This rich and creamy pumpkin creme brulee is exploding with pumpkin flavor. Topped with a layer of crunchy caramelized sugar, the contrast of textures makes this dessert absolutely irresistible and is perfect for the holidays!
Oh pumpkin desserts, I simply cannot get enough of you! It’s true–I have been on a pumpkin dessert binge lately, recipe testing like crazy and creating all sorts of pumpkin-based recipes for the blog. With fall just around the corner, I’m starting to crave all the classic fall desserts, like pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, apple crumble, and pumpkin pancakes (ok, I guess that’s considered breakfast).
And this pumpkin creme brulee is quickly becoming one of my favorite pumpkin dessert recipes.
What is creme brulee?
Classic creme brulee is a vanilla custard made with cream, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla. The custard is made on the stovetop and then baked to perfection in a low-temperature oven with a water bath, creating a silky smooth custard. The final step is to brulee, or torch a layer of sugar, on the top of the cooled custard with a handheld torch. This creates a crunchy, caramelized shell that compliments the texture of the smooth custard when broken into and eaten with a spoon.
Ingredients and equipment for pumpkin creme brulee
Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:
- Heavy cream
- Egg yolks
- Light brown sugar
- Pumpkin puree
- Vanilla extract
- Pumpkin spice mix
- Demerara sugar or granulated sugar (for bruleeing)
Note: This recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of my pumpkin spice mix recipe. However, if you don’t want to make an entire batch, you can substitute with the following spices:
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Small pinch ground ginger
- Small pinch ground nutmeg
- Small pinch ground allspice
- Small pinch ground cloves
- Medium saucepan
- Large bowl
- Fine mesh strainer
- Hand held torch
- 6 (4 oz.) ceramic ramekins
- Large pitcher
- A large roasting pan at least 2-inches tall that all ramekins can fit into
How to make pumpkin creme brulee
- Set up your space. Before getting started, place your ramekins in the large pan you will be using for a water bath and set it aside. You can also get your sieve ready over a bowl so it’s ready for straining the custard after you’ve cooked it.
- Heat the cream. Pour the heavy cream into a medium saucepan with half of the brown sugar, vanilla extract, pumpkin puree, salt, and pumpkin spice blend. In a separate bowl, separate the eggs and place the yolks in a medium sized bowl with the remaining sugar. Whisk together. Heat the cream on medium heat until the cream starts to lightly simmer. You don’t want it to get too hot, so no need to bring it to a boil.
- Temper the cream with the egg yolks. With one hand whisking the egg yolk-sugar mixture constantly, use the other to slowly pour about half of the heavy cream mixture into it, while continuing to whisk. This is a process called tempering, which allows you to combine the eggs in a way that results in the least amount of curdling.
- Cook the eggs. Turn the heat on the stovetop onto low and slowly pour the mixture you’ve just mixed with your egg yolks back into the pot with the remaining cream. Continue to whisk the cream mixture to prevent the eggs from overcooking or curdling. Use a whisk or rubber spatula to continuously move the cream mixture over the low flame. You want to slightly cook the mixture enough to emulsify the egg yolks and dissolve the sugar to create a custard, but you don’t want to cook the egg yolks completely.
- Strain the custard. Once the mixture begins to thicken slightly, turn off the heat. To make sure it’s ready, you can feel a bit of the cream mixture with your fingers. If the brown sugar is dissolved, it’s ready. Strain the mixture over another bowl through the fine mesh strainer to remove any curdled egg and pour evenly into the ramekins.
- Bake in a water bath. Place the pan with the ramekins inside in the oven, and while the door is still open, use a pitcher to pour hot to boiling water into the pan so it fills enough that it hits the ramekins about half way. Pour the custard into each ramekin, leaving a small lip of space at the top. Then, bake for 25-30 minutes until the custard appears set in the middle but is still wobbly when you give the dish or light pan a jolt.
- Remove from the oven. The water bath will be very hot, so do this gently so the water doesn’t splash. Allow to cool until you can handle the ramekins and remove them from the hot water. Place on a wire rack to cool. Once they have come to room temperature, place in the refrigerator to chill and set for a minimum of 4 hours.
