Pumpkin Flan

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Thanksgiving or even a fall dinner party can be stressful. Hosting triggers my Virgo perfectionist mode and corresponding anxiety so I either sip too much wine or worry too much. I like to prepare as many things as possible in advance so everything the day-of is smooth sailing. Thankfully the last thing you need to worry about is making Thanksgiving dessert because pumpkin flan (or pumpkin crème caramel) can be made a day or two day in advance.

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Pumpkin flan embodies all things basic and good in this world. As of October 1st I only want to eat squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and anything else that is golden and orange. Sweet or savory fall’s produce is nutty, rich, and earthy. The pumpkin and spices did not turn the flan orange, but it did impart its sweet buttery flavor accented by fragrant spices. Flan itself is an extremely versatile dessert- I have made coconut flan, Cuban coffee flan, traditional flan, and cream cheese flan.

When it dawned upon me that pumpkin flan was in the realm of possibility I nary shed a tear. I have a foolproof method for manipulating my classic Cuban flan or crème caramel recipe. Where the classic recipe calls for a half cup of milk, I replace this ingredient with a half cup of the flavor I am adding to the flan like a half cup brewed Cuban coffee or a half cup canned shredded coconut. Whether pumpkin flavored or not, flan is a classic dessert worthy to have in your arsenal.

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Pumpkin Flan

  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch salt

Allow the eggs to get to room temperature. I am convinced room temperature eggs make for a better flan, but go ahead and use them straight out of the fridge if you insist. Make the caramelized sugar coating for the pumpkin flan first since it needs to cool before you can pour in the custard mixture.

This is the hardest part of making the pumpkin flan, just don’t psych yourself out. Add a ½ cup of the white sugar into the flanera. I have never made flan in anything but a flanera. I have seen that people make flan in all sorts of containers, but I swear by the flanera since the lid and locks allow the pumpkin flan to also steam on the inside of the device. Put the sugar on low to medium heat and have a spoon handy to stir.

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Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT try to taste the sugar as it is caramelizing. The sugar will be molten hot and will surely burn your tongue and your skin if you touch it. Little sections of the sugar will start to caramelize faster- gently stir the sugar so it doesn’t burn and mixes evenly. The caramelized sugar should be completely clear when it is done. The sugar will be a little cloudy as it melts, and it is not finished until it is crystal clear and a lovely rich amber hue. This part is easy to mess up and burn the caramel. You can still technically use it, but it might not taste as great as a perfectly done caramel. Once the sugar is done caramelizing, hold the flanera with an oven mitt and gently rotate the hot caramel around making sure to coat the sides well. Allow this to cool for 30 minutes or so.

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Preheat the oven to 350. Before I got a KitchenAid I used to simply toss all of the flan ingredients into a blender until well mixed. I have whisked the ingredients together, but now I just use the KitchenAid with the whisk attachment and let that baby run for a few minutes. You can literally dump all of the ingredients into a blender, bowl, or KitchenAid. Blend well making sure there are no yellow wisps of the egg yolk or unblended egg whites in the mix. Now place the flanera in a larger 13 x 9 pan and pour the custard mixture into the flanera through a strainer or sieve. You can hear the hardened caramelized sugar cracking as the cool liquid is poured in. Fear not- that is just fine. Now place the flanera lid on and lock in place.

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Place the pan and flanera in the middle of the oven and pour water into the pan half way to make a Bain Marie or water bath. You can choose to add the water earlier, but it is difficult to hold the sloshing water bath and gently place it in the oven. Bake for one hour. Sometimes I feel this step out and add 15 minutes or so to be sure the center is firm. You can carefully remove the flanera lid and jiggle to see if the custard has set. There should be some soft jiggle, but not a liquid center.

Remember as the pumpkin flan is cooling with the lid on it will continue to cook through and become firmer. Allow the pumpkin flan to cool on the countertop until you can handle the flanera with bare hands. Place the pumpkin flan in the fridge overnight. I have tried to serve this dessert within 6 hours of making it, and it was simply not cold enough. Make this dessert a day or two in advance!

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Before serving run a knife or spatula along the edges to separate it from the dish- normally as the dessert cools it will contract and separate from the sides, but it is always okay to err on the side of caution. Place a plate or your desired serving dish over the flan and invert. You will likely hear the pumpkin flan separate from the bottom with a gurgling noise. Lift the dish carefully and scrape out some of the delicious caramel and pour all over on top. Pause to ooh and aah over the beautiful pumpkin flan you have just made, slice, and enjoy!

*For a pumpkin cheesecake variety use only 4 eggs and add a ½ cup softened cream cheese.

