Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pumpkin Praline Custard

I’ve been promising you, all my loyal readers (thank you, by the way), that I’d post this recipe. I mentioned it way back last Fall, saying that I had this low calorie, low fat dessert, perfect for the autumn months. I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I’m a big fan of anything pumpkin. Pumpkin pie is my most favorite pie. But I don’t make it, really, except at Thanksgiving. My will power is about zilch when it comes to pumpkin pie. I have an entire stack of recipes in my archives devoted just to all-things-pumpkin. Pies, cakes, tortes, breads, muffins, cookies, tarts, pudding, etc. But I try to stay away from them as much as possible.

The recipe came from Cooking Light, back in 2001. And the writer/developer raved about the flavor, telling readers it was worth making. I couldn’t agree more. This little number satisfies my yearning for pumpkin pie, but without all the calories, without the crust, and with a lot less fuss. And with very little fat. And it’s easy on top of it.

You’re wondering . . . where’s the praline? I ran out of time, so this time I served the custards with just a little covering of heavy cream (less than a tablespoon each). I make these in custard cups, espresso cups, or ramekins. If you use small cups, rather than ramekins, you’ll be able to serve more.

Whipping this together takes all of about 10 minutes (yes, really), then you bake them in a water bath for about 50 minutes, cool, serve. You whiz up the custard in the blender, to make sure the cinnamon gets distributed (ever noticed how cinnamon kind of floats everywhere it goes, especially liquid?). You definitely want it to disburse in this custard, so do use a hand mixer or a blender. But the ingredients can all fit in the blender bowl and takes but a few seconds to combine. Then you pour it into spray-covered ramekins and bake. I started the tea kettle to boil before I started the custard prep and by the time the water was boiling, I was all ready. But be sure to preheat the oven first – my oven wasn’t even hot when I was ready to put these in. That’s how quick they are to make.

A little bit about nutmeg here. I can’t stress enough, that there is real value (taste value) in using freshly grated nutmeg. Here’s a photo of a nutmeg pod. It’s about ½ inch in diameter, and I’ve had my nutmeg for years and years. I don’t think they go bad as long as they’re still in the whole form. So I bought this little gizmo, a nutmeg grinder, some years ago. It’s nothing fancy, comes apart in a jiffy, and contains the whole pods in a compartment in the top (you can see one pod inside) and the bottom part is the grinder. The flavor is so enhanced with fresh nutmeg. If you like to bake, you’ll find it worthwhile to have one of these grinders. As an aside, I went online and was going to give you a recommendation of a grinder, but having read reviews of several brands, I’m not sure which one I’d buy. They range in price from about $15 - $75. My little plastic one was under $10 when I bought it. Do read the reviews, though, before deciding on any of them. It appears the William Bounds ones get better write-ups.

Cook’s Notes: Make these enough ahead so you can cool and chill them. I serve them at room temp sometimes, and they’re fine, but the recipe indicates chilling time. You can make the praline pecans ahead of time.

Pumpkin Praline Custards
Recipe: From Cooking Light, 2001
Serving Size : 6
1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk -- or vanilla soy milk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg -- freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1. Preheat oven to 325°. To prepare custards, combine the first nine ingredients in a large bowl and stir well with a whisk, or combine in a blender. Divide the mixture among six 6-ounce custard cups coated with cooking spray. Place the cups in a 9x13 pan, add hot water to a depth of one inch. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cups from the water bath and cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill.
2. To prepare the praline: combine the sugar and water in a small skillet (nonstick is preferable). Cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes, or until the mixture has turned a golden brown color, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the chopped pecans and stir to coat them. Then, QUICKLY scrape the mixture out onto a baking sheet that's been coated with cooking spray, spreading out as thinly as possible to cool completely. Break up the pralines into small pieces and use about 1 tablespoon on top of each serving.
Serving Ideas : If you don't have time to make the praline, you could also serve the custard with a thin film of heavy cream.
NOTES : This custard - or almost a pumpkin pie filling - is really, really good. And it's surprisingly very low in fat too. It's hard to believe it has so few fat grams! And the best part is that you can whip this up in such a short time. If you have the pralines on hand (or even candied walnuts would be fine too) it's a snap to make this. If there is any leftover batter, just pour it into another larger dish and bake a little longer than the cups.
Per Serving: 221 Calories; 6g Fat (23.1% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 163mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Non-Fat Milk; 1 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates.


Toffeeapple said...

You know, I've never been able to muster any feeling for pumpkin. I've had pumpkin pie in North Carolina at Hallowe'en and other times but, it does nothing for me at all. I wonder why that should be? In fact I dislike anything within that family. Perhaps it's a cultural thing, they just weren't available when I grew up in South Wales...

Carolyn T said...

Gosh, I feel sad for you. Do you dislike all kinds of winter squash, or is it just pumpkin? But just think, you get to save all those calories when you're able to just pass it by!

Toffeeapple said...

All squashes! Can't even look at a zuchini! (courgette as we say here and in France)

I do however, adore all things cabbagey and beany, so I'm not missing out on much. :-)