Candied Jack-Be-Little Pumpkins
For a sophisticated dessert, try this custard and candied pumpkin dish from pastry chef Chris Broberg of the Four Seasons Restaurant.
For the Candied Pumpkins
- 6 Jack-Be-Little pumpkins
- 3 sticks cinnamon
- 1 whole nutmeg
- 4 star anise
- 20 whole cloves
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, sliced
- 4 cups sugar
For the Pots de Creme
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons molasses or dark-brown sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- Turbinado sugar
- 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- Pearl sugar, for garnish
- Cloves, cinnamon, or star anise, for garnish
Make the Candied Pumpkins: Cut top one-third of pumpkins and remove seeds from pumpkins and tops; set aside.
In a small dry skillet, toast cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, cloves, and peppercorns over medium heat until fragrant. Remove from heat and transfer to a small piece of cheesecloth along with ginger; tie with kitchen twine to enclose.
Place 2 cups sugar, cheesecloth packet, and 3 cups water in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add pumpkins and tops, making sure liquid fills the cavity of each pumpkin, and return to a boil; cook for 5 minutes.
Add 1 cup sugar to saucepan and return to a boil; let cook 5 minutes more. Add remaining cup of sugar and cook until pumpkin flesh is translucent, about 20 minutes, brushing pumpkins occasionally with cooking liquid. Remove saucepan from heat and let pumpkins and tops cool in liquid. Invert pumpkins onto a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet to drain.
Make the Pots de Creme: Fill a small saucepan with 3/4 cup water; add molasses or sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let sugar syrup cool completely.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar syrup and egg yolks until well combined. In a medium saucepan, whisk cream and milk; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk milk mixture into yolk mixture. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
Place pumpkins in a large 2-inch-deep roasting pan. Fill pumpkins with custard to just below the rim. Set roasting pan on rack in oven. Fill pan with enough warm water so that it comes 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pumpkins. Cover pan with parchment paper-lined aluminum foil and slide into oven. Bake until edges of custard are set but center is just a little loose and custards are slightly domed, 40 to 45 minutes.
Let pumpkins cool in water in roasting pan for 20 minutes. Remove from water and transfer to refrigerator to chill.
When pumpkins have chilled, sprinkle tops of custards with turbinado sugar. Using a kitchen torch, melt turbinado sugar to form a crust. Dip pumpkin tops in turbinado sugar. Place confectioners' sugar in a small sieve and sift over pumpkins. Mix together any remaining sugars and make a small bed of sugar on each serving plate; set pumpkins on sugar bed. Garnish plate with cloves, cinnamon, and star anise; serve.