Hi.... remember me? I leave food things here sometimes for other people to look at. I'm sorry I've been away so long. Things have been pretty crazy the last few weeks / months, and I feel like I've had no time to get on top of things. Two days after we came back from the Saveur Awards in Charleston (which were amazing, and my best girl Kate totally KILLED it, PLUS we got to meet Becky! It was the best weekend ever), I headed off to San Francisco for another five days of working on something secret one of my lovely foodie friends is currently crushing. We managed to narrowly avoid the awful fires there, which began the day before we left, and were uncomfortably close to where we were staying. I flew back on a terrible flight, then promptly got a hideous cold, which threw a large spanner in the works in terms of getting things done before we headed off to Amsterdam last Sunday! We stayed with some friends for a few days, biking all around the city, and spending time at all their favourite spots rather than hitting up all of the tourist traps. It's my favourite way to see a city : through the eyes of one of my friends. We drank amazing coffee, hung out in parks, and made epic gouda mac and cheese. It was perfect. I am now in an air bnb in Paris (!!!), surrounded by more friends. We have spent the last few days eating all the pain au chocolat we can get our hands on, more picnics, and traipsing all over the city, photo bombing obnoxious tourist photos, and checking out the sights of the city. It has been the best, and I'm going to be so gutted to say goodbye to them all on Tuesday.
For someone who spends a lot of time hanging out at home by myself, it has definitely been an overwhelming amount of travel. I think I made five trips in six weeks, with only a few days back home between each one. It's been amazing, but I am so, SO ready to be back home for an extended period of time. Being away for a while makes you miss everything. I have a zillion recipe ideas in my head, and I can't wait to start making all of them, not to mention baking from some amazing books that have shown up at my house recently!
One of the things that I did have time to throw together in one of my couple-of-days-at-home stints were these dessert cups! This week is the #virtualpumpkinparty, where a load of us bloggers are all coming together to share our favourite pumpkin recipes! Thanks so much to the lovely Sara for organising - you can find a full list of the participants on her page!
I wanted to keep things pretty simple, and share an idea i've been working on for a while. I was originally going to make some sort of super fancy custard cake like this one i've been drooling over for ages, but when it came down to it, I simply ran out of time to fiddle around with ring molds and acetate, so jammed all of the components into a jar, and came up with this dessert jar! Dessert jars are perfect for a party or dinner, or for having on hand in the fridge if you need a wee sweet treat (me, always). All of the components can be prepared in advance, meaning that there is minimal work when it comes to serving - you just have to assemble a few things, top them with cream and pecan brittle, and you are good to go.
I started with a spiced shortbread base, spiced with all of the pumpkin spice flavours - cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. The shortbread is whizzed up with a little butter, packed into the jars to form a base, then topped with a creamy pumpkin custard. The dessert jar is then topped off with a scoop of lightly whipped cream, delicately flavoured with maple and vanilla bean. The whole thing is then garnished with a sprinkling of a super simple maple pecan brittle. It may seem like a load of work, but almost all of the components are prepared well ahead of time. In my opinion, these make the perfect autumn dessert. If you are a little short on time you could most definitely use a graham cracker base - it would cut out the shortbread step, and still be just as delicious.
A few wee notes:
- I used canned pumpkin puree because I was short on time. Usually in the past I have made my own, but to be honest I didn't taste that much of a difference. If you aren't somewhere where you can get canned puree (aka anywhere that isn't North America), you can definitely make your own!
- Graham crackers would work well as a base if you don't want to make the shortbread!
- I used an immersion blender to help blend up the custard before I strained it, as pumpkin can sometimes be a little fibrous. If you don't have one, you can skip this step - it's not crucial, but it does help to make it nice and creamy.
- The custard needs at least 4 hours to set, so ensure you leave enough time for this
- If you are preparing these ahead of time, you can layer in the base and custard, then add the cream and pecan brittle just before whipping - freshly whipped cream only takes a minute or two and tastes so much better fresh!
