This time of year when the skies darken early and temperatures suddenly plummet, it is a relief to come in from the cold at dusk.
But driving home from work in a warm car is not the same as walking home in the late autumn chill after a day of school.
In those days, the warmth would hit me like a surprise, even though I knew it waiting was on the other side of the back door. The Arts and Crafts bungalow of my childhood did not have a mudroom, so I entered the cheery kitchen from a back porch, flung my books down and lunged for whatever was on the table.
If my father was at home, it would be gingerbread or maple fudge. My mother preferred making chocolate or peanut butter cookies. No one ventured into more exotic sweets in those days. No pistachio-cranberry tea cakes or dark chocolate fudge with sea salt topping or lemon-lime muffins in tiny tins.
Truthfully, it did not matter what the after-school treat was, for it made the kitchen smell so good and provided a sugar high before supper, which was never as early as it was at my friends’ houses. Graham crackers with peanut butter were as welcome as from-scratch treats.
It was bloody cold here today. I had no intention of leaving the house in the afternoon as the weak sun sunk lower in the sky, having finally braved the crowds in the morning, much to my regret. Instead, I stayed inside and puttered, and by suppertime, my kitchen smelled of Spicy Pumpkin Pots de Crème, adapted from a recipe on the Website of the newly resurrected Victoria magazine.
This was the dessert I meant to make on Thanksgiving. My first taste of it – or something very much like it – was at a local restaurant six or eight weeks ago. I left vowing to try to replicate it.
Spicy Pumpkin Pots de Crème
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- one tablespoon grated chocolate
- pinch fleur de sel grains
- 10 egg yolks
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Using a whisk, blend milk, pumpkin, sugars, vanilla, chocolate, salt and spices in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Remove from heat just as mixture begins to boil. Set aside.
Separate eggs, and whisk yolks, forcing through a strainer and then adding to the saucepan gradually. When thoroughly blended, pour into six small pots de crème. Set pots de crème into a larger baking dish and add water. Water should reach about halfway up the sides of the pots.
Bake for 40 minutes, until firm. Chill before serving. I grabbed a chocolate morsel and grated it for topping.
I added the grated chocolate to the pumpkin mixture for the same reason I always add a bit of instant coffee and some cinnamon to hot chocolate: To provide richness. There are few dishes that are not enhanced by a bit of chocolate.
These pots de creme would make a lovely winter holiday dessert, but they are far too sweet and rich for frequent consumption.