Each year when Halloween rolls around my thoughts go to pumpkins. Not to decorating them, but to thinking of creative ways to use them in cooking. Over the last few years I’ve made pumpkin and peanut butter soup, added pumpkin to steel cut oats, made many loaves of pumpkin bread, and tried making pumpkin stews. But as Thanksgiving draws closer I generally pull out a trusty old recipe for pumpkin flan.
I’ll admit up front that this is nothing I created from scratch. The recipe is taken from an old 1960’s era cookbook I inherited from my mother, The Spice Cookbook. I made many recipes from this cookbook as a young girl, but the first thing I ever made was pumpkin flan. My mother let me make it completely on my own (probably not a great idea as I ended up pouring the hot sugar over one hand). But despite that calamity, the family declared it a huge success.
I’ve made this recipe many times over the years. While it’s not a winter warmer in the sense of a lovely stew, roast, or soup, it makes me think of this time of year and also reminds me of my mother each time I make it.
These days I try to use the most flavorful vanilla and cinnamon I can afford. I’ve also been known to mix in a tiny bit of liquor with the whipped cream.
Ingredients for main recipe (ingredients for caramel and whipped cream listed separately below)
- 3⁄4 cups sugar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup pumpkin, cooked & mashed
- 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1⁄2 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
- 1⁄3 cup water
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Caramel, see below
- Fresh whipped cream, see below
For Caramel: Melt 1/2 cup sugar over medium-low heat until it forms a golden syrup, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Pour immediately into an 8x8x2-inch pan, turning and rolling the pan from side to side to coat with caramel. Set aside for later use. NOTE: Be really careful here! You don’t want to touch the hot sugar.
Main Recipe: Combine sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add pumpkin and eggs. Mix well. Stir in the next 3 ingredients. Mix well and turn into caramel-coated 8x8x2-inch pan. Place in a pan of hot water. Bake in a heated moderate oven (350F) 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Cool and chill. To serve, run a spatula around the sides of pan, turn out onto a serving plate, and cut into squares. NOTE: I actually like to have this somewhat warm rather than cold, so test it out a bit until I can get a square cut.
For Whipped Cream: Whip 1/2 cup heavy cream with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger.