Well hi there pumpkin season! I don’t care how many of my friends tell me they hate pumpkins, I still love you. I will eat all the pumpkin pies if I have to. I appreciate your sweet, slightly tangy, mildly earthy flavor as well as your cooked puree’s smooth custard-like texture. You know what? Let’s celebrate that texture and enhance a creme brulee with it!
Obviously this dessert was inspired by the popular coffeehouse beverage
Earlier this year we learned that Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte doesn’t actually contain pumpkin. While most of America was getting bent out of shape over this, the rest of us with eyeballs could easily see over the counter that this was always the case. I mean there is a reason why it’s called ‘pumpkin spice latte’ rather than ‘pumpkin latte.’ Could you imagine what a pain it would be to stir pumpkin puree into every latte? Maybe a frappuccino since they blend it… but that’s all besides the point.
I didn’t design this recipe because I love pumpkin spice lattes. (Actually my favorite drink is an earl grey latte made with soy milk). I developed this recipe because one of my friends said that they could only imagine that coffee and pumpkin together would be gross.
This recipe is a variation of a standard creme brulee
When it comes to changing the flavor of standard dessert recipes it’s actually easier than you think. In the few cases where it’s tricky… well that’s where it becomes fun.
For the most part though this was easy since all I needed to do was steep the espresso powder and spices in the half-and-half (you could also use the heavy cream too) then strain them out. Of course, because the powder and ground spices are so fine you do have to use an extremely fine sieve or a coffee press. As I state in the video, I use ground spices instead of whole spices because I already have them on hand and I don’t want to get whole versions of spices – especially when I have Costco sized ground spices. So basically I was just being cheap and lazy. That’s the best kind of baking though. Keepin’ it real.
In most cases bake your creme brulee in a water bath
Water baths help even out the temperature and keep your delicate custard from getting overwhelmed especially on the sides. Ideally your water bath should go up at least halfway the pan or ramekin but even a third will help. The easiest way to do a water bath is to fill the pan while it’s in the oven. That way you aren’t trying to shuffle a large pan of water around.
One exception I found in my baking career is true convection ovens – the ovens with fans where the heat comes from behind the fan. They seem to be able to even out the heat and keep it consistent enough that a water bath is unnecessary. In fact a water bath is actually detrimental. The custard below the water bath will never get cooked. I haven’t tried a convection oven where the air just gets blown around but I imagine they wouldn’t need a water bath either. If you’re unsure how your oven will work with the creme brulee, bake one off first. It’s better to sacrifice one guy rather than the entire batch.
Caramelize your creme brulee with a torch
A while back I bought and used one of those little creme brulee torches you can find in places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Don’t waste your time. They don’t take up as much space as those industrial sized torches you find in Home Depot, but they are difficult to use and impossible to refill. To refill the industrial sized ones all you need to do is remove the lid from the propane and twist on the handle/torch section. I still don’t understand how to put butane in my little torch.
To caramelize the surface of your creme brulee just sprinkle on a thin but healthy layer of granulated sugar. Take your torch and just barely touch the sugar with the flame. Start around the edge and move around a lot working your way towards the center in spiral fashion. Don’t stay in one spot for too long or you’ll make it too dark while the rest of the sugar hasn’t caramelized. Take care not to burn the custard itself as it can lend a bitter flavor. If you do it’s not a big deal. Just tell your guests that the custard has a complex flavor.
Here is the recipe for the pumpkin spice latte creme brulee
Just click here to download the pumpkin spice latte creme brulee recipe. It makes about five 7-oz servings in 4.5″ ramekins. The video is below! Thank you for watching!