Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall into Autumn with Pumpkin Custards

It’s time to enjoy pumpkin dessert in its many variations. With October here, leaves and temperatures fall, Halloween approaches, and orange pumpkins start appearing everywhere you look.

This recipe attracted me right away with its pumpkin pie flavors and simplicity. Even though the recipe’s so simple, the results deliver a big bang of flavor and appeal for the effort, especially when presented in individual sized ramekins for a welcome ending to a home-cooked meal.

These precious cups of pumpkin custard smell enticing, taste like Halloween and Thanksgiving mixed together, and look round and orangey like the Jack-o-lanterns peppering front porches in our neighborhood. The custard’s creamy texture melts softly in your mouth. I like these even better than pumpkin pie since I’ve always savored the filling more than the crust. Make these for your loved ones soon and enjoy a special, spicy, autumnal treat.

Pumpkin Custard
(Adapted from a recipe printed in Coastal Living, November 2010)

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (I used nonfat, which worked out fine)
5 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I like Penzey’s)
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice (or you could use pumpkin pie spice)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pour into lightly greased custard cups or ramekins. Place in a large roasting pan. Add hot water to the pan to a depth of 1 inch. I heated the water in the microwave in a large measuring cup, and then poured it carefully into the pan.

2. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until custard is set. Transfer ramekins to a wire rack to cool. This can be tricky with the hot ramekins and hot water. I used a flat spatula to help move the custards to a wire rack. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with whipping cream or ice cream, or eat as is.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Latte Love

A favorite fall ritual for coffee lovers everywhere is drinking up pumpkin spice lattes. Coffee companies cleverly save this special seasonal flavor for the fall, and millions of coffee lovers fall for the warm, spicy flavors.

This year Starbucks has been running out of the flavor, causing many to complain and even write haikus to express their love for the drink. But fear not, I’ve got other options including a homemade version to try. 

Peet’s has a delicious pumpkin spice latte that I prefer over Starbucks’ because it isn’t as sweet and doesn’t have such a strong nutmeg flavor. If you like cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa or sugar added, it’s easy to customize your drink. I happily received my latest at Peet’s gratis, unaware that they were offering the drink for free that week, which made it even more enjoyable.  

If you’re lucky enough to live by Philz Coffee, I strongly recommend their Gingerbread Iced Coffee offered year-round. Philz makes gourmet concoctions the slow and hand-crafted way with superior coffee and combinations. It’s worth the wait, and their out-of-this-world gingerbread flavors create a cold and satisfying coffee beverage. It’s almost a dessert but not too sweet, and packs a powerful caffeine punch. The paradoxical cold temperature surprisingly works well with the autumnal flavors. 

Lastly, consider making your own pumpkin spice latte at home, and experiment with the ingredients and spices to find the perfect combination that satisfies your coffee cravings. Here’s a recipe adapted from one originally found at Coffeesage.com. Brew, blend, sip, and savor.

Pumpkin Spice Latte
1 T canned pumpkin
1 c nonfat milk
½ c hot brewed coffee (I prefer Peet’s French Roast)
1 t pumpkin pie spice
1 T sugar (or to taste)

In a small saucepan, heat pumpkin and milk until warm, mixing with whisk. Pour into blender and add remaining ingredients. Blend on high until thoroughly combined. Pour into your favorite coffee mug, and top with a dash of cinnamon. Ahhh...