Pumpkin Crème Caramel with Candied Pumpkin Seeds

11/10/2019 10:27:00 PM

Pumpkin crème caramel! A smooth and creamy pumpkin custard pudding, topped with a generous river of bittersweet caramel, clouds of whipped cream, and crunchy spiced candied pumpkin seeds. Super luscious and totally decadent.

Pumpkin Crème Caramel
Pumpkin Crème Caramel

And the pumpkin obsession continues...

I have finally run out of my stash of tinned pumpkin, and my supermarket seems to be sold out for the moment. Perhaps that is for the best! For my final pumpkin bake of the season, I wanted to make something a little different, less focused on the Thanksgivingy pumpkin spice, and more focused on the dessert itself. Enter these pumpkin crème caramels!

Pumpkin Crème Caramel
Pumpkin Crème Caramel

These are basically Japanese kabocha puddings (かぼちゃのプリン) or French crème caramels with some pumpkin purée added. I also topped them with a generous dollop of whipped cream, and some crunchy candied pumpkin seeds on top, to emphasise the pumpkin vibe. The presentation idea was inspired by the flan at Dreamin Man in Paris, which I haven't tried yet but is definitely on my wish list!

You start by making a caramel (i.e. melting sugar and water in a pan and cooking it until light golden brown), and then lining some ramekins with it. Obviously, boiling sugar is SUPER hot - wear gloves when lining the ramekins, and keep small children and pets away!

Caramel-lined ramekins
Caramel-lined ramekins

Then you make a pumpkin custard and pour it in. The pumpkin custard is simple - whisk together eggs, sugar, and vanilla, then pour in some hot cream and milk, followed by some pumpkin purée. Pass the mixture through a sieve to make it extra smooth, then divide between the ramekins.

Pumpkin custard mixture
Pumpkin custard mixture

I baked them in a bain marie to make the cooking extra gentle and keep the baked custards super smooth. You can see the baking dish was lined with kitchen paper, to stop the little ramekins from sliding around. Then I covered the ramekins with foil, placed the whole shebang on the oven shelf, and poured hot water from a kettle to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (It's easier to pour the hot water in after the tray is in the oven, rather than trying to move the water-filled tray from the bench into the oven).

Ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

When they were in the oven, I made the candied pumpkin seeds. I used the recipe for David Lebovitz' candied peanuts, but obviously replacing the peanuts with pumpkin seeds. I LOVE this recipe so much! You just place some pumpkin seeds, water, and sugar in a pan, and cook and cook and cook. The sugar melts...

Candying pepitas
Candying pumpkin seeds

... then the sugar seizes and goes grainy...

Grainy candied pepitas
Grainy candied pumpkin seeds

...before melting again into a golden brown caramel. At this point you can add a little salt and any spices you like. I added cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. (I kept the crème caramels themselves free of any extraneous flavourings and spice, but I couldn't resist just a hint of pumpkin pie spice in the topping).

Candied pepitas
Candied pumpkin seeds

Once they were cooled, I crushed them with a cocktail muddler. And that's all the prep done!

The crème caramels need to be chilled for at least a few hours or overnight, so they're good for entertaining or dinner parties, as you can get the bulk of the work out of the way beforehand. 

Pumpkin Crème Caramel
Pumpkin Crème Caramel

They can be a little tricky to get out of the ramekins - I wouldn't suggest sticking a knife in the ramekin all the way to the base and running it around the circumference, as it can make the sides of the finished crème caramel messy. Rather, just go a couple of millimetres deep all the way around, so that the edges of custard aren't stuck to the ramekin. Then use your fingers to gently pull the custard away from the edges and loosen it. Place a serving plate on top and invert the crème caramel. Give it a few sharp taps then gently shake the ramekin until the crème caramel slides out with a most satisfying schlooooomp sound and the river of caramel slides down the sides.

Pumpkin Crème Caramel
Pumpkin Crème Caramel

The pumpkin taste isn't overwhelming, but rather very subtle. I love the golden glow that the pumpkin brings! I also love the dark bitter caramel against the smooth and velvety custard - what a wonderful contrast. I suppose there's a reason that a crème caramel is a classic dessert! It's incredibly delicious, very elegant, and made with simple ingredients. I think these pumpkin crème caramels would be a great option for a dinner party, and if you're planning a small Thanksgiving get together, could I suggest these as the dessert?

The pumpkin crème caramels are lovely on their own, but I would definitely recommend adding the whipped creme and crunchy pumpkin seeds. They contrast so well with the creamy dense sweet custard and lighten the overall effect. Don't be shy with the whipped cream!

Pumpkin Crème Caramel
Pumpkin Crème Caramel - so smooth, so creamy

I hope you like these as much as I do!

Pumpkin Crème Caramel with Candied Pumpkin Seeds
A recipe by Sarah Cooks - ratios for the pumpkin crème from Just One Cookbook, pumpkin seed recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

For the Caramel
1/2 cup (100 grams) caster sugar
1/4 cup (60 millilitres) water
For the Pumpkin Crème
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 cup (125 millilitres) cream
1/2 cup (125 millilitres) whole milk
1/2 cup (125 millilitres) pumpkin purée
For the Candied Pumpkin Seeds
1/4 cup pepitas / pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons water
Generous pinch sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Generous pinch each ginger powder and nutmeg
To Serve
1 cup cream

Preheat the oven to 150C. Get out a baking dish that can fit 4 x 250 millilitre ramekins in it, and line it with a few sheets of kitchen towel. Put a kettle of water on to boil.
To make the caramel, place the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan and set over a medium high heat. (Caramel can get VERY hot. Don't touch, and best not to let kids or pets in the kitchen while you're making it.) Don't stir, but swirl to dissolve the sugar and allow to boil for 5-10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Take off the heat and allow the bubbles to subside. Pour the caramel into 4 x 250 millilitre ramekins and, wearing oven mitts, rotate the ramekins to allow the caramel to coat the base and sides. Arrange the ramekins into the prepared baking dish. Set aside while you get on with the pumpkin crème.
To make the pumpkin crème, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract and caster sugar and set aside. Place the cream and milk in a small saucepan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Pour the hot milky cream (or is it creamy milk?) over the egg and sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Whisk in the pumpkin purée. Strain the mixture into a jug, then pour the mixture into the 4 ramekins. Cover each ramekin with foil.
Place the baking tray into the oven, and then pour hot water from the kettle to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35-55 minutes, or until the custards are set. (They should still have a little wobble to them, but no obvious liquidity). Remove the ramekins to a cooling rack, remove the foil, and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the crème caramels for at least 2 hours or overnight.
To make the candied pumpkin seeds, place the pepitas, caster sugar and water into a stainless steel frying pan and place over a medium heat. Stir to dissolve and coat the pepitas. Keep cooking, stirring, until the sugar seizes and crystallises around the pepitas. Keep going and the sugar will start to melt back down and turn golden brown. Keep stirring, removing the pan from the heat briefly if necessary to bring the heat back down. Once the pepitas are nearly done and the brown melty sugar is coating most of the seeds, add in the salt and spices, and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and scrape the pepitas into a shallow bowl or flat plate, and allow to cool completely.
To serve, whip the cream to stiff peaks and set aside. Crush the candied pumpkin seeds with a mortar and pestle, rolling pin, cocktail muddler or other blunt instrument into a rough crumb.
Gently loosen the edges of the crème caramels with a blunt pallet knife around the edges, and use your fingers to gently press the crème caramels away from the edges. Place a serving plate over each ramekin and invert the crème caramel onto the plate. Give the ramekin a few sharp taps, and shake it to dislodge the crème caramel. You should hear it slip out with the most satisfying "schloooomp" sound. Repeat for the remaining crème caramels.
Dollop a large spoonful of whipped cream onto each crème caramel and sprinkle generously with crushed candied pumpkin seeds.
Makes 4

Have you made this recipe? Leave a comment below! Tag me on Instagram @sarahcooksblog and hashtag #sarahcooksblog

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