Friday, October 22, 2010
Pumpkin Flan with Orange Caramel
With pumpkin season most definitely upon us, it’s hard not to let our thoughts drift directly to pumpkin pie, that all-American staple of the holidays. It’s impossible not to think about the months of October or November without thinking about all the glories of pumpkin and spice cradled in a crisp buttery pie crust. Holiday neurons are firing throughout the land.
Before we get into the thick of November, I’ve strayed off the beaten path just a tiny bit to produce a Pumpkin Flan. This is still a custard, so I haven’t gotten too crazy. It’s a very rich and spicy flan bathed in a caramel infused with an acidic note of fresh orange juice.
This is best served with a nice dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream, which gives it a bit of a creamy cheesecake twang. I also like garnishing it with pecans toasted in a butter and brown sugar glaze doused with cinnamon, chile and chipotle powders and salt. Or serve alongside some crisp ginger cookies or little pastry twists made from a some pie dough that has been sugared, dusted with cinnamon and cut into strips and twisted.
There’s a bit of planning ahead required for this dessert. The baked flans rest overnight in the refrigerator to give the sugar in the caramel sauce a chance to liquefy, making them a breeze to unmold.
The unmistakable taste of pumpkin is a sense memory of celebration we get to experience every single year and for that I give thanks. It's definitely time to fill your kitchen with the aromas and flavorful harvests of fall.
- This is a very creamy and very loose flan. If you prefer one with a firmer texture, add another egg yolk. Keep your eye on the baking time.
- Be sure you have all the ingredients for the caramel prepared and measured out because you’ll need to work fast once it turns the right color. I strained out the orange zest for the sake of the photos but you can leave it in for extra flavor if you wish. Be careful when you’re making the caramel and swirling it in the ramekins to avoid splashing it and burning yourself.
- The brown sugar adds a little butterscotch sensation to the flan. You can use white sugar if you prefer or a mix of the two.
- Sometimes using a large roasting pan for a water bath can feel a little unwieldy. I use two smaller pans and fit 3 ramekins in each. This makes it a lot easier to remove from the oven.
- This is a good time of the year to replenish your spices, brandy, rum, liqueurs, dried fruit and nuts. Be prepared for lots of fall and holiday baking!
- If you love pumpkin, you might also enjoy Pumpkin Gingerbread Ice Cream.
Pumpkin Flan with Orange Caramel
1 C sugar
1/4 C water
1/4 C + 2 T fresh orange juice
zest of 1 orange
1 t Grand Marnier
pinch of salt
3/4 C dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t allspice
pinch nutmeg, freshly ground
1/4 t salt
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 C pumpkin
1 C heavy cream
1 C whole milk
1 t vanilla
1 T rum
Set out six 3 1/2” or 4 1/2” diameter ramekins in a large roasting pan or baking dish.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
For the Orange Caramel, place the sugar and water in a saucepan on medium high heat. Cook the caramel until it is a medium dark amber. Take off the heat and wait a few seconds until it darkens a bit more on its own and starts to show some reddish tones. Set the pan down and carefully add the orange juice and zest. It will sputter vigorously. Let the caramel calm down and put back on low heat to melt any lumps, whisking gently. Once the sugar has smoothed out, take off the heat and add the Grand Marnier and a pinch of salt. Strain out orange zest if you prefer. Pour into the 6 ramekins to coat the bottom and swirl gently to coat the sides. The caramel does not have to go up the sides of the ramekin more than a just about a half inch.
For the custard, mix the sugar, spices and salt together. Whisk the eggs until thoroughly combined. Stir in the pumpkin and the sugar mixture. Gradually add the cream and milk. Stir in the vanilla and rum. Pour into the ramekins.
Slowly pour very hot water into the roasting pan until it reaches about half way up the side of the ramekins. Bake for about 45 – 50 minutes or until the edges are set and there is a bit of a jiggle in the middle about the size of a quarter. Gently remove from the oven. Take the ramekins out of the roasting pan and set aside to cool. Refrigerate overnight to ensure that the caramel stays liquefied.
To serve, run a thin bladed knife around the circumference of the ramekin. Place a plate over the ramekin and invert. Dollop with crème fraiche or sour cream.