Pumpkin Custard with Cookie Crumble Crust and Bourbon Chantilly Cream

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If you were planning on making a pumpkin pie for that little holiday we have coming up next week, I have an alternative for you. All the creamy, custard-y, fall-spiced deliciousness of pumpkin pie, but without breaking out your food processor, getting flour all over your countertops, rolling out any crust, etc. And not a single can of evaporated milk. Sound good? I thought so too, especially when my batch yielded 10 individual custards instead of 8 and I was able to sample two one and still have 8, aka a full pie’s worth of servings, leftover.

Thanks to the blog post that introduced me to this cake, I ordered the “Rustic Fruit Desserts” cookbook this past June. As with most of my impulsive cookbook purchases, I had already forgotten about it by the time it arrived on my doorstep two days later. And as also with most of my impulsive cookbook purchases, I flipped through it and then put it in a pile of things I absolutely intended to carefully read and/or do something with ASAP, where of course it lay buried until a week ago. But it was meant to be, because I rediscovered it this week, in mid-November. I’m not sure pumpkin custards would have spoken to me as strongly back in June.

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We’ve done piecakecookies, granolamuffinscinnamon rollsbreadbread pudding, soup…..but I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many pumpkin recipes, especially when everyone’s favorite holiday is a week away. At least let’s hope not, since that list makes me realize that this is B&B’s 10th (!!!) pumpkin recipe. Aside from the pie tin and the pastry crust, this custard looks a lot like pumpkin pie – and as it turns out, tastes a lot like pumpkin pie. But even better, if that’s possible. And the best part is it takes literally 15 minutes to throw together (not counting the hour in the oven and the minimum 5 hours chilling in the fridge once it’s out of the oven – so it does require a bit of planning… and of course the potential trip to Crate and Barrel for whatever number of ramekins it takes to get you from the number you can dig up in your cupboards to 8).

The recipe as written calls for vanilla shortbread cookies for the crust – and the cookbook includes a recipe for them. I’m leaving it out here because I used a combination of store-bought gingersnaps and graham crackers instead (the recipe suggested gingersnaps as an alternative, I love a good graham cracker crust, and – confession – I first learned of the gingersnap/graham cracker combo from a recipe for a really yummy pumpkin cheesecake tart from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook that I’ve made every year since her cookbook came out, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever). You could use any type of cookie you like, however.

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Re: Chantilly Cream. Doesn’t that sound fancy? Turns out it’s just sweetened whipped cream. (As if we weren’t already sweetening our whipped cream?) The recipe told me to whip the cream by hand, which I tried to do but it didn’t take me long to switch to an electric mixer. Add a little sugar and vanilla halfway through, and perhaps a little brandy (as the recipe suggests), or bourbon (as I did). I’m not a huge bourbon drinker but I try to keep a bottle of Knob Creek on hand at all times, mainly for cooking but also because every once in awhile you have a friend that wants a glass of bourbon, and don’t real adults keep a fully stocked bar? Of course when I went to look for my Knob Creek as I was making the whipped cream I realized I was out (too many peach dumplings this summer!), but I did find a mini bottle of Maker’s Mark in my freezer. No idea where it came from, but it turned out to be delicious. I only used 1/2 teaspoon, and it was perfect – I would definitely recommend adding it if you have any on hand, although maybe not if you’re going to be feeding this to small children (I don’t think 1/2 teaspoon of alcohol in one cup of cream, which yields 2 cups once whipped, would be enough to hurt anyone when a single portion would work out to be 1/8th-1/10th of 1/2 teaspoon, aka a very trace amount, but just FYI. If I had offered the bowl of whipped cream to my one year old nephew I think he might have eaten the whole bowl, so just something to keep in mind).

