Sometimes you need a dessert that impresses; one that looks like it came right out of a restaurant kitchen. Today’s dessert recipe is decadent, perfect for fall without being cliché, not terribly difficult, and best of all, naturally gluten-free – Maple-Bourbon Pumpkin Crème Brulée.
As I mentioned in my last post, pumpkin pie was one of my favorite desserts growing up, second only to death-by-chocolate cake. As an adult, it’s very hard for me to pass up crème brulée when it appears on a restaurant menu. For a long time, I think part of that was because it was something I had no idea how to make at home – recipes like that always draw my attention. Never mind that I had a brulée torch generously given to us as a wedding gift over two years ago that I hadn’t touched, waiting for the “right moment”. Crème brulée (literally “burnt cream”) is not an every-day sort of dish – or so I thought. This all changed when we got together with our friends two months ago and finally used the torch on a pie top, pictured here. Now I had fuel in my brulée torch and no fear of using it – and all I wanted to make was a pie-inspired crème brulée.
I am always on the look-out for new recipes that happen to be gluten-free, especially of the sweet variety. In a season full of pie crusts, it’s nice to have some options. Not to mention I have a somewhat irrational dislike of making pies, for some inexplicable reason. I’ve made plenty and they all turn out just fine, but for whatever reason I just dread them. It’s not the time, or some level of difficulty. I just don’t enjoy it. I’d much rather make a cake with three to five separate components than roll out dough for some bizarre reason. So, turning my favorite pie into a crust-less dessert killed two birds with one stone – gluten free, and no obligatory crusts.
With so many pumpkin desserts out there right now, I knew I needed something somewhat unique. I turned to the internet and read all of the top crème brulée recipes, both of the standard variety and a few with pumpkin, wrote up an amalgamated recipe, and roped my roommate into testing six different combinations of maple and bourbon to find the right proportions. In the end, we have a custard that is just right on its own – not too sweet with just the right amount of pumpkin and spice. It tastes great even without the caramelized sugar topping added – although who doesn’t love the satisfying feeling of breaking that sugar barrier with a spoon.
The custards can be made 2-3 days ahead of time and kept chilled and covered in the fridge. Right before serving, add the raw sugar and caramelize with the torch – no sooner! Or, if you don’t have a brulée torch, serve the custard with a bit of whipped cream on top. I enjoyed a few this way and have no regrets. I urge you to give this classic recipe with a twist a try!
Maple-Bourbon Pumpkin Crème Brulée
This recipe makes 6-8 servings, depending on the size of your ramekins.
- 1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon mace (optional)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 6-8 tablespoons raw sugar, for topping
Heat oven to 325°F. Prepare a large roasting pan (or two) that will fit 6-8 ramekins. Caramelize the pumpkin puree in a shallow saucepan over medium-heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the white and brown sugars and set aside
Once caramelized (but not burnt!), whisk the cream, milk, and vanilla into the pumpkin puree and bring the mixture to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the salt and all the spices.
Add ¼ cup of the pumpkin-cream mixture to the egg-sugar mixture and whisk to temper the eggs. Slowly whisk in the rest of the pumpkin-cream mixture while pouring it into the bowl in a thin stream. Add the maple syrup and the bourbon.
Divide the mixture among your ramekins and place them in the roasting pan(s). Fill the pan(s) with hot water half-way up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully place in the oven – the water may slosh as you move it so mind it doesn’t end up in the custards. Bake for 40-60 minutes until set.
Remove the custards from the pan and place on a cooling rack. For food safety reasons, you don’t want to leave the custards un-refrigerated for long, so allow them to sit just until they are cool enough to handle, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a tray or pan, cover with saran wrap, and chill in the fridge, 2 hours to overnight.
Right before serving, sprinkle a tablespoon or so of raw sugar on each chilled ramekin of pumpkin custard and caramelize the tops with a brulée torch (be sure to follow all instructions related to this piece of equipment). If you try to do this step earlier and then refrigerate, the caramelized sugar will loosen and start to get watery. They still taste fine, but its definitely not as pretty, so it's best to wait. Enjoy!
Make in Advance! The custards can be made ahead of time and allowed to chill in the fridge 2-3 days in advance. Do not add the raw sugar or caramelize the tops until right before ready to serve.
No torch? No problem! Make the custards, and right before serving add a little whipped cream (store-bought or homemade). Call it a Maple-Bourbon Pumpkin Custard. Still delicious, still classy, and still gluten-free.