By Laura Mack
October 7, 2016
These rich and creamy Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Pots de Creme deliver classic pumpkin flavor with a slight twist on autumn spices for only net 4 carbs per serving. Pots de creme (pronounced po duh krem) are a classic French dessert of semi-soft baked egg custard that use heavy cream, rather than milk or light cream, for extra richness. These simple and elegant little pots of cream are reminiscent of traditional pumpkin pie. However, there is no pie crust to bother with (or to add carbs), and the cream adds a heavenly mouthfeel, along with a good dose of healthy dairy fat. They’re perfect for those of us following a LCHF (low carb, high fat) way of eating!
I’m aware that there is a virtual avalanche of pumpkin recipes this time of year, both sweet and savory. As a long-time fan of pumpkin, I enjoy both. Today, I’m compelled to share one of my favorite low carb autumn desserts. Let me apologize for jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon, but I can’t help myself. This recipe is just too good not to share!
While these low-carb spicy pumpkin fat bombs are perfect for a Thanksgiving dessert (make them a day ahead), they’re simple enough for every day. I want to savor pumpkin-y delights all season long, and I know I’m not alone. My husband, Dale, and son, Sean, are lovers of just about all pumpkin spice confections. One of Sean’s early solid foods as a toddler was the filling from pumpkin pie. He wasn’t remotely interested in the crust, but if I didn’t shovel the filling in fast enough, he would screech with impatience! He’s 27 now and has more patience (thankfully), but he still covets all things pumpkin and spice.
For those of you who roast your own pumpkin, I applaud you. I haven’t yet been moved to do so, however, so I go for canned organic pumpkin puree from the grocery store. It’s in my pantry throughout the year, but certainly in greater quantities from October through December. You’ll want to be sure to pick up plain pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling, which has sugar and spices already added.
For spices, I decided to use a combination of chai spices, which differ somewhat from the usual pumpkin pie spices. While some of the spices are the same, such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and sometimes allspice, the proportions are different. There are also additional spices in chai blends that give a different, more intense flavor profile. Chai spice blends vary, though. The addition of cardamom is fairly standard, but it’s also common to see star anise, as well as black pepper. While I personally love the distinctive licorice flavor that star anise adds, I wanted the pumpkin flavor to shine through in this case, so I left it out. If you haven’t yet tried chai tea or some other product with chai spices, but you love classic pumpkin spice flavors, you will probably love chai spice blends as well. If not, or if you don’t have the spices on hand, you can substitute with 2 teaspoons of your favorite pumpkin pie spice blend.
When you’re looking for chai spice blends or products, be sure to screen the ingredients for added sugars. While sweet and chai flavors pair wonderfully, Deb and I want to be able to add our own low carb natural sweeteners. This gives us the ability to control the type and quality of sweeteners, as well as the level of sweetness. I find that those of us who have been eating low carb/keto for some time generally prefer things less sweet. My typical approach is to use a blend of xylitol and liquid stevia. I tend to err on the less sweet side, and add more liquid stevia to taste, if needed. I rarely follow a recipe (even my own!) without tasting at the end to adjust for salt, sweetness, spices, or other flavors. I don’t worry about a minuscule amount of raw eggs.
Preparing the custard filling is as easy as throwing most of the ingredients in the blender and adding hot cream. I like to use a blender because it’s quick and helps break down any remaining pumpkin fibers. I whirl everything except the eggs and cream for about 30 seconds on low speed. I then add the eggs and blend on low for about 5 seconds. With the blender running on low, I slowly add the hot cream through the hole in the lid and mix just until blended. I don’t want to overmix the custard and beat too much air into the cream and eggs.
The custards are baked in small ramekins or custard cups, with about a 4.5-ounce to 6-ounce capacity. You could even use small mason jars or oven-safe teacups. The ramekins are set inside a water bath to ensure an even, insulated heat. Custards are thickened primarily by egg proteins, which are delicate and become overcooked above 180F. This will cause them to crack or even separate into curdled egg and liquid. The water bath and an instant-read thermometer are your best insurance to prevent this outcome.
