After some experiments and variations, the final recipe gave a rich yet light custard, not too sweet and flavored brightly with spices and honey.
The texture is lighter and creamier than a traditional pumpkin pie filling, and the spices exchange heavy cinnamon for the citrus and herb notes of coriander. The top is covered with a crackly burnt sugar crust that balances the earthy pumpkin with a slightly bitter caramel flavor.
Honey Pumpkin Créme Brúlée
1 cup cream
1 cup whole milk or half/half
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of 1/2 lemon
3 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander, preferably freshly ground
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Fine white sugar
Heat the oven to 325°F. Prepare a baking pan, filling it halfway up with hot water. Set 6 ramekins or baking cups in the pan.
Whisk cream, milk, pumpkin, sugar, honey, vanilla and zest together in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk the eggs with the spices and salt in a separate bowl. Add a little of the warmed cream to the eggs and whisk together, then add it all back into the pan. Heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until the custard reaches coats the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil or it will curdle the eggs.
Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl and pour into the ramekins. Carefully set the pan in the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. They will still be a little jiggly when you pull them out. As long as they are firm to the touch and don't have liquid sloshing out of the cups, they are done. They will firm up as they chill. Let cool then put in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, sprinkle a thin layer of fine white sugar on top of each ramekin, spread as evenly as you can, then brown with a kitchen blowtorch or under the broiler.