Thursday, December 11, 2008

78. Maple Pumpkin Pots de Creme (p. 832)

The Book calls this recipe "an elegant alternative to pumpkin pie." That's an understatement. This dessert elevates that steady workhorse of the Thanksgiving dessert spread to a fitting finish to the fanciest fall feast (how's that for some clever alliteration?).

This recipe is easy to make, and it can be prepared well in advance. First, I simmered some cream, milk, canned pumpkin and pure Vermont maple syrup. Then I whisked together egg yolks, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Next, I whisked the hot pumpkin mixture into the yolk mixture in a very slow stream to prevent the yolks from scrambling. Then I poured the custard mixture through a fine mesh sieve. I think that this step is key to the silky, smooth and airy texture of the finished dessert because it removes any little lumps that might have formed. I poured the custard mixture into ramekins, placed them into a roasting pan, added hot water about half-way to the top of the ramekins, covered the whole thing in foil, and put it in the oven for the time listed in the recipe.

When Teena made these, she was less than satisfied with the results. She suspected that it was because the cooking time in the recipe was too long. I think that my experience with this recipe confirms her theory. The Book calls for making ten individual pots de creme in two- to three-ounce ramekins. My ramekins are pretty big (eight ounce capacity if filled to the brim), so I divided the custard among four ramekins. Even though they were more than twice the size they were supposed to be, my pots de creme were completely done in the cooking time called for in the recipe. I had expected to check them at the end of the time listed in the recipe and see how close to done they were. I was surprised to see that they were completely done.

I made these the morning that my friends were coming over for dinner and I put them in the refrigerator to chill all day. I served them with fresh, sweetend whipped cream. We all really liked this dessert. It was rich and light at the same time. The pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg recalled the classic Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, but the maple syrup, which provides all of the sweetness for this dessert, is a great change and gave the dessert a wonderful and somewhat unexpected flavor. In the end, I was glad that I made this dessert in the larger-sized ramekins. If I had made them in two- or three- ounce ramekins as called for in The Book, I would have been dissapointed to get only a couple of spoonfuls of dessert. I'd be forced to eat a second one, and then feel guilty about having eaten two (or maybe even three!) desserts. This way, no shame. As much as I liked this dessert, and I would make it again, I'm still not trading in my traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie made from the recipe on the back of the can. (Nor am I giving up my tradition of eating pumpkin pie for breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving. Don't judge me.)

Because I was having such a great time catching up with my dinner guests, I somehow forgot to take a picture of the finished product. The photo at the top of this post comes from Teena's blog.

Date Cooked: November 16, 2008
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A

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