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One Year Ago: Pumpkin, Sage, and Brown Butter Loafs
Two Years Ago: Carrot Mac and Cheese
Pumpkin, Previously: Cookies, Granola, Soup, Bread Pudding, Muffins, Cake, Pie, Bread, Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Custard with Cookie Crumb Crust, from Rustic Fruit Desserts

Serves 8-10

1 1/4 cups crushed cookie of your choice (original recipe suggests vanilla shortbread, I used a combination of graham crackers and gingersnaps but either would be fine on their own)
2 cups half-and-half
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses (recipe suggests Barbados, I used Grandma’s because I had it in the fridge)
2 cups pureed cooked pumpkin, or 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (note: not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Chantilly cream (recipe below), extra cookies, and cinnamon, for garnish

Chantilly Cream:

1 cup cold heavy cream
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Recipe suggests adding Brandy, I used 1/2 teaspoon Bourbon (you could up it to 1 teaspoon but it might be pretty boozy)

To make the Custard: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Divide crushed cookies among 8 5-ounce ramekins. In a small saucepan, bring the half-and-half to a light simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk the eggs and yolks together in a bowl, then whisk in both sugars and the molasses. Slowly pour the hot half-and-half into the egg mixture while whisking continuously. Stir the pumpkin, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Slowly add the egg mixture, whisking just enough to combine ingredients; this will keep air bubbles to a minimum, which contributes to a creamier texture when baked.

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a 6-cup measuring cup or a bowl with a pour lip, then strain the custard into the measuring cup. Distribute the custard evenly among the ramekins, filling them almost to the top. Place a large roasting pan on the center rack of the oven, put the ramekins in the roasting pan, and carefully add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the custards for 50-60 minutes, or until puffed slightly on the edges and almost set when jiggled. Carefully remove the ramekins from the pan and place on a wire rack. Cool completely on the rack before covering lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least 5 hours and up to 2 days. Serve garnished with a small dollop of Chantilly cream.

Storage: The custard itself is best if eaten within 2 days, but any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

To make the Chantilly Cream: Chill a metal bowl and whisk (or beaters). Pour the cream into the bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla (and bourbon or brandy, if using) and continue whipping the cream until it hangs but does not fall from the whisk. Alternatively, if you are using an electric mixer, start whipping the cream on low speed, then gradually increase the speed until the mixer is on medium speed. (Recipe recommends whipping the cream by hand so that you have “more control over the process.” I tried that to begin with, but my arm got tired well before any soft peaks were forming so I happily relinquished control and switched to an electric mixer).

Storage: Chantilly cream is best if served immediately. You may refrigerate it in  covered container for up to four hours, but you may need to rewhip some of the cream at the bottom of the bowl before serving.

Top chilled custards with Chantilly cream, sprinkle cream with cinnamon, and serve with a gingersnap on the side. Yum!

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Friday Faves

IMG_3473{pumpkin snickerdoodles}

What are you up to this weekend? I have a long and ambitious list that includes a haircut, a trip to the pumpkin patch, and three dozen pumpkin sugar cookies that need decorating. [I have a new little cousin/nephew as of 2:00 this afternoon, just in time to get his name on his cookie! And one of B&B’s most loyal readers also welcomed a baby boy today – happy birthday Gavin and Cooper!] Some fun links and pics for your evening (I was supposed to post this 12 hours ago and somehow forgot ~ I’m blaming an early morning spin class that really threw off my routine):

IMG_3474{my new ‘godmotherglassybaby from my sweet godson}

photo-125{soup weather, finally}

IMG_3475{my new favorite sunscreen, thanks to my friend (and supergoop guru!) Steph}

IMG_3497{topping bar at Portage Bay Cafe, yum}

Warm Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake

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If you read this blog even semi-regularly, you might start to worry that I only own two cookbooks. While in truth I have about half a bookshelf’s worth, it would be a fair assumption since I sometimes don’t do a very good job of branching out. Last week, in search of an easy fall dessert, I remembered a pear upside down cake I had made a couple years back, when I was trying to use up some pears from a friend’s orchard and really into my cast iron skillet cookbook. I dug up the recipe, happily realized I already had almost all of the ingredients on hand (if you keep the Trader Joe’s ginger chews on hand like I used to, you might even find you don’t have to go to the store at all!), and whipped this up in under an hour. In a season flooded with apple and pumpkin desserts, often rich and heavy or overly sugary, I think this is a great addition to anyone’s fall recipe repertoire. The cake has a barely-sweetened cornmeal crumb, the pears are deliciously buttery, and the spicy ginger adds a little kick. And of course, what’s prettier than an upside-down cake in a cast iron skillet?

