon espresso powder
6 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup turbinado (raw) sugar, for topping
6, 4 oz overproof ramekins
1. Preheat the oven to 325º F.
2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the first 10 ingredients (cream through espresso powder). Over medium heat, bring the mixture just to a simmer or until steam rises. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and salt. Gradually add cream mixture, while whisking to combine. Stir in vanilla.
4. Strain the mixture into a large measuring cup or bowl with a pour spout. Divide the strained mixture evenly among the 6 ramekins. Arrange filled ramekins in a baking pan, then carefully transfer the pan to the oven. Slowly pour hot water into the pan surrounding the ramekins. Add enough water to reach half way up sides of the ramekins. Bake custards until set around the edges, but still slightly jiggly (like jello) in the center. Depending on personal oven temperatures, custards in shallow crème brûlée ramekins should be baked about 20-25 minutes, while custards in standard soufflé ramekins should be baked for 25-30 minutes. Let the ramekins rest in the water bath for 5 to 10 minutes after baking. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool for another 20 minutes. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
5. When ready to serve, blot the top of the custards dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of turbinado sugar over each custard in ramekins. Using a small kitchen torch, melt the sugar by waving the torch flame 3-6 inches from the surface of the sugar. Heat the sugar until it is caramelized and no dry sugar is visible. Sprinkle another 1 teaspoon of turbinado sugar over each custard and continue to caramelize with the kitchen torch until a dark amber crust has formed on top of each custard. Chill the custards for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings
Note: the pre-caramalized custards can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep chilled until ready to serve.