pumpkin creme brulee

Autumn already?

Happy Autumn Equinox, everyone! Today marks the “official” start of fall in the Northern hemisphere, with exactly 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness, and it’s all downhill from there as far as daylight goes, LOL, until December 21st. I hear it’s the only day where you can balance a pumpkin on its stem. Oh wait, that’s an egg…no, that’s a myth, right?

It doesn’t feel like fall in Virginia yet, and it probably won’t in places like Texas until the winter solstice.

Moving on….

Of course, there are plenty of “unofficial” occasions that mark the start of fall for some folks. The end of Labor Day weekend. The first day back to school for the kiddos. The very tops of the sugar maples starting to turn red and gold. Ah, bliss. I love fall.

But I’m not here to talk about those particular signs. I’m here to talk about September 1st, aka the start of Pumpkin Spice Latte season in the Starbucks world. That’s what fall is really all about, Charlie Brown. *wink*

Pumpkin Spice…the source of delight and mockery. 


It’s all a matter of perspective.

You may have seen “a few” things on the internet about the pumpkin spice phenomenon. Seems like there’s a pumpkin spice for every occasion (at least hypothetically, haha).

For the horror movie fans:

For the second amendment folks:


Even the automotive DIYers can get in on the pumpkin spice craze, LOL:

As for me, I used to be a PSL fan, but I switched to mochas – a year-round, good-ol’ reliable flavor. But hey, you PSL enthusiasts out there, rock on. The world can use all the comfort it can get right now. Wave your flag proudly.

While I don’t drink PSLs anymore, I’m still a fan of pumpkin flavored desserts and treats. In fact, after checking my list of recipes on my iPad (I love the Recipe Tin app!), I was a bit startled to discover that I have 21 pumpkin recipes. Only one ingredient category has a larger number: chicken, at 24. Beef trailed in at third, tied with chocolate, at 20 each.

(Chocolate is tied for third? It’s a world gone mad. *sob*).

I’ve already shared my pumpkin fudge and pumpkin tiramisu recipes in earlier posts (listed below), but I figured ’tis the season for pumpkin, so why not another? So here’s my recipe for pumpkin creme brulee, a dessert featured in at least one of my Concordia books. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Crème Brulee (4 servings)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar, firmly packed
For sugar shell top: 4 tsp granulated white sugar.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (Fahrenheit). In a saucepan, whisk cream, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, until bubbles form around edges of saucepan and steam rises from the surface. DO NOT BOIL. Take pan off the heat and set aside for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and sugars (except that reserved for sugar top) in a large bowl until ingredients are fully incorporated. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, and whisk the somewhat-cooled cream mixture into the strained mixture. Divide into four ramekins (8oz size).

What the bath looks like. Be sure to cover w/foil before putting in the oven.

Hot water bath: place ramekins in a large baking pan, and pour boiling water into the pan (around the ramekins) until water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until set. It may still be a little jiggly in the middle, but that should set as it cools.

Once they have cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap (don’t touch the wrap to the surface of the custard) and chill in the fridge.

Just before serving, sprinkle 1 tsp of white sugar over top of each custard and either use a small kitchen torch to carmelize the surface, or put ramekins on a baking sheet and set it under the boiler for a minute or two, until the sugar is melted and the top is browned. Let cool briefly, and serve.

What do you enjoy about the fall? Do you have a favorite food this time of year? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


Want more pumpkin recipes? Check out these posts:

for pumpkin fudge:

Start your Halloween with a Pumpkin Mashup!

Taste of Fall: Pumpkin Tiramisu


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What a Lady Sleuth Needs: clues, corset…and dessert!

What a Lady Sleuth Needs: clues, corset…and dessert!

Lady (1)If one were to ask any proper late-nineteenth century lady what she would need in order to conduct a little unorthodox sleuthing, she might list the following:

1. a dark gown of quiet fabric, perfect for night-time reconnoitering;

2. a parasol, for defending oneself against a belligerent witness;

3. a petticoat (second-best, of course), for ripping into strips when preparing to break a window in an emergency;

4. clues: an eyebrow raised, a sigh, a startled flush…even the slightest of these will not escape her eye;

5. a bracing cup of tea, to fortify one’s courage before confronting a suspect in a lonely tower at midnight.

And finally:

6. a dessert table, where our lady sleuth can congregate with potential witnesses or suspects. Sweets are sure to coax even the most reticent to drop one’s guard.

Speaking of desserts, I’ve been asked by fellow mystery writer Nancy Lynn Jarvis to contribute to a mystery author cookbook she’s compiling. Squee!

When I thought about it, I realized that my Concordia Wells series really does have a fair amount of eating going on: dances, teas, picnics…wow, who knew?

And of course, Concordia has a special fondness for desserts. So I’m submitting two for the cookbook: a Charlotte Russe and a pumpkin creme brulee.

What’s a Charlotte Russe?

Charlotte Russe is a 19th century dessert, created by a French chef in honor of his Russian employer, Czar Alexander I (hence the “russe”). There is some disagreement about the “Charlotte” part of the name: some say it is for the czar’s sister-in-law, Queen Charlotte, and others say it is a corrupted form of charlyt, an Old English term for a custard dish.

There are many variations of the dessert, but most of them involve custard, lady fingers, liquor, and fruit. New York bakeries in the 19th century created a “to go” form of the dessert, with sponge cake, custard, and a maraschino cherry on top. It was put in a push-cup that folks could carry around and eat from.

You know I had to test it out, right? Here’s my version of Charlotte Russe:

Charlotte Russe (makes 8-10 servings)

All dessert pics by K.B. Owen



all pics from K.B. Owen

1 packet unflavored gelatin, mixed into ½ cup cold water
1 cup granulated white sugar
4 eggs, separated into whites and yolks
4-6 tablespoons of the liquor of your choice (bourbon, whiskey, sherry or grand marnier work well)
2 cups whipping cream
20 ladyfingers
Garnish: fresh fruit of your choice – strawberries, peaches, berries, orange slices, etc.


Cook gelatin and water mixture on low heat until gelatin is dissolved; remove from heat to cool a bit.

Meanwhile, beat sugar and egg yolks until incorporated and smooth. Whisk in liquor.

Whisk in gelatin until incorporated into the egg yolk mixture.

April2015Desserts 076In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff (don’t overdo it; you don’t want them to be dry). Fold egg whites into the egg yolk/gelatin mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat whipping cream into soft peaks. Gently fold into the rest.




Line a glass bowl (3 qt size) with lady fingers (split them first, nice sides facing out). Fill gently with the cream mixture, being careful not to dislodge the lady fingers.

…the first row of lady fingers. I put a second row on top of this as I filled the bowl.

Cover; chill overnight (at least 8 hours).

If desired, garnish with fresh fruit just before serving.

 April2015Desserts 087

I hope you’ll give Charlotte Russe a try! Do you have a favorite dessert from a novel you’ve read?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


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