Fall is here, indefinitely now, and I am basking in the orange glow of my home-grown pumpkins. With my surplus of cute pie-pumpkins, I wanted to try something innovative for the past Thanksgiving weekend. I wanted to develop a recipe that showcased my orange gems, but offered a different take on the classic dessert that always follows the turkey.
I tinkered with a recipe for pumpkin flan. I had my first flan back in culinary school when my good friend, Maria baked one for an event. I was in awe; enrobed in caramel it was the epitome of creamy simplicity. A simple custard, it is versatile and welcoming to other flavours and spices. I figured, why not pumpkin?
More appealing cheesecake, flan is lighter while still being rich and luxurious. As part of my experiment, I wanted to see if I could get the interesting visual appeal of added dimension by baking it in a bundt pan. It was a huge risk, but when it came out of the mold I sighed a huge breath of relief. Turned out on a simple white platter, I was quickly taken aback by the beautiful presentation of dark golden caramel defining the orange curves. This was much more architecturally interesting and beautiful than a simple pie.
So while this week’s article was initially going to be a beef recipe in support of producers, who are once again being punished financially with the latest recalls and poor slaughter plant management, I just had to do the pumpkin recipe while the season called for it. I will jump up on my soap box and preach of the exponential benefits of returning back to your local butcher shop next time around.
1 cup of white sugar, for caramel
1 cup of whole milk
1-1/2 cup of whipping cream
5 large eggs, plus one yolk
3 TBSP pure maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
A pinch of ground clove
1-1/2 tsp of vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of white sugar
1-3/4 cups of pure pumpkin, not pie fillingPre-heat oven to 350°F. Place a deep roasting pan or casserole in the oven; this will be the water bath that gently bakes the custard so ensure that the chosen flan pan fits comfortably inside the water bath. Fill the water bath 1/3 full of warm water.
Pour 1 cup of sugar into a heavy-bottomed sautee pan or sauce pot and place on moderate heat. Once the sugar begins to warm use a fork to move it around until all the sugar is melted and it becomes a golden caramel.
Once the caramel is golden and delicious, CAREFULLY! Pour the melted sugar into the flan pan, bundt pan, or whatever dish you have chosen to use and gently swirl the caramel until the entire bottom and side surface is covered. Keep moving it until the sugar has hardened up and is set into place.
Please be careful when working with melted sugar, it is very hot and unforgivably dangerous.
Set the cooled caramel-coated flan pan aside away from heat sources.
Whisk the eggs, yolk, and remaining sugar together in a large. Once evenly mixed add the pumpkin, vanilla, spices, salt, and maple syrup. Whisk lightly to create an even consistency.
Heat milk and cream in a sauce pot to a light simmer. Remove from heat once it is simmering.
Very slowly begin to lightly pour the milk mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Whisk continuously while milk is added. Add bigger increments of milk once the eggs have warmed in temperature to finish the mixing.
This is the most crucial step! You want to warm the eggs in the pumpkin mixture slowly. If too much hot milk is added too quickly the eggs will scramble and a poor texture will be the end result.
Once all the milk is combined with the pumpkin mixture, pour it through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl using a spatula to move the pumpkin through the strainer. This will significantly improve the final texture and remove any egg chunks, coarse spice, foreign particles, ect.
Stir the strained to mixture to ensure it is evenly combined. Then pour the mixture into the caramel-coated flan pan. Gently and carefully place the flan into the water bath in the oven. Ensure that the water comes up the side of the pan to protect the flan as it bakes. If more water is needed, add HOT tap water until it has risen up even with the top of the flan. Carefully add water and ensure that no water goes into the flan itself.
Baking time will vary based on ovens, type of pan used, ect. I baked my bundt-pan flan for one hour and 20 minutes. Test it with a knife and if it comes out clean, it’s done — if not, bake it until the knife comes out clean.
Let the flan chill completely in a fridge for at least 6 hours. This is necessary for it to set up properly. I used a silicone bundt pan and it was very simple and easy to unmold. If you are using a hard pan, heat it up in some warm water to soften the caramel and release the flan. Or use a knife, running it around the edges to release the flan, gently shake it to ensure all the sides are released. Use a platter that is bigger than the pan and place it over the flan. Quickly invert the pan onto the platter and allow the caramel to run out. Then marvel in the beauty of glistening caramel highlighting the beautiful curves of spiced pumpkin goodness.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 13, 2012