Choose a baking dish with sides nearly as high, or higher, than the ramekins. It should be large enough to hold all of the ramekins flat without touching each other or the sides of the dish. Arrange the ramekins in the dish and distribute the custard mixture evenly among them. Transfer the dish to the middle rack of the oven and carefully pour in barely simmering water until it’s at least halfway up the sides of ramekins. Avoid splashing water into the ramekins. Set the timer for 20 minutes to check for doneness — the custard should appear set, except for a slightly jiggly center. Check one of the custards with a thermometer in the center to confirm that the temperature is between 170F and 175F. If not done, continue baking and repeat checking every 5 minutes. For best results, do not let the temperature go over 180F. While custard will still taste good, the texture will suffer.
Working carefully, remove the baking dish from the oven and transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, about 30-45 minutes. Cover the ramekins and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight, before serving. These little beauties cry out for a dollop of lightly whipped cream flavored with a few drops of liquid stevia and vanilla. Garnish the tops with a dash of cinnamon and perhaps a sprinkling of chopped toasted pecans for a little crunch and texture contrast. Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for 4 or 5 days, but should not be frozen.
There are few, if any, desserts that are more comforting or more evocative of autumn than these Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Pots de Creme. Perhaps the best part is that you can enjoy such a treat without raising your blood glucose or expanding your waistline!
Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Pots De Creme
Author: Laura Mack
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 35 mins
These rich and creamy Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Pots de Creme deliver classic pumpkin flavor with a slight twist on autumn spices for only net 4 carbs per serving! They can be made a day ahead, so they're perfect for entertaining.
15 ounces canned pumpkin puree
3 ounces xylitol (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon)
½ teaspoon liquid stevia, or more as needed to taste
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
8 ounces heavy cream
Optional Garnishes: lightly whipped cream, cinnamon, chopped toasted pecans
- Preheat oven to 350F. Assemble eight 4.5-oz to 6-oz ramekins or custard cups in a baking dish with sides as high, or higher than the ramekins, and large enough to hold them flat without the sides touching each other or the edges of the pan.
- Place all ingredients except eggs and cream in a blender. Cover and process on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down edges, if needed, and add whole eggs and egg yolks. Blend for 5 seconds. Heat heavy cream on the stovetop or in the microwave until steaming hot, but not yet simmering. With the blender running on low speed, slowly add the hot cream through the hole in the lid and whirl just until blended. Over mixing the custard will beat too much air into the cream and eggs. Pour the custard into the ramekins, distributing evenly.
- Bring a kettle of water to a simmer. Transfer the pan with the ramekins to the middle rack of the oven and carefully pour in very hot water until it's at least halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Avoid splashing water into the ramekins. Set the timer for 20 minutes to check for doneness -- the custard should appear set, except for a slightly jiggly center. Check one of the custards with a thermometer in the center to confirm that the temperature is between 170F and 175F. If not done, continue baking and repeat checking every 5 minutes. For best results, do not let the temperature go over 180F. While custard will still taste good, the texture will suffer.
- Working carefully, remove the baking dish from the oven and transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, about 30-45 minutes. Cover ramekins and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight, before serving. Serve as is or with a dollop of lightly whipped cream, a dash of cinnamon, and/or a sprinkling of chopped pecans. Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for 4 or 5 days, but should not be frozen.
Nutritional info* per serving (not including optional garnishes: 177 cal, 13.1 g total fat (77%), 5.8 g total carbs, 1.7 g fiber, 4.1 g net carbs, and 3.5 g protein. Please note that I do not count the sugar alcohols from xylitol in the total carbs or net carbs.
*I use Living Cookbook 2015, along with package information and data from www.nutritiondata.self.com, to calculate the nutritional information for my recipes. Thus, I can make no guarantees as to the accuracy.