How to torch creme brulee
You should only brulee your custard once it is completely chilled and you are ready to serve them. Here’s how to do it:
- Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the top of each custard. Pick up the ramekin and shake it around to evenly disperse the sugar.
- Place the ramekin on the countertop and use a handheld torch on low to gently heat the sugar. Start from the outer edge and slowly move your way to the center, moving your hand in a circular motion around the top of the ramekin. You’ll see the sugar caramelize and turn golden brown. Do this to until all the sugar is caramelized. Feel free to add more sugar to areas that don’t seem to have enough of the crackly shell.
- Serve immediately.
Note: If some of the sugar burns a bit, don’t worry. It actually tastes amazing with the custard!
What does a water bath do?
Water baths are used for baking custard desserts. Custards are delicate because they contain egg, which normally curdles when hit with direct heat (think of what happens when you cook an egg in a frying pan). However, using a water bath allows the heat from the oven to distribute more evenly and at a slower pace. This produces an ultra creamy texture with no curdled egg or cracks on the top.
Tips for making perfect pumpkin creme brulee
- Keep the heat low and slow. The key to perfectly light, smooth, and creamy creme brulee is cooking it slowly on a low temperature, both on the stove top and in the oven. This keeps the egg from curdling and creates a perfect egg-cream emulsion .
- Don’t overcook the egg-cream mixture. After you’ve tempered your heavy cream with the egg yolks and sugar and have returned it to the pot, turn off the heat and stop cooking as soon as the mixture begins to thicken slightly and the sugar is dissolved. The cream will be steaming slightly.
- Constantly stir the egg-cream mixture on the stove top. Remember that once you have tempered the egg yolks into the cream and returned the mixture to the pot, the goal is not to cook the eggs. You just want to dissolve the sugar and emulsify the eggs. The mixture will become slightly thickened, but you don’t want it to get too thick.
- Remove the ramekins from the hot water bath as soon as they are cool enough to handle. This prevents the custard from overcooking and becoming curdled. Then, place them in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours.
- Brulee the custard immediately before serving. Do not torch the tops in advance. The hard sugar shell gets soggy if left in the refrigerator due to moisture in the air, so it’s best to do this right before you serve it.
Some of my other favorite custard recipes:
- Coffee Panna Cotta: Rich and creamy coffee flavored panna cotta is and amazing dessert pick-me-up.
- Chocolate Cheesecake: Indulgent triple chocolate cheesecake topped with smooth chocolate ganache.
- Coconut Cream Pie: Made with a flaky, buttery crust and filled with heavenly coconut pastry cream.
- Classic Panna Cotta: Vanilla shines as the star flavor of this absolutely delicious classic panna cotta.
Rich and creamy pumpkin creme brulee that's topped with a layer of caramelized, crunchy sugar. It's the perfect holiday dessert!
- 2 cups (480 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup (50g) light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (60g) pumpkin puree
- 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin spice mix
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 teaspoons granulated sugar, for the caramelized topping
Preheat oven to 300°F/150°C. Place six 4-ounce ramekins on the bottom of a large roasting pan or baking dish (to prepare the waterbath).
In a saucepan, mix together cream, vanilla extract, half the brown sugar, pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice mix, and salt and heat on medium heat until the mixture starts to simmer. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a medium heatproof bowl until well blended, but not airy. Pour half the mixture slowly and gradually into the egg mixture while simultaneously whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Pour the entire mixture slowly back into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Cook on low heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to just slightly thicken. Do not boil. Strain the mixture, then pour evenly among the ramekins.
Place roasting pan in the oven and pour in hot water until it reaches halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the custard has set and is just slightly wobbly when gently jolted. Let ramekins cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap for at least 4 hours, preferably longer, and up to 3 days.
Brulee the custard: Do this immedietely before serving. Sprinkle about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sugar on each dish. Shake the ramekins gently from side to side until evenly coated. Using a torch, start caramelizing the top from the outer edge inwards until nicely browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.