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I probably say this too often, in my attempt to encourage everyone to actually make these recipes rather than just read about them, but this really is so easy to throw together. The only caveat is, I do think you need a cast iron skillet. While you could definitely make something similar in a regular cake pan (or ideally an 8×8 brownie pan), the cast iron is ideal here, for the way it caramelizes the fruit and of course for it’s stovetop-to-oven multi-tasking ability. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, consider buying one – the Lodge brand is relatively inexpensive and I use mine all the time. While I’ve done meat and fish in it a few times, I use it primarily for cheese dips and giant chocolate chip cookies – so if that doesn’t sell you I don’t know what will.  But make this first, because I know you have someone in your life giving you a basket of pears from their orchard that you need to use. And if you don’t, it’s a great excuse to buy a couple pounds at the farmer’s market this weekend! You could also use apples if you went on an overly-ambitious apple picking trip recently… but I do recommend trying it with pears first, because just like with cookbooks, sometimes you’ve got to mix it up a little bit!

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One Year Ago: Brown Butter and Bourbon Apple Crisp
Two Years Ago: Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Warm Pear-Ginger Upside-Down Cake, from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Sharon Kramis & Julie Kramis Hearne

Serves 8-10

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 pounds firm but ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears (about 4 pears), peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
2 tablespoons minced candied ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup medium-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup boiling water
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
Fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for topping, optional

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add 1/4 cup of the sugar, stir just enough to combine, and cook without disturbing until the sugar dissolves and starts to turn golden brown/caramelize, about 5 minutes. Beginning with the outside edge and working your way towards the center in a circular pattern, arrange the pear slices on top of the caramelized sugar. Sprinkle the ginger and nutmeg over the top. Cook until the pears are soft and the caramel starts to thicken, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Place the cornmeal in a large bowl, add the boiling water, and stir to blend.  Add the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar to the cornmeal mixture and mix until well blended.  (This can be done by hand). Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, alternating it with the milk, making sure not to over mix. Pour the batter on top of the pears in the skillet.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the top starts to brown and the center of the cake feels firm and springs back when pressed, 18-20 minutes. Let the cake cook for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen it, and place an inverted plate on top of the skillet. Protecting both hands with oven mitts, flip the cake onto the plate. Replace any fruit that may have stuck to the skillet.  Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Friday Faves

IMG_2901{fall foliage + fog}

Happy Friday! What are you up to this weekend? I’m off to Key West…looking forward to eating lots of Key Lime Pie, listening exclusively to Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney, and doing everything the NYT’s “36 Hours” article tells me to do. We’ll have more than 36 hours though (5 days!), so if you have any recommendations I would love to hear them! Wishing everyone a lovely fall weekend. Some fun photos and articles for your Friday:

  • Facial mists – I’ve never really tried them, but this article makes me want to start!
  • I’ve been craving this pasta all week.
  • Loved this week’s Modern Love (Last week’s Modern Love? It’s published online on Thursdays but printed in the Sunday NYT, so depending upon how you read it…)
  • I’m really working on perfecting my roast chicken this fall (have you ever made “Engagement Chicken”? My friend Kristy did one time…..but it didn’t work.)
  • I can’t wait to go visit Eagle the Penguin!

