Pumpkin Pots de Crème Replace Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving Desert!

Like most cooks, I always include a pumpkin dessert at our family’s Thanksgiving celebration, but often it’s not a traditional pumpkin pie. In years past, I’ve prepared frozen pumpkin mousse parfaits, whipped cream-filled pumpkin roulade, pumpkin brownies, and dense pumpkin spice cake as finales for this holiday meal. This year, though, I’ve decided on pumpkin pots de crème with a pecan toffee crunch topping, a recipe I created more than a decade ago.

These pots de crème take only a few minutes to assemble, and about 40 minutes of unattended time in the oven. A simple custard mixture made with purchased pumpkin puree, aromatic spices, and a good splash of bourbon, is ladled into individual ramekins, which are placed in a water bath to bake until set.

The garnishes, however, truly distinguish this dessert. Chopped toasted pecans combined with toffee bits are sprinkled over the silky, smooth custards while warm. Then they are chilled and topped with dollops of whipped cream.

Beside their delicious pumpkin taste, these pots de crème have several other advantages for cooks. They can be prepared two days ahead and kept refrigerated until needed. (You’ll just need to top each one with whipped cream at the last minute.) Plus, a single recipe yields twelve servings, enough for a crowd. So, keep these scrumptious creations in mind when you plan your menu for November 22th.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!


Last-Minute Gifts from the Kitchen

If you are not one of those organized cooks (and I am certainly not this year!) who already has all their holiday baking and cooking completed, here are three easy recipes for homemade gifts of food that you can prepare at the last minute.

None call for hard-to-find ingredients and each requires 15 minutes or less of prep plus a few minutes more to bake or extra time to chill. Chocolate Glazed Toffee, Orange Spiced Pecans, or Chocolate Honey Sauce with Fleur de Sel would each make a thoughtful present for a host or hostess, or for teachers, neighbors, friends, or others whom you’d like to remember during the season of giving.

The nuts and toffee can be packaged in cellophane bags, tins, or coffee mugs, while the chocolate sauce is best in a glass container. Wrap in ribbons and add a personal note and that’s it. Homemade with love—the best kind of holiday gift!


A Scrumptious Dessert for Splurging!

Butterscotch Pot de Creme 2 2909x2736 2909x2736It doesn’t happen often, but on rare occasions, I sample a dessert so delectable that I abandon all healthy eating guidelines, and just indulge. That was the case a few weeks ago when I was in Washington, DC, and ate at Ripple. (See last week’s post for more on that terrific restaurant). The Butterscotch Pots de Crème on the dessert menu sounded so tempting with their garnishes of cinnamon-scented cream and bits of toffee that I promptly ordered one. To describe this confection as addictive would be an understatement. I intended to take only a few bites, but in less than 5 minutes the little ramekin was licked (or should I say spooned) clean. Continue reading

Irresistible Little Custards—Vanilla Pots de Crème Topped with Pecan Toffee Crunch

Vanilla Pots de Creme with Pecan Crunch Topping 2When it comes to desserts, custards have been long-time favorites in our family. My dad adored a Southern staple of plain boiled custard. My spouse never met a crème brûlée that he didn’t like, and will fore go exquisite cakes, tarts, or pastries on any restaurant menu for custard with a burnt sugar topping. For me easy-to-make pots de crème are irresistible.

The French version of custard, pots de crème are assembled with a basic trio of eggs, sugar, and cream and can be complemented with an infinite variety of flavors. I’ve made dark chocolate ones garnished with white chocolate whipped cream, savored chocolate and chestnut creations accented with dark rum, and swooned over butterscotch and coconut pots de crème.

This spring, though, I decided to make classic pot de crèmes scented with vanilla, tweaking the traditional version slightly. Instead of vanilla extract, the pulp from a vanilla bean provided a more subtle taste, and in place of heavy cream, crème fraîche was a more delectable option. As a contrast to the custard’s velvet-smooth texture, I added a crunchy topping of pecans and toffee. Continue reading