The Food Issue
Pumpkin recipes (Globe photo / Jim Scherer)
By Lisa Zwirn
November 7, 2010

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Sugar Pumpkin Creme Caramel Serves 8

Autumn is when Elaine Stella, pastry chef of Harvest in Harvard Square, whips up some of her favorite desserts. “I like roasting sugar pumpkins and using all the wintry spices.” Pomegranate makes a pretty garnish.

For the caramel 1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

Place 8 3/4- or 1-cup ramekins in a roasting pan that is at least 2 inches deep. In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar and water over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon just until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Boil without stirring, brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent sugar crystals from forming and swirling the pan occasionally, until the caramel turns deep golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Pour the hot caramel into the ramekins, about 1/2½ tablespoon in each. The caramel will harden.

For the pumpkin custard 1 2-pound sugar pumpkin or 1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

7 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Set the oven at 350 degrees. Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Place the pumpkin, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Bake until the pumpkin is soft when pressed, about 40 minutes. Cool for about 15 minutes, then peel off the skin. Place the flesh in a food processor and puree until smooth. You’ll need 1 cup of puree for the custard. (Reserve the remaining puree for another use.) Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Fill a teakettle or pitcher with hot water and set aside.

In a saucepan, whisk together the milk, cream, the 1 cup of pumpkin puree, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and cloves. Heat just until it begins to bubble around the edge. Remove from the heat and pour the pumpkin mixture through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Use a firm rubber spatula to force the pumpkin puree through the strainer. Discard any remaining solids.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Whisk in the sugar and salt. Slowly add the warm pumpkin-cream mixture, whisking constantly.

Using a ladle, divide the custard among the ramekins. Place the roasting pan in the middle of the oven. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins, taking care not to splash any water into the ramekins. Bake the custards until set around the edges and only slightly wobbly in the centers, 35 to 40 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven, and let the custards sit in the water for 10 minutes. Using tongs, lift custards from the pan and cool on a rack.

Chill the custards for at least 2 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead; cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate, then let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.) To serve, run a knife around the edge of each custard and invert onto dessert plates.

Lisa Zwirn is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine’s food issues. Send comments to