IMG_2660{Queso Fundido for MNF – Go Hawks!}

IMG_2937{I made these photo books for Cooper per a recommendation from Cup of Jo – I did one with his monthly photos and one with pictures of his favorite people. He’s currently not that into them but I’m sure he will be at some point….right? I think it’s a cute gift idea, regardless!}

IMG_2938{Such a thoughtful “just because” gift from my dear friend Jessie ~ I’ve been drinking my detox tea out of it all week! In related news, did anyone catch that game last night? Go Dawgs!}

IMG_2932{My two favorite uncooperative photo subjects in the Petit Bateau outfits I got them about a year ago – now that Coop finally fits into his, Harper has almost outgrown hers. Damn those French sizes! And yes, this took two takes, thus the two different bows}

Yoona’s Chicken Noodle Soup

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I’ve made this soup dozens of times since it first came to my attention almost four years ago, so I apologize for not sharing it until now. I actually thought I had posted it last fall, but when I did a quick blog search the other day after someone asked me for the recipe, I found it buried in my drafts folder.  My friend Yoona calls it “Chicken Soup for Lazy People,” implying perhaps that a truly homemade chicken noodle soup would involve roasting your own chicken and making the stock from scratch.  Yoona has higher standards than I have, though – my definition of chicken soup for lazy people is the soup I get from the pre-made soup counter at Metropolitan Market, or something like this or this. [I used to think I didn’t like chicken noodle soup, mainly because I had only ever had canned versions, which I kind of hate.  The Met Market Chicken Noodle changed the way I felt about chicken noodle soup – I would get it even when I wasn’t sick, that’s how good it is – but an 8 ounce cup has about a year’s worth of sodium in it, so now that I have this recipe I like to make it myself.]

I would argue that there’s nothing lazy about this soup – it’s a little less involved, perhaps, but I still consider it “from scratch.”  Using a rotisserie chicken and store bought stock just means you can actually make “homemade” chicken noodle soup in under an hour – which is perfect if you or someone you love/need to feed is under the weather, or if you want to make it for dinner but you work until five and want to eat at a reasonable hour. My sister made a batch last weekend while my nephew was napping – and I should add that my sister, as a rule, doesn’t cook. Neither does my mom, but she makes this soup all the time.  So while I don’t think anything involving chopping veggies, simmering stock, shredding chicken, and adding fresh herbs can be considered lazy, we could perhaps call it a user-friendly chicken soup. Chicken soup you might actually make. Chicken soup you could make tonight.

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I chopped my onions/carrots/celery so that I could have pretty photos for blog purposes, but – true confession – I often use the pre-chopped mirepoix mix from Trader Joe’s. It’s just so quick and easy, and I don’t think you sacrifice a lot in terms of taste or texture. I actually don’t mind chopping the carrots and celery myself – you can do the ratios and dice-size just the way you like them that way, and it only takes a couple extra minutes – but normally I would definitely use the Trader Joe’s pre-chopped onions (yes, I’m lazy enough that I will make an extra stop just to avoid chopping my own onions. Although anything you don’t already have in your fridge/pantry, save for the chicken, you can get at Trader Joe’s). As Yoona will tell you (I encourage you to read her post, she’s a better cook and a better writer than me), it’s a totally flexible recipe and you can tweak it to your liking. I typically use low sodium stock and then add more salt and pepper to taste (I read somewhere that you’re always better off to use low sodium stock – no matter how much more salt you add it will still end up being much less than full-sodium stock. And one of the things I love about the Met Market chicken soup is how peppery it is, so I add a lot of freshly ground black pepper). And finally, if you’re the kind of person who would even consider making your own stock, you can use the carcass of the rotisserie chicken to do so – and then use that stock for the next time you want to make this soup.  See, not lazy at all!
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One Year Ago: Butternut Squash and Farro Salad
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Soup, Previously: White Bean and Kale, Split Pea, Cream of Fresh Tomato, Pumpkin Black Bean, Curried Butternut Squash, Roasted Cauliflower, Minestrone, Roasted Sweet Potato and AppleRed Lentil, Roasted Tomato Basil

Chicken Noodle Soup, from Yoonanimous

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil
1 precooked rotisserie chicken, shredded (skin and bones removed)
3 medium carrots, diced
1 large or 2 small onions, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
8 cups chicken stock or broth (2 boxes)
1-2 cups pasta
1 cup chopped fresh dill, Italian parsley, or combination
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Oyster crackers or saltine crackers for topping, optional

Directions:

Coat the bottom of your stock pot with olive oil. Sauté carrots, onion, and celery over medium-high heat until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add stock or broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add pasta and chicken and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until noodles are al dente. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove soup from heat and stir in fresh herbs.

