Friday, October 10, 2008

Pumpkin On!

The pumpkin madness continues! I noticed a weird trend, though, when I jumped back in my blog to last fall: THEN I made a bread pudding, a pumpkin dessert, some chocolate chip cookies, some strawberry and tea cookies, a crème brûlée... Are we sensing a pattern here? Yeah, these are all things I've made THIS fall too. Granted, they're variations on flavors this year but still. Seems like in the fall I get cravings for a lot of the same stuff: comfort foods and pumpkin! I have to make it my mission to try some new stuff when I get back from my vacation.

But back to THIS recipe. The funny thing about pumpkin desserts which inevitably have the same familiar spices is, they kind of all remind you of pumpkin pie. This crème brûlée was just like that, pie-like, only in a softer texture.

The exciting thing with this crème brûlée, however, is that I borrowed my mom's serious, hardware-section blow torch and it worked PERFECTLY. No more putting the custards under a broiler and hoping they come out evenly done (but always burning just a little bit too much). I had complete control to make it an even, perfectly browned, sugar top! I will never use anything else again!

And my mom said it didn't need whipped cream but I just can't help it; pumpkin just seems wrong without it...

Source: Williams-Sonoma

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
3/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
5 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
6 Tbs. pumpkin puree
1/3 cup plus 4 tsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar

Preheat an oven to 300°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready.

Pour the cream into a small saucepan and whisk in the cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg. Set over medium-low heat and warm the cream mixture until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and steam begins to rise from the surface, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, salt, pumpkin puree, the 1D3 cup granulated sugar and the brown sugar until smooth and blended. Slowly pour in the cream mixture, stirring until blended. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Divide the mixture among four 8-fl.-oz. ramekins and place in a large baking pan. Add boiling water to fill the pan halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the custards are just set around the edges, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

Just before serving, sprinkle 1 tsp. granulated sugar evenly over the surface of each custard. Using a kitchen torch according to the manufacturer's instructions, move the flame continuously in small circles over the surface until the sugar melts and lightly browns. Refrigerate until sugar top hardens slightly then serve. Serves 4.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Flaky Cookies and Tea

Sometimes the easiest dishes taste the best. There's something pure and perfect about simple flavors. My mother made these cookies MAYBE twice, about ten years ago, and I still remembered them. There's almost nothing to them but they're flaky, sometimes chewy (with cooked jelly) and they're altogether lovely.

And I've got a serious soft spot for strawberry sweets and tea. Of course, you can use whatever jelly or jam you like best! Go crazy!

A word of advice: these won't rise at all. I recommend making them the thickness you'd like in a buttery cookie (1/2-inch is ideal to me) and make deep wells for the jelly. It likes to escape its cookie when it can!

And one more warning? They're super addictive. Good luck having just one...


3 ounces cream cheese (may use 1/3 less fat)
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened (*if using salted, omit salt)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
jam, jelly, or preserves, your favorite

Cream the cream cheese and butter together. Blend in flour and salt.

Roll out on a floured surface and cut into lines dividing lines 2 x 1 inch long. Press a trowel in center with end of spoon or finger/thumb. Place a dab of preserves or jam in the center of each cookie.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes.