Tuesday, January 17, 2012

baked pumpkin custards

So I have felt, for quite some time now, that I need (need) a set of ramekins--you know, those fancy little white dishes that you use to make individual creme brûlées or little molten chocolate cakes? Not that I am necessarily interested in being fancy, or even actually like molten chocolate cakes (I really don't think I do), but rather I think I am drawn to the idea of creating and baking small things, meant for one person at a time. Cute desserts, possibly.

Which means small.

If you know me well, you've probably heard this before, but I was informed by a friend of mine once, of an important difference between women and men, regarding the topic of using the word "cute."
"When men see something small," he told me, "they say 'look, that's small.' But when women see small things, they exclaim, 'oh look, that's so cute!'

So I thought about that, and have decided it is true. Women call small things cute. It's a fact. Women think little pumpkins are cute, they think small boxes and packages are cute, and although I don't necessarily agree, many women believe miniature dogs are cute. 

cats asleep in baskets are also cute...this is different
Anyway, back to what I was going to say.

I have been wanting ramekins so I can bake cute things in them (...maybe more just small, delicious things that I don't have to share?), but had recently found myself wondering whether little mason jars would work in just the same way...and look cooler, maybe? Plus, I happened to have some extras after Christmas, so it seemed like a good experiment, right?

Well, I did it, and it was a good experiment. Especially since it involved pumpkin and cream and ginger and maple syrup...i.e.some of the best things in life. And never mind that it is no longer fall, or really pumpkin season--I tend to believe that there is no such thing as a bad time for pumpkin. These are very delicious, yes. Oh, and definitely breakfast-worthy. Yogurt?

(little) Baked Pumpkin Custards
There are infinite ways to adapt these, it's a very forgiving recipe. I added some of the changes or subs I would make if I tried them again...which I will most definitely be doing. There are also two ways to go about making these--one way is quicker and more straightforward, and the other takes a bit more time, but results in a creamier custard...your choice, they'll be good no matter what.

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar (or less, depending how sweet you want them--you can also use good maple syrup here)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger (actual fresh, minced ginger might also be really good)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
pinch of cayenne (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk (1 1/2 cups of coconut milk would also be really fabulous here instead of the dairy)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (F)

Easy method:  In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients

For the extra-creamy version:  Combine the pumpkin, salt, and spices in a saucepan and heat over medium-high. When the mixture comes to a simmer, continue cooking and stirring for another 5 minutes or so. It will thicken a bit and get darker in color. Reduce the heat and stir in the milk and cream. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the vanilla and the eggs.

For both methods:  Divide the pumpkin mixture between 8 or 9 small 1-cup mason jars or ramekins, place together on a baking sheet, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until they only jiggle slightly and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove the custards from the oven and allow to cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until cold, and then devour at all times of the day, especially late at night or for breakfast!

Gingery whipped cream or plain yogurt make excellent accompaniments as well...just saying.

Oh, and this book is excellent. Like the kind that makes you laugh out loud when you're alone. Read it.


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