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.
We’ve done pie, cake, cookies, granola, muffins, cinnamon rolls, bread, bread 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.
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).
Pumpkin Custard with Cookie Crumb Crust, from Rustic Fruit Desserts
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
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
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!