An easy yet impressive low-calorie dessert!
On the first day of my frappuccino phase last month, I walked to Starbucks in Safeway down the street from my house. As the barista took my afternoon order, she asked if I was studying for midterms. I laughed a little on the inside—when you live in a college town and look on the younger side, everyone assumes you’re a student!
When I explained that I needed the caffeine boost from staying up late to work the previous night, she politely inquired about what I did. When I revealed that I baked and blogged as a living, her eyes lit up brighter than the sun as she set down the milk to stare at me.
“Really?? That’s so cool! You can make money from that? I’d love to do that but with make-up.” She paused, then shyly asked, “Can you make crème brûlée? I’ve always wanted to try. I bought a mix where you just add milk—which is kind of cheating—but I don’t have a torch.”
I smiled and responded that I developed a banana brûlée recipe for my cookbook, and suggested she stopped by the hardware store to check out welding torches. (They’re almost the same thing for a fraction of the cost of a culinary one!)
As I walked back home, the wheels started turning in my brain. What if I developed a new recipe… With pumpkin… For Thanksgiving?
A month later, I finally perfected these Pumpkin Brûlées—just in time for the upcoming feast!
To lighten up the custard base, I opted for skim milk. You could easily swap it out for 1%, 2%, whole, or non-dairy milk to fit your tastes (and use whatever’s already in your fridge!). There are no eggs in this recipe for two reasons: (a) to make the brûlées “skinny” by lowering the fat and cholesterol, and (b) so they could be adaptable to a vegan diet. Instead, the base is thickened with cornstarch. You’ll want to measure it like flour, with the spoon-and-level method, to avoid an excess, which would turn the desserts gummy.
After a few trials of mixing spices into the base, I decided to omit them. They refused to stay incorporated and floated to the surface in the oven. Instead, I sprinkled the brûlées with cinnamon sugar before heating with the culinary torch. Each bite still contains a hit of spice without the baking frustration!
During a phone call with my dad last week, he pointed out that despite my cute pumpkin cupcakes and tempting butterscotch tartlets, Mom would be pretty disappointed on Thanksgiving if we skipped the pumpkin and pecan pies. I agreed, realizing just how perfect these Pumpkin Brûlées would be… They’re sweet, creamy, and fit her gluten-free diet too!
Now all I need to do is walk back to Starbucks to give the friendly barista a recipe!