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Classy alternative to pie for a large Thanksgiving dinner. One of my husband's favorites, but I am not sure if it is just because he gets to play with fire...
- Preheat the oven to 325F with the rack in the center.
- Line a deep baking dish with a cloth and have tea kettle of boiling water ready.
- Butter the insides of 14 ramekins.
- In a heavy saucepan, combine the vanilla, cream, and 1/3 cup sugar.
- Heat on medium high until bubbles just form around the edges of the pan.
- Remove from heat and set aside to steep for 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine the egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar and beat until the mixture is pale yellow and thick ribbons fall from the beater.
- Very gradually add 1/3 to 1/2 of the cream mixture to the egg mixture, stirring constantly.
- Be careful not to "scramble" the eggs.
- Once about half of the cream is in, the outside of the bowl should be warm and you can speed up the addition of cream.
- Stir in all of the spices.
- Fold in the pumpkin.
- Fill the buttered ramekins almost to the top (between 3/4 and full).
- Place them in the lined baking dish and carefully pour the boiling water into the dish about half way up the sides of the ramekins.
- Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake until custards are just set around the edges (30-45 minutes).
- Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes.
- Cover and refrigerate until chilled (about 4 hours).
- They will keep for about 3 days at this point.
- To serve, sprinkle 2 tsp of sugar over each dish and melt the sugar using a kitchen torch until evenly melted and golden.
- You may also put them under the broiler if you do not have a torch.