I’ve got a confession to make. For all my pumpkin mania, for all the time I spend dreaming up new ways to enjoy pumpkin from the beginning of September through the New Year, and in spite of what can only be called my pumpkin fetish, I’ve never, ever, really liked pumpkin pie, the mother of all pumpkin foods. It just never did anything for me. So I’m happy to report that I’ve come up with a pumpkin pie alternative…I love these little pot de crèmes, they are silky and light as air. They’ll give you the same wonderful seasonal thrill of pumpkin pie, the same flavors and aromas you’re used to but in cute little ‘pot’ form. (Pot is pronounced “poe” by the way.)
Pot de crèmes are very French, and very old. They are looser than flan or creme brulee, finer textured than pudding, lighter than mousse. The cream and milk are heated, then slowly added to beaten egg yolks and sugar, strained, and finally slow baked in a water bath. Because of that low and slow baking, I figured sturdy tea cups would survive the time in the oven. I used pressed glass punch cups which can be found at thrift stores for practically nothing. Espresso cups or small size canning jars would work great, too. The key is that you want them to be very small, since their diminutive size is one of the defining characteristics of pots.
You can’t have pot de crème without whipped cream. It just isn’t done. So for these I whipped heavy cream with some maple syrup and a dash of maple extract. A sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg on top and you’ve got yourself one very elegant dessert. One that you can make ahead, by the way, since it’s meant to be served chilled.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/8 tsp each: cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 1 Tbsp molasses
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- a dash of maple extract (use imitation if you can't find the real thing)
- Set oven to 325F
- Bring the cream and milk to a simmer in a small saucepan. Take off the heat and whisk in the pumpkin and spices. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Put the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat them for about a minute and then add the sugar. Continue beating on high for 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla paste and the molasses.
- With the machine on low, pour in a little of the warm cream mixture, and let it get incorporated. Then continue adding it in a slow steady stream until it is all incorporated.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer into a clean container (a glass measuring cup with a spout works well for easy pouring). Press with the back of a spoon to get as much of the mixture through as possible. Discard any solids.
- Pour the mixture into 6 to 8 small oven safe containers. Set the containers into a baking dish. Pour hot water into the baking dish so that it reaches halfway up the little containers.
- Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until almost set in the center, they will still be a bit jiggly.
- Cool on a rack and then refrigerate until well chilled.
- Make the whipped cream by whipping the heavy cream along with the maple syrup and extract. As the cream thickens, you can taste it to adjust if you want more maple flavor.
- Top the pots with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg for the ultimate presentation.
The combination of the light pumpkin with the hint of maple was really good, I highly recommend trying this one. When it comes to pumpkin, I’d rather have a ‘pot’ than a pie any day.