(makes 12-14 servings, depending on the size of ramekins)
3 ½ C heavy cream
1 ½ C maple syrup
1 C pumpkin
1 t vanilla
14 egg yolks
1 t cinnamon
½ t nutmeg
In a sauce pot, combine cream, maple syrup, pumpkin and vanilla. Stir to blend. Place pot on stove over medium heat. While this is warming, combine yolks, cinnamon and nutmeg in a separate bowl and whisk to combine. Once cream mixture is warmed through, remove from heat. (No boiling…just steam rising!) Ladle a small amount of warm cream mixture into the egg mix to temper. Once eggs have been tempered, pour remaining cream mix into yolk mix. Whisk gently to combine. You do not want to incorporate air into the custard mix by vigorously whisking. Just blend well with a gentle hand. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain your custard mix into a pitcher. This takes some patience as the pumpkin pulp slows the straining process down. Just keep stirring the strainer basket to allow the custard to flow through. At this point, the custard can be refrigerated for use later. I have held it for 2 days before cooking.
For baking, custard cups need to be place in a towel-lined baking dish. (Two 9” X 13” Pyrex baking dishes work well.) Pour equal amounts of custard into each cup. (Your choice here on what to use: shallow, deeper, porcelain, Pyrex.) I actually used two different sizes. Just make sure to group same sizes together for baking. Using a toothpick or the tip of a paring knife, pop any air bubbles which come to the surface. Pour enough warm water into the baking dish so that it comes up halfway on the sides of your ramekins. Carefully place baking dish into a preheated 300 degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate and bake for an additional 20 minutes. At this point, you will be getting close to completion. I pulled out one baking dish, but left the other for an additional 10 minutes. You are looking for the slightest jiggle. I call it a “tight jiggle.” In other words, the custard is almost set. Cooking to the “set” stage in the oven risks over cooking. The “tight jiggle” stage is the point at which the custard should be removed to the counter. It will finish setting up as it cools down in the water bath. Once the water bath feels room temperature, remove custard. Allow for additional cooling (15-20 minutes) on the counter before chilling in the refrigerator. Cover with plastic wrap once custard has chilled.
These hold well for several days. For serving, blot the tops of the custard with a paper towel to remove any surface moisture that has accumulated. Place an even layer of raw sugar on top of the custard. Pour off excess. Torch the sugar evenly until sugar has melted and is a dark caramel color. Allow it to harden for a minute or two before eating. Fanning aides in the hardening process too.
A broiler is another option. Not my favorite. But works. Keep a close eye. For the torch, purchase one at a hardware store. They are inexpensive and the propane canister will last you forever – unless you weld on the side. Avoid “Barbie” torches from fancy cooking stores. Useless.
I apologize for the wordiness of the recipe. Many of you have cooked using a bain-marie or water bath. However, I approach each recipe assuming you have no prior knowledge of the technique described.