Last weekend my sister and I headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park to get some photos before they shut down Trail Ridge Road for the winter. Heading home, we drove by the Stanley Hotel and found it all dressed up in orange floodlights for Halloween. You may know the Stanley as the inspiration for The Shining, but it’s also home to an amazing continental breakfast featuring some of the best little pastries I’ve ever tried. Their parmesan haystacks have been on my “things to make immediately” list for almost 3 years now, but I digress.
Our photo mission also served another purpose: A distraction from the pumpkin custards I made that afternoon, which needed several hours to chill in the fridge. These custards are one of my favorite fall desserts — rich, creamy, and not too sweet. This year, I tried adding a crispy shell of melted cinnamon sugar to the top, and they were better than ever (though maybe not so easy to justify eating for breakfast).
Delicious, subtly sweet and spicy individual custards that fall somewhere between pumpkin pie and crème brûlée. Impressive but easy to put together and best made the night before -- this is a perfect dessert for a fancy Thanksgiving dinner, and even better as breakfast the morning after (if you have any left over).
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup solid-pack pumpkin (canned or homemade, just not the kind with spices already added)
- 7 large free range egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Cinnamon-sugar mixture for topping, about 3 tablespoons
- Ten 2- to 3-ounce ramekins or custard cups, plus one or two large baking dishes to hold them all
- Fine mesh sieve
- Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 325F.
- Whisk together cream, milk, syrup, and pumpkin in a 1-1/2 quart heavy saucepan and bring just to a simmer over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, whisk yolks with cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.
- Add hot pumpkin mixture to yolk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly so the yolks don't curdle. Pour custard through fine mesh sieve into a large glass measuring cup, and divide among ramekins. Depending on the size of your ramekins, you may end up with a little filling left over (or you may only get 9 custards out of the batch, as I did).
- Arrange ramekins in baking dish(es) and add enough boiling water to the pan to reach halfway up sides of ramekins.
- Cover pan tightly with foil and bake until a knife inserted in the center of a custard comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Using tongs, carefully transfer custards to a rack to cool completely. When cool, cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours (preferably overnight).
- Give each ramekin a thin but solid layer of cinnamon sugar. While the custard is still very cold, melt sugar using a kitchen torch (ideal) or broiler (what I used, because my torch was out of fuel). Let stand two minutes, or until sugar layer is hard when you tap it with a spoon.