As an alternative to pumpkin pie—or perhaps in addition to it—how about some pumpkin custard? It’s eggier and richer than conventional pumpkin pie filling, and because there’s no crust, it’s gluten free. This lovely recipe, from Nielsen Massey, is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. If you don’t have ramekins or custard cups, use 6-ounce teacups.
How is this custard different from flan and other custards? Check out the different types of custard in our delectable Custard Glossary.
Ingredients For 8 Servings
 Pumpkin custard topped with maple pecan crunch (photo © Nielsen-Massey).
 Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla extract (photo by Claire Freierman | © THE NIBBLE).
1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F. Place 8 six-ounce ramekins onto a rimmed sheet pan or a roasting pan; set aside.
2. COMBINE the half-and-half and liqueur in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat and stir, just until the mixture is warmed. Remove from the heat.
3. COMBINE the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a large bowl. Whisk thoroughly until well combined. Add the pumpkin and whisk until it is incorporated. Slowly pour the heated half-and-half mixture into the pumpkin mixture; whisk continuously until combined.
4. POUR the custard mixture into ramekins. Place in the oven; then carefully pour warm water into the sheet pan, so custards are surrounded and the water depth is about ¾-inch high (this technique is known as a bain-marie). Bake until done, about 40-45 minutes. Remove ramekins from pan, cool completely on wire rack and place in the refrigerator to chill. You can serve the custard chilled or at room temperature.
RECIPE #2: MAPLE PECAN CRUNCH
1. LINE a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
2. COMBINE syrup, vanilla and cayenne pepper in a small bow. Whisk to combine; set aside.
3. LIGHTLY COAT a large skillet with cooking spray; place over medium heat. Add the nuts to skillet and toast until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. CAREFULLY POUR the syrup mixture over the nuts. Cook and stir until the nuts are coated; then remove from heat. Place the nut mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet and cool.
5. TO SERVE: Top the cooled custards with Maple Pecan Crunch. Finish with a pinch of coarse salt.
Store any unused Maple Pecan Crunch in an airtight container. You can use it to top anything from baked sweet potatoes to green salad to vegetables to ice cream.
Did you know that vanilla beans are the fruit of a species of orchid? Of the 110 species in the orchid family, the vanilla orchard is the only one used for food.
While the fruit is called a vanilla “bean,” it has no close relationship to the actual bean family. After the plant flowers, the fruit pod ripens gradually for 8 to 9 months, eventually turning black-brown in color and giving off a strong aroma. Both the exterior of the and the seeds inside are used to create vanilla flavoring.
Check out the history of vanilla, types of vanilla products (including vanilla paste and different terroirs of vanilla extracts and vanilla beans), how to buy vanilla, and our reviews of the best vanilla extracts and vanilla beans.