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Pumpkin Custard
Or pie, without the bother of a crust

Historically, when October hits, I can barely break out the pumpkin desserts fast enough.  When time permits, I like to stock up on pie pumpkins, roast them, and save the puree in my freezer.  But sometimes life gets too busy for that.  This year, I’ve comforted myself with a few cans of store-bought pumpkin puree… and I don’t feel bad about it either.  Canned pumpkin has long been one of the only store-canned foods I purchase and for good reason.  It’s a pure convenience food that actually tastes like   the vegetable it is proposed to be.  And in my opinion, there isn’t much that a good squash can’t improve.

My son has developed my love of pumpkin.  He insists on a pumpkin muffin every day in his packed school lunch.  I make them by the dozens and freeze them, since they remain just as tasty after they defrost.  Yesterday I needed to replenish the frozen stores of pumpkin muffins, and that left me with half of the large can of pumpkin puree to contend with. 

I could have just frozen it, but instead I decided to fill a few ramekins with eggy pumpkin puree.  I figured I’d show those big canned pumpkin executives that even though they produce both 15 and 28 oz. cans of puree (the 28 oz. being more economical even if also being 2 oz. short of most recipe needs), I can adapt.  If you wait to add the eggs until after you’ve flavored your puree, you can adapt too.  Make your custard as sweet or spicy as you like.

I also decided to steam these on top of the stove rather than heating up the whole oven for 6 little ramekins.  In a deep pot, I nestled a kitchen towel and arranged the ramekins – adding enough hot water to come about halfway up their sides.  Remove them to fill with the custard, then pop them back into the water, turn up the heat to a gentle simmer, and steam with the lid on until just set in their middles.

Pumpkin Custard

About 13 oz. of pumpkin puree (give or take)
4 eggs
2 T. honey
¼ c. brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 ½ t. cinnamon
½ t. cloves
¼ t. ginger
¼ c. whole milk
Nutmeg and additional cinnamon for grating over the tops

In a large bowl, blend all the ingredients with a hand mixer until fluffy and well mixed.  (You can blend the ingredients together without the eggs first, if you’d like to taste to correct the spices…)  Carefully pour the custard into 6 ramekins or custard cups (any glass that would be ovensafe), filling about 2/3rds full.  Set them into a deep pot as described above, and steam them for about 10 minutes, until the centers are just set.  Enjoy them at room temperature, or cool to room temperature and serve after they have fully chilled in the refrigerator for several hours.

I’ve kind of been on a “no-recipe” approach to baking lately.  This custard recipe surely should have contained some heavier milk – either evaporated milk or heavy cream, but I couldn’t be bothered with running to the store for that.  I simply decreased the amount of liquid I would have used, and made do with the whole milk I hand on hand.  The result was a perfectly Autumnal custard, perhaps a bit more healthy tasting than the fillings of so many other over-sweetened pumpkin desserts. 

It certainly crushes the craving for pumpkin pie!

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