A deliciously smooth and creamy custard topped with a layer of caramelized sugar which you get to poke through with your spoon like you are on a treasure hunt. It’s no wonder that creme brulee has been a popular dessert for centuries! And, since the custard is a perfect base for new flavorings, it’s a fun dessert to try with all sorts of additions. Like this Sunshine Squash Creme Brulee. Seriously fun. And seriously yum. 🙂
As soon as I saw the sunshine squash at the farmer’s market this year I thought, ‘I need to make a custard dessert out of this!’ I don’t know why that popped into my head, but it did. Maybe it’s because they are so cute and pretty. Or maybe it’s because they are a wonderfully sweet squash that naturally lends itself to desserts and needs only minimal sugar added to the mix. Pumpkin has been there and done that. It’s time for some new sweet winter squashes to step up and enjoy the limelight!
Of course, you can use pumpkin if you wish. A freshly roasted sugar pumpkin is good stuff. Or a red kuri squash. Or a butternut squash. Or any of the other sweet, winter squashes you can find in the market at this time of year. It’s fun to experiment! One might be a bit nutty and another might give you a subtle corn flavor and a third might not need any sugar at all.
I considered baking the creme brulee right in the squash halves, but I decided I wanted to be able to control the baking time a little better by putting it in a standard sized dish, and I wanted the squash mixed into the custard and not be a separate flavor. After a bit of experimentation, I’m very happy with the results! I love making creme brulee, and even have a dedicated set to make it, and now I have a recipe for squash creme brulee, which makes it even better.
Since your ramekins are probably going to be a different shape than mine (and maybe you even want to use 8-oz ramekins instead of 6-oz), you will need to keep an eye on the cooking time. So long as you use a water bath and keep the temperature low, you will need at least 40 minutes to make these. After 40 minutes, start checking every 10 until the custards are only a little wiggly in the middle.
As for the caramelized sugar on top? If you are comfortable with a torch and know how to use one safely, I think it’s pretty impressive way to get that topping. However, if you aren’t comfortable, don’t have one, or want to caramelize up a bunch of brulees, the broiler will do the trick. I personally use a Mapp gas torch. It’s a very powerful, advanced torch (so I’m not going to recommend that anyone use it!), but it’s also a useful household tool we use for other projects.
Sunshine Squash Creme Brulee
- 1 cup roasted sunshine squash or other sweet, winter squash
- 1 3/4 cup half and half
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 4 tbsp superfine sugar
- Preheat oven to 300F. Set out 4 6-oz ramekins in a square pan. An 8 or 9-inch cake pan works just fine.
- Fill a tea kettle with water and begin heating it on high.
- Puree squash with cream, cinnamon, and allspice in the blender. If it seems a little too thick, add 1/4 cup more half and half. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a medium pot and heat over medium heat to a simmer, about 5 minutes.
- While you are waiting for the squash to heat up, separate the eggs and put the egg yolks into a large bowl. Add sugar and vanilla and whisk yolks until they are light colored and fall in ribbons from the whisk, about 1 minute.
- Now it's time to temper the eggs and combine everything together. While whisking the eggs continuously, add a ladle-full of the hot cream mixture to the eggs in a slow stream. Don't just dump it in. Go slowly at first. Add more ladles of cream while whisking until you've added about half. Now lift up the pot and carefully pour the remaining cream into the egg mixture and whisk it all together.
- Divide the custard among the ramekins. Put the ramekins and their pan into the oven. Pour hot water around them until it reaches about half way up the sides.
- Bake the creme brulees for 50 minutes, or until the custards are set around the edges and only jiggle a little bit in the middle. Remove the custards from the water bath and let them cool for 1 hour at room temperature. Put them in the fridge and cool them at least an additional 2 hours. Custards can remain in the fridge overnight.
- Once you are ready to eat, sprinkle enough superfine sugar over the tops so that you can barely or not at all see the color of the custard, anywhere from 2 tsp to 1 tbsp of sugar per custard. Too thin a layer of sugar will lead to a disappointing crunch when you eat.
- To caramelize the tops, either use a torch, moving the torch back and forth around the top of the custard until all the sugar is melted. Or broil the custards for 5-7 minutes on the top level of the oven closest to the broiler. Keep a close on them and be ready to remove them earlier if need be.