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Friday Faves

IMG_2510{early morning on the lake}

Happy October from beautiful Lake Chelan! I had such a whirlwind trip with my sister and little nephew last week that I forgot to post on Friday – so last week’s Friday Faves are this Monday’s Faves instead! We had the best time splashing in the lake and in the pool, chasing ducks, digging in the sand…..and of course lots of wine and cheese! I hope your weekend was equally fun, and that your Monday is off to a lovely start! Some fun links and pics from the week:

IMG_2308{Smitten Kitchen’s apple cake and butternut squash galette (from the cookbook)…..and a salad}

IMG_2426{wine with my sis in my new Husky drinkers}

IMG_2536{obsessed with this anti-aging hand cream}

IMG_2293{Having a little baby around makes holidays so much more fun! Cooper’s pumpkin bag was one of the first things I ordered with his name on it (seriously – I just looked it up in my email archives and I ordered it the day he was born!), so of course I had to get one for Harper as soon as PBK released their Halloween stuff this year (order date: July 20).  And then I set about to fill it with everything I put in Coop’s last year. Treat bag from PBK, books from Amazon, sleepers from Hanna Andersson (similar here, I actually got this version on sale after Halloween last year) and Carter’s, onesie, tutu, and pumpkin hat from Gymboree, Lifefactory bottle with candy, Baby Bling Bows (black and orange knots). *The Gymboree onesie and hat are no longer available, at least online, but if you’re in the market Janie and Jack has some pretty cute options (onesie, hat) – probably would have gotten those for H if I hadn’t already given her her goodie bag! I’m thinking she’ll still be able to squeeze into the 12-18 month next fall, so I’ll be watching the sale racks on November 1st!}

IMG_2294{And don’t worry, Coop got a few things too! Gymboree tee (adorable J&J alternative here), Hanna sleeper (also purchased on sale after Halloween last year, 2015 boys version here), Curious George book, and two Beavs hats that aren’t pictured – really more of just a random purchase than a Halloween gift, but the team colors are black and orange so it’s a two for one}.

Friday Faves

photo-136 {layered carrot cake + birthday candles}

Happiest of Fridays, friends! I know it’s not technically summer for a couple more weeks, but with forecasts in the 80s this weekend it feels like we’ve left spring behind already! Any exciting plans for the weekend? We’re celebrating a dear friend’s birthday tomorrow, and I’m excited to sit out on a gorgeous patio and drink my favorite Moscow Mule in the sunshine. Sometimes it’s the little things, right? Wishing everyone a stress-free Friday and a lovely sunny weekend! Some favorite links and photos from the week (slash, past two months! A backlog of faves, as usual):

  • Love this list of Joanna’s top 12 recipes (I would like a #10 right now, please)
  • I ordered this on Wednesday – hoping it will be as amazing as advertised (thanks, Emily, for the tip!)
  • Can’t wait to try this salad and this salad – both from Bowl + Spoon (below – a double (triple?) fave this week!)
  • Love a cute summer tote (I would like 1, 2, 4, and/or 8)!
  • Has everyone read this post by now? So heartbreaking, but at the same time really beautiful.

photo-135 {a really good hostess gift/three of my favorite things}

photo-124 {my new summer treat}

photo 1-45 {Love Sara and Hugh’s new cookbook!}

photo-134 {So excited for summer with my two best buds!}
Chairs and sun hats from Pottery Barn Kids, beach towels from Serena & Lily, sand toys from Green Toys, and Fourth of July jammies from Hanna Andersson.