- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

Pumpkin is, without a doubt, the quintessential ingredient when it comes to Thanksgiving desserts.

Pumpkin brownies, a whipped-cream-filled pumpkin roulade, a pumpkin spice cake and that traditional favorite, pumpkin pie, are all dishes I’ve offered as finales to this holiday meal. This year, though, I’ve created a new confection: pumpkin custards with pecan-toffee topping.

The custards take only a few minutes to assemble and about 40 minutes in the oven. Chopped toasted pecans combined with toffee bits are sprinkled over the custards.

Chilled and served with dollops of whipped cream, these little custards would make an irresistible ending to that all-American feast. They can be prepared two days ahead and kept refrigerated until needed. A single recipe will yield 12 servings, enough to serve a crowd.

Pumpkin custards with pecan-toffee crumble

2 cups heavy or whipping cream, divided

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin seasoned with spices)

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon nutmeg

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

8 large egg yolks

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons bourbon

⅔ cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans

⅓ cup English toffee bits

Arrange racks in center and lower positions of oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready 12 6-ounce ramekins, souffles or custard cups and two large baking pans (9-by-13-inch Pyrex dishes recommended).

Whisk together 1½ cups cream, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat, and stir until lukewarm. Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer to blend. Gradually beat in sugar until mixture thickens and is lighter in color, 2 to 3 minutes or longer. Add pumpkin mixture and bourbon; beat until just blended.

Divide custard mixture among the ramekins. Place half the ramekins in each of the baking pans. Pour enough hot water into the baking pans to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake custards until a tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.

While the custards are baking, mix together the pecans and toffee bits in a small bowl. Remove custards from oven, and sprinkle the center of each custard (still in the pan) with some of the pecan-toffee mixture.

Carefully, with potholders, transfer ramekins to cooling racks, and cool 1 hour. Cover custards with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, 2 to 3 hours or overnight. (Custards can be prepared 2 days ahead; keep refrigerated. Bring to room temperature 15 to 30 minutes before serving.)

To serve, whip remaining ½ cup cream and garnish each serving with a generous dollop. Makes 12 servings.


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