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Pumpkin Old Fashioned

 Instagram photo Pumpkin Old Fashioned

Bourbon and spice and everything nice, that’s what pumpkin old fashioneds are made of. I want to buy pumpkins, wreaths, and those cinnamon stick broom things that remind me of my elementary school librarian. Despite the warmer weather I am fiending for fall. Even today I was lingering in the holiday decoration section of TJ Maxx wondering longingly if I would have use for that little scarecrow wishing me a happy Thanksgiving. I was then suddenly reminded of the pumpkin spice syrup I made last year for slushies, drinks, and coffee. The realization then dawned on me- pumpkin spice syrup was made for one thing and one thing alone- a pumpkin old fashioned cocktail!!!

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Pumpkin old fashioned cocktail is packed with fall flavors and will give you all those giddy feelings in anticipation of the holiday season. Before the weather becomes too cold for my thin tropical blood I want to sit in my backyard (which I wish looked like this) sipping on a pumpkin old fashioned while watching the leaves twirl down to tiny piles on the ground. Even though I’m gushing over gourds and swooning for squash, I’ll enjoy the warmer weather this week and brace myself for a Manhattan winter.

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Pumpkin Old Fashioned

  • 2 teaspoons Pumpkin Spice Syrup
  • 2 oz Bourbon (I used Bulleit Rye)
  • Orange twist or cinnamon stick for garnish or star anise
  • 1 ice cube

Shake the bourbon and pumpkin spice syrup with ice until chilled. If you prefer to stir your cocktails, by all means, knock yourself out! Pour over a fresh ice cube. Garnish the bourbon pumpkin old fashioned with an orange twist or cinnamon stick. If you have cloves I like to stick them into the orange rind for extra aromatics sometimes. This drink is smooth and spiced and everything nice.

Pumpkin-Old-Fashioned-Ingredients-StellarAsh.com Bulleit-Rye-Pumpkin-Old-Fashioned-on-StellarAsh.com

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Broccoli Salad with Pumpkin Seeds

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Broccoli salad with raisins and toasted pumpkin seeds in yogurt vinaigrette feels like an Indian summer dish. In NYC the buzz has been that summer is over. Yet the last few days have felt a surge of warmth again, and it feels like I’m holding onto the last humid hints of summertime. I have learned that cooking in a tiny NYC kitchen requires diligence and planning. When I used to blog in Miami I bought ingredients on a whim and had ample storage space for them too. Now when I cook I aim to use up all of the ingredients purchased before I venture out to buy more and more.

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When broccoli is raw it can be bold like a radish- very crisp and with a slight bitter tang to its tiny floral cruciferous heads. For me the smell of cooking broccoli is slightly sulfuric and almost garlicky. Since I am ever so lazy and despise doing dishes I decided to make a one bowl salad- which means I’d be eating the broccoli raw- no extra pots for me to wash. After making a few of my favorite recipes I had some odd ingredients waiting to be tossed together to make this healthy and crunchy broccoli salad.

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I wanted a no-fuss recipe so I chopped the broccoli head up into little green florets that resembled a broken bouquet on my cutting board. The tangy yogurt vinaigrette, sweet raisins, and salty pumpkin seeds softened the sharp vegetable-like quality of the broccoli as it marinated in the fridge and became tender. This broccoli salad is a perfect summertime ‘last hurrah’ side dish or picnic salad. As they’ve been saying, winter is coming, and fall dishes await, but for now I’ll enjoy these last few days of a New York summer.

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Broccoli Salad with Pumpkin Seeds in Yogurt Vinaigrette

  • 4 oz. low fat green yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh tarragon
  • ½ large shallot diced
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1 head broccoli large stalked removed
  • ½ cup toasted and salted pumpkin seeds

Whisk together the first 6 ingredients to make the tangy yogurt dressing. Add the chopped fresh tarragon, stalks removed, and the finely diced shallot. Whisk the ingredients together again and add the raisins. Allow the raisins to plump up in the dressing while you chop the broccoli.

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Remove the large stalk and discard. Cut off the broccoli florets from their stalks and set aside. Cube the remaining broccoli stalks and toss in the bowl with the dressing. Cut the broccoli florets down to small bite size pieces. Add the rest of the broccoli into the salad dressing and stir well. Place in a container with a fitted lid or seal securely with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

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Allow the crunchy broccoli salad to marinate in the dressing and soak up all of the delicious flavors for at least 2 hours before serving chilled or at room temperature. The broccoli will soften and become more flavorful. This salad serves around 4 and would be perfect for a fall picnic or light lunch side dish.

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