Velvety pumpkin creme brulee - the highlight of your cozy fall evening. This dessert is anything but basic. It tastes like a pumpkin pie, but instead of a pie crust, you get an irresistible crunchy caramelized top
Why you'll love it
This pumpkin creme brulee is a decadent dessert that always impresses and seems a lot more difficult to make than it really is. In fact, it is a very simple dessert recipe that requires only a few key ingredients and steps.
While this is the perfect dessert to enjoy during the autumn and winter season, it is one of the few pumpkin desserts that is great to have all year round!
The most surprisingly great thing about making this pumpkin creme brulee recipe is that is requires very few ingredients, which is why it is one of my favorite pumpkin recipes to make to really highlight that pumpkin flavor. Let's review the key ingredients and any important information you may need to know about them such as any potential substitutions.
- Dairy - The recipe calls for heavy whipping cream. This creates a luscious, velvety, and rich consistency. If you want to cut down on the richness, you can substitute half the heavy cream with whole milk.
- Sugar - For sweetness and depth of flavor, the creme brulee filling is made with brown sugar and topped with granulated sugar for the topping. If you want to make the recipe list more simple, you can use just white sugar in the filling and topping.
- Pumpkin - The star flavor is of course pumpkin. You need to use pure pumpkin puree. If you are using canned, make sure it is not pumpkin pie mix as it already has sugar and spices in it.
- Spices - This recipe calls for a few lovely warm spices. You can use a pumpkin pie spice mix, or use the individual spices listed in the recipe card below.
- Egg - The pumpkin custard of the creme brulee is meant to be velvety and rich, you achieve this by using egg yolks only in the recipe. Reserve the egg whites for making something else you can use for another dish, or even some meringue kisses to decorate the top of this classic French dessert.
There aren't a lot of tools you need to make a great pumpkin pie creme brulee, but some are important and specialized enough to warrant advanced notice of prior to making.
- Ovenproof ramekins - You need ramekins that can hold at least 4 - 6 ounces and are not too shallow. You can also get creative by using real mini pumpkins to bake them in.
- Large baking pan - We bake them using a bain marie or water bath, so a large baking pan or roasting pan that can fit your ramekins is necessary.
- Kitchen torch - To create the caramelized sugar crust you need to use a kitchen torch. You can find one in some well-stocked grocery store and kitchen supply stores. If you cannot find one, then you can use the oven broiler in a pinch.
How to make
The best part about this recipe is how simple it actually is to put together.
- Add the heavy cream, sugar, and spices to a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan and warm over medium heat stirring frequently until the cream mixture begins to steam and slightly simmer at the edges. Remove from heat.
- Add the pumpkin puree, egg yolk, salt, and vanilla extract into a medium or large bowl and whisk well while the cream heats.
- Pour about half of the heated cream mixture into the pumpkin and egg mixture while whisking constantly to temper (slowly warm) the eggs.
- Continue to constantly whisk while adding the warmed eggs to the cream. Strain the mixture back into the large bowl to remove any potentially cooked egg yolk.
- Place ramekins into the baking pan and then evenly divide the cream mixture into the ramekins and then place the pan into the preheated oven.
- Slowly pour boiling water into the baking pan until it reaches the middle of the sides of the ramekins, taking care to not let any water get into the cream.
- Bake until the edges are set, but the centers still jiggle. Remove and allow to cool completely to room temperature.
- Cover the tops with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until fully chilled or you are ready to serve.
- Spread sugar over the surface of the custard and use your kitchen torch to brulee until it is nicely caramelized.
I recommend using room temperature ingredients. I think it makes it easier to mix everything together and keeps the eggs from accidentally being cooked during the tempering process.
Take your time tempering the eggs. Mixing the yolks with the pumpkin also helps make tempering easier. I like to slowly drizzle the hot cream with one hand and use the other to whisk the eggs. It takes only a few moments to to get the yolks tempered enough to add into the saucepan. I always recommend straining the mixture at the end just to ensure you get the best texture.
Do not skip the hot water bath if you are using ramekins. This helps the custard cook slowly and evenly, giving you a smooth, lucious mouthfeel. If you are baking it inside mini pumpkins, you can omit the bain marie.
The baking time is only approximate. Every oven is different and the visual cues are the best. The edges should just be set and the center should jiggle like jello.
If you are using the broiler method to cook the sugar on top, keep a close eye on it because you can end up with burnt sugar quickly. You want the sugar to be fully melted with a few darker spots.
Making ahead and storage
A pumpkin creme brûlée is meant to be enjoyed cold, so it works best when you make the base ahead of time so it can fully chill.
To store them, you can wrap them with plastic wrap and leave them in the back of the refrigerator for up to five days. You cannot add the caramelized sugar ahead of time. Instead, that should be done just prior to serving. This is because the sugar melts over time creating a sticky syrup. You can reheat the syrup with a kitchen torch, but there is no guarantee that it will crisp up again. Instead, save the very last step until you are ready to serve.
Freezing is not an option for this recipe because it will leave you with a grainy creme brulee once it thaws.
Making creme brulee is easier than you'd think. The key is to ensure everything is combined well and done slowly. I make the pumpkin creme brulee a little differently than I make something like my blood orange creme brulee. Instead of mixing my sugar in with the pumpkin and yolks, I add it with the spices to the heavy cream to ensure the final result ends up as velvety as possible.
In general, you need to temper your egg yolks which means slowly adding hot cream to the yolks while stirring the yolks constantly. That prevents the heat from cooking the yolks. Sometimes it happens no matter how careful we are, so the best thing to do is strain your mixture after you've mixed everything together before adding the liquid to your ramekins. Optional, but recommended.
Next, slowly add the mixtures to your ramekins and slowly add your water to the baking dish surrounding the creme brulee. You don't want the water to get into the mixture as it will prevent the creme brulee from setting. To make sure this doesn't happen, I add water by the measuring cup into the baking sheet once it is already in the oven.
Creme Brulee is typically served cold. I find that creme brulee will not set fully until it is chilled. It is similar to pudding or pots de creme where it should be creamy, smooth, and chilled. The bruleed top makes a lovely crunchy sweet contrast to an otherwise velvety smooth treat.
Pumpkin Creme Brulee
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 1 ½ tsp. freshly grated cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground allspice
- ½ tsp. freshly grated ginger
- ¾ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- ⅓ cup pumpkin puree not canned pumpkin pie filling
- 4 large egg yolks room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt plus a pinch for the topping
- 2 - 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the heavy cream, brown sugar, and spices on medium heat until just steaming and bubbling slightly at the edges of the saucepan,
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, egg yolks, vanilla, and salt together. Slowly pour ½ cup of the heated cream into the mixture, stirring constantly. Once full incorporated, slowly drizzle the remaining cream into the pumpkin mixture, again while still constantly stirring.
- Place the ramekins into a 9x13 baking pan. Slowly pour the cream mixture into the ramekins. Put the baking pan in the oven, but do not close the door yet.
- Very carefully pour water into the baking pan, being very careful as to not get any drops of water into the ramekins. You want enough water to cover the bottom of the baking pan, but not enough for it to reach the top of the ramekins. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the sides are set, but the middles are still a little jiggly. Remove from the baking pan and chill completely - about 3 - 4 hours in the refrigerator.
- Mix the granulated sugar and a pinch of salt together for the topping and sprinkle evenly among the ramekins. Caramelize with a kitchen torch, or the broiler in your oven. If you use the broiler method, please keep a careful eye on the tops as they burn quickly.