Of course, the frog part was an accident!
When my little meringue ghosts collapsed after their stint in the oven into weird brown froggies on lily pads, I put it down to the stevia I subbed for more than half the sugar. It seems that for meringues to hold their height, the sugar-to-eggwhite ratio is crucial. Live and learn.
But that same week, the Halloween tricks continued. When I burnt my granola bars to smithereens at 300F, I began to suspect there was a gremlin fiddling with the oven temperature, as well.
A thermometer confirmed the worst. My oven is running too hot at the low end and too cool at the high end. Seeing as most of the things we bake are smack dab in the middle, we hadn’t twigged to this problem!
An afternoon charting “actual” against “dial” temperatures meant we were ready to roll. My new batch of Halloween ghosts look suitably spooky as they float across the counter. Tasty, too!
The brulé was a little over-done, too, the last time out… now that I think about it. It lacked the creamy softness of a just-right custard. It came out more like pumpkin-pie filling. It was still tasty. But next time, at the right oven temperature, I expect the result will be silky awesomeness!
Health-wise, the sugar content in both these desserts is lower than for many other sweet things to eat around Halloween. The fat from the cream in the custard helps regulate blood-sugar spikes. The egg whites are pure protein. And the bright orange pumpkin gives us more vitamin A in a single serving than we need in a whole day.
The brulé and the meringue make great partners, because one uses just the egg yolks and the other, the whites. The brulé’s easy as long as you pay attention to the details, which I based on Classic crème brulé. Happy Halloween!
Makes four but recipe can be doubled
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup mashed cooked pumpkin or canned pumpkin puree (not canned pumpkin pie filling)
- sugar to sprinkle on top of the cooked custards, about 1/2 teaspoon for each
- Preheat oven to 300 F.
- Arrange 4 (1/2-cup) custard cups in a metal baking pan.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, brown sugar, and white sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Don’t let it boil. Remove from the heat when you see steam. Cool for 10 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks briefly. Slowly add 3/4 cup of the hot cream mixture to the yolks, whisking gently. Add the warm egg mixture to the remaining hot cream, and whisk just until combined. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin, and whisk just until smooth. The less you whisk, the silkier the custard. Put through a strainer into a large bowl with a pouring spout. Divide among the custard cups. Put the pan in the middle of the oven.
- Fill a kettle with water and bring to a boil. Add enough boiling water to the baking pan so it comes halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake 40 to 55 minutes, until the custards are just set in the center but not stiff. When the cups are jiggled, the centre should move like jelly, not like waves. Remove pan from the oven and refrigerate cups until custard is well chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.
- Sprinkle each custard with 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining sugar.
- For best results, use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. (Alternately, you can broil the custards until the sugar melts and caramelizes, watching closely to avoid burning and rotating the cups, about 1 to 2 minutes. Much harder.) Place each cup on a small dessert plate and serve with a ghostly meringue. Scatter a few candy maple leaves around if you live in Canada.
Makes 24 little ghosts. Recipe can be halved. Much thanks to Jess and Akima of Two fat foodies going for slim for the idea.
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- 1 cup castor sugar (or grind a cup of regular white sugar into a powder in your food processor, about 30 seconds)
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (these add a nice fall kick)
- a large plastic self-sealing baggie
- eye balls or chocolate chips to make little eyes
- sparkles and sprinkles and such
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets.
With a hand mixer, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high until soft peaks form when you turn off and lift the mixer.
Add the vanilla and spices. While the mixer is running, add spoonfuls of sugar until it’s all in. Scrape the sides of your mixing bowl and give the whole thing one last mix up. The meringue should look glossy and thick.
Fill the baggie with the meringue. Cut off a tiny bit of one corner. Squeeze a large ball of meringue onto the cookie sheet, about 1 inch in diameter. Squeeze a second slightly smaller ball onto the first ball.
Boo! Meet your first little ghost! Squeeze more ghosts about an inch or so apart from each other. Once you’ve squeezed out all the meringue, add eyes and sprinkles etc. Check out bulk food stores and craft stores for goodies. I got lots for less than a dollar.
And that’s the story of how I turned a tricky rccipe into a real treat!