- I've done the measurements for the custard and shortbread in grams because it allows me to be a lot more accurate when adding things like egg yolks, which can vary a lot in size and therefore throw off your ratios. If you don't have a scale, get yourself a cheapie!
- I made these in small weck jars, which hold 160 ml or 5.4 oz, but small mason jars or any other small jar you have should work perfectly!
- This recipe can easily be scaled if you were making for a crowd! If you do up-scale the recipe, don't do more than a double batch of custard at a time - do it in a few goes.
- Sorry for leaving you with lots of egg whites. But meringues are yum!
Spiced Shortbread and Pumpkin Custard Dessert Jars
- Makes about 8 small jars -
Pecan Crunch adapted from Sweet
Pumpkin Spiced Shortbread
150g (5.3 oz, or 10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g (2.8oz) brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
300g (10.6oz) all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
For binding the crust (jar assembly step): 50g unsalted butter, melted
Brown Sugar Pumpkin Custard
350g heavy cream
150g whole milk
150g egg yolks
100g white Sugar
75g brown sugar
16g corn starch
5g (1 tsp) vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt
1 15oz can, or 425g pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp maple syrup
3 Tbsp light corn syrup or glucose
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
125g toasted pecans, roughly chopped.
Vanilla bean maple whipped cream
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- PROCESS -
Preheat the oven to 300˚f/150˚c. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Add the flour, spices, and salt, and mix until just combined and a dough comes together. Turn out onto a work surface and form the dough into a log shape. Cut slices about 1/2 an inch thick, and place onto the prepared baking sheet with a little space between each. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
BROWN SUGAR PUMPKIN CUSTARD
Place the cream and milk in a medium pot over low heat. Heat until you just start to see some bubbles and movement around the edge of the pot. While the cream and milk are heating, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, brown sugar, corn starch, vanilla bean paste, and salt in a medium bowl, whisking well until the mixture is pale.
Once the milk and cream has almost come to a boil, remove from the heat. Pour half of the cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously until smooth. This tempers the egg yolks to prevent them from scrambling on contact with the hot cream. Return the cream and egg mixture to the pot, and place over a low to medium heat. Add the pumpkin puree, and whisk well until completely combined. Cook the mixture over a low to medium heat, whisking continuously, until the custard has thickened significantly - enough to coat the back of a spoon enough that when you run a finger across the spoon, it leaves a clear track.
Place a sieve over a clean medium sized bowl. Strain the thickened custard through the sieve - you may need to do this in two batches. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until completely smooth. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the custard, and refrigerate until cooled completely - at least 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425˚f / 220˚c. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the maple syrup, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small pot over medium heat. Heat, stirring frequently with a spatula, until the mixture is combined and the sugar has melted. Add the pecans and stir until they are evenly coated. Spread the mixture out on the prepared pan. Bake for 7-8 minutes, or until the sugar mixture is bubbling and golden. Remove from the oven, and cool completely before hitting it with a rolling pin or other hard object to break up into crumbs. Store in an airtight container until you are ready to use - use within 1-2 days.
VANILLA BEAN MAPLE WHIPPED CREAM
Place the heavy cream, maple syrup, and vanilla in a large bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium speed until soft peaks form, then for just a few seconds more - you want it to be just past the 'soft peaks' stage.
Place 250g of the shortbread in the work bowl of a food processor. Blitz until it resembles fine crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl, and add 50g melted butter. Stir well with a spatula until evenly combined.
Place 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp of the spiced shortbread mixture in the bottom of each jar, packing it very loosely with a spoon. (Don't press down too hard or they are tricky to eat).
Place the cooled custard mixture into a large piping bag, and snip the end off to form a small hole. Alternatively you can use a large ziploc bag. Pipe the custard into the jars, leaving about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of space at the top of each jar. Bang the jars lightly against the bench to help remove any bubbles.
If you are preparing the jars in advance, place them in the fridge until you are ready to serve, then add the cream just before serving if possible. If you need to add the cream, do not add the pecan crunch until serving.
Top each jar with a dollop of the vanilla bean maple whipped cream, and sprinkle with a generous amount of the pecan crunch.
Store any leftovers in the fridge.