Pumpkin Creme Brulee (Power Tools in the Kitchen)

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 8 large egg yolks
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
• 1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin

So last week in the market, when you did all your shopping for Thanksgiving, you inevitably passed by the end aisle display composed of 300 or more cans of pumpkin pie filling, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and whatever else they deemed fit to pile on.

You remember that, don’t you? They were cheap, these cans of cooked, mashed pumpkin. They were really cheap. If you went to a major grocery chain, they were perhaps 2 for 1. So you bought a couple cans. No harm in that. You’re making pie. Who has time to bake and mash real pumpkin on Thanksgiving anyway? I mean, OK – if you’ve got all week to cook maybe you do. But a lot of us don’t have that kind of time, not in a short week. Canned pumpkin is OK on this occasion. Call it a free pass.

But Thanskgiving has come and gone and now you’ve got at least one can of that stuff sitting in your pantry. And if you’re like me, you’re sick of pumpkin pie. So what are you going to do with it? It’s taking up precious space. It’s got to go, right?

Correct. It has to go indeed. And I know just the thing to turn it into: Creme Brulee.

I hate to bake. I love to cook, but baking just isn’t my thing. I can make bread, I’ll make cookies once in a while. I even make my own pizza dough. But beyond that, I’m just not a baker. It’s not my strength and I just don’t feel comfortable baking. Girls bake, guys don’t bake. So if I’m going to bake a dessert, I want to have fun with it. And this is the perfect dessert for any man to make.

Why? Power tools.

Power tools in the kitchenYou give me any recipe that allows me to bring my tools into the kitchen, and I’m all over it. I once used my DeWalt drill to carve a pumpkin. When I needed ring molds to stack food for fancy plating, I went to Home Depot and bought 3 inch PVC, brought it home and cut it into rounds. If I need something for the kitchen, don’t ask me why, but Home Depot is the first place I go. Lowe’s is second, then it’s off to William’s Sonoma, or a proper place for chefs. You can take the man out of the workshop, but you can’t take the workshop out of the man.

This is a recipe for a standard creme brulee, with the addition of mashed, cooked pumpkin. Just before serving, we top each one generously with sugar, then use our hand held propane torch that is normally used for soldering copper pipe together to melt the sugar along the top so it’s nice and crispy.


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Arrange eight 1/2-cup ramekins or custard cups in a large metal baking pan.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Don’t boil it or allow it to bubble. Just get it warm enough to dissolve the sugar, then remove the pan from the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until frothy. Slowly add 3/4 cup of the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture to the remaining hot cream, and whisk. At no point should you stop whisking, and whatever you do don’t pour the hot cream mixture in too fast or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs.

Add the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin, and whisk until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, then pour the mixture into the custard cups.

Add enough hot water to the metal baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Place the whole thing in the oven. Bake until the custards are just set in the center but not stiff. 45 to 55 minutes should do the trick. Remove from the oven and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours.

Now, here’s where the fun begins. Go get your hand torch, it’s playtime.

Sprinkle each custard with a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Spin the custard cup around to distribute the sugar evenly across the top of the custard. If you have any excess, leave it there. Don’t dump it. It will caramelize nicely.

Fire up that propane torch, and caramelize the sugar. You want a nice light to dark brown color. If you manage to burn it in a few places, don’t worry about it. Color adds character. When they’re all caramelized, serve them immediately. And if you’re thinking of something to pair it with, might I suggest a bottle of Autumn Maple from The Bruery? Made with yams and fall-inspired spices, nothing accompanies this dessert better than a small goblet of this specialty beer from The Bruery.

Stand back and be proud that you’ve succeeded in creating one hell of a nice dessert, used up that last can of mashed pumpkin, and didn’t burn the house down.

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