Domesticity Nouveau

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Custard

Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Sugar-free Pumpkin Custard

I have been craving pumpkin pie lately, but really didn’t want to go to the effort of trying recipes for grain free crusts, being the lazy cook that I am.  And really, it was a yearning for the filling that I wanted to satiate, not some need to replicate pie dough. 

I wanted that traditional pumpkin pie flavor, nothing fancy and ‘gourmet’, just good ol’ pumpkin pie.  My family has always used the Libby’s brand pumpkin pie filling, so I went to their recipe, tweaked things a bit to fit our dietary desires and below are the results.

I am in pumpkin pie heaven and I hope you are, too... get out your sporks and dig in!

Pumpkin Custard
Sugar-free, Dairy-free, Gluten-free

1/4 tsp stevia powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp kosher flake salt
2 large eggs
15 oz can pumpkin purée
14 oz can coconut milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix stevia, salt & spices in small dish, set aside.  Beat eggs in large bowl, stir in pumpkin and spices.  Stir in coconut milk.  Place Six 4oz ramekins, lightly greased with coconut oil, in baking dish and fill with custard mix.  Pour 1 inch boiling water into baking dish around ramekins and bake at 425 for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 bake 15-20 minutes, until still a bit wobbly in the center.  Turn oven off, crack door and let rest 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately take out of the water bath and set on a rack to cool.  Serve warm or chilled, with or without whipped cream.

(11/5/2011 edit:  Check out the Spiced Chocolate Version and alternative baking method!)

Here we go with another round of Q and A...

I don’t have stevia powder, can I use something else?
You can use whatever sweetener of choice you would desire in the amount you desire.  The original recipe from Libby’s called for 3/4 cup sugar.  The 1/4 tsp of stevia powder is equivalent to about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar in sweetness.  Feel free to use sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, etc from 1/4 to 3/4 cups.  The coconut milk has quite a bit of sweetness to it, which is why I was able to cut back on how much sweetness needed to be added.

Can I just use pumpkin pie spice instead of the spices listed?
Sure, that would be much easier!  You will need 2 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice instead of the individually listed spices.  Libby’s recipe doesn’t call for nutmeg, but I thought a little bit would add a nice touch.  Freshly grated nutmeg tastes quite different than ground nutmeg from the jar.  You don’t need a fancy nutmeg grating contraption, simply use a microplane to grate however much you desire from the whole nutmegs.  Whole nutmegs keep for a very long time compared to ground nutmeg.

I don’t have kosher flake salt, can I use table salt?
Of course you can, just cut the measurement to 1/2 tsp salt.

I don’t have a mixer, can I do this by hand?
You sure can.  I hadn’t used Betsy (my Kitchenaid mixer) in a while.  It was probably a bit of overkill in the power tool department for this recipe, but I missed her.  The coconut milk doesn’t mix in quite as easily as the original recipe's choice of condensed milk, but that just means you get more of a workout whisking it in.

Won’t this taste like coconut because of all that coconut milk?
Surprisingly not!  I always worry about that in recipes that substitute coconut milk.  I think pumpkin and all the spices are much stronger flavors and why this works.  For those of you new to coconut milk, it tends to form a thick, hearty layer on top, with a thin watery layer on the bottom.  This often results in me trying to pry the thick layer out of the can while simultaneously applying enough force for the watery layer to come squirting out and dousing my face with coconut liquid.  If I was smart, I would remember this each time and slide a knife down the side and into the thick layer so I could gently pour out the thinner liquid without the mess, then remove the thick layer.  Unfortunately, I forget this most times.  If you happen to lose a little of the thin liquid because of this, don’t worry, it will still turn out fine!

Do I have to use coconut milk?
Of course not.  If you are not worried about dairy-free or the additives in condensed milk, feel free to use a 12 oz can of condensed milk as the original recipe calls for.  I decided to go with the coconut milk because I could use less stevia to sweeten the recipe and am trying to avoid as many additives in food as possible.  I have nothing against dairy in general, but try to use it in as whole a form, without additives, as I can.  Too much stevia can sometimes have a back-note on the palette that is unpleasant.  It works in recipes where a subtle and mild fennel/licorice type flavor isn’t noticed or is complimentary, but not so much in desserts.  The Kal Pure Stevia Powder has the least of this back-note in my experience, but it is still there when used in amounts necessary for some sweets.  Thankfully it works perfectly with this pumpkin custard recipe!

I don’t have coconut oil, what else can I grease the ramekins with?
You can use whatever fat of choice you would prefer, just make sure it is a flavor you would like with pumpkin pie... olive oil, not so much, walnut oil, much better.  Palm shortening and butter would work well, but avoid the butter if you are trying to keep this dairy-free.

Do I have to use ramekins?
You can use whatever vessel you desire, the baking time will just need to be adjusted.  You could even pour this into a pie plate (with or without your crust of choice) and bake.  The original Libby’s recipe calls for baking a pie at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.  I like the ramekins because they are cute and I won’t eat the whole recipe in one sitting while hiding in the closet with my spork.

What’s with the boiling water?
It’s called a water bath and it helps to keep smaller portions from overcooking and drying out.  I thought about skipping this traditional step in custard making, but I’m glad I didn’t.  I really think it helped to make this treat creamy, light and moist.  Be careful when moving to and from the oven so you don’t slosh yourself or your treats with scalding water!

What does wobbly in the center mean?
When the final timer goes off, give the baking dish a little wiggle and you should see the custard jiggle but not slosh like it does before baking.  Before you start the baking, give a filled ramekin a little nudge to see how it moves so you have something to compare with when deciding if baking is complete.

How do I get the ramekins out of the hot water and baking dish?
I used a solid pair of tongs.  Make sure you have a sturdy grip on the little dishes as it would be a shame for them to slip from your tongs and splash back into the water bath!  If you are unsure of your tongs, or just don’t have any, carefully do this with a pot holder.  You need to remove the ramekins immediately because the water bath will continue to cook the custard since it is very, very hot.  I placed mine on a cooling rack so that air could circulate and cool all the sides evenly, assuring the bottoms did not retain heat and overcook.  Once at room temperature, you can place them in the fridge to chill if that is how you plan to serve.

How do I make whipped cream?
Whipped cream happens when the fat in the cream surround the air you mix into it.  In order for this to happen you need everything very cold.  Think about the difference between cold butter and room temperature butter; the room temperature butter is soft and doesn’t hold its shape as well, the same thing applies to the fats in liquid cream.  Pour your cold heavy whipping cream into a chilled bowl and add sweetener of choice.  Using a chilled whisk or chilled mixer beaters, whip at a high speed until it doubles in volume and holds its shape.  Be cautious not to over whip or you end up with butter or buttery textured whipped cream.  To keep this sugar free, I used Sweet Leaf Vanilla Cream liquid stevia to sweeten the whipping cream.  I hear you can whip coconut milk the same way, but have yet to try that.


  1. I almost had a question but your thorough post answered it..perfect.!

  2. I tried these tonight. They taste good but came out more like pudding than custard. Maybe they'll firm up more in the fridge. Also, they kind of had a greenish tint, not attractive, but they taste good.

    I didn't have Stevia powder so I used 3/4 cup Stevia-in-the Raw granules and I think it was too sweet.

    I'll try again, though! Thanks!

  3. Very descriptive and just what I was looking for. Going to make this for my 10 month old to introduce eggs, and will probably reconstitute some raisins instead of stevia for sweetness and added nutrients. If it turns out how I hope I'll reblog :)

  4. Is there a difference between stevia powder, and the stevia packets?

    1. Hi! Yes, there is a difference, but I suspect it's is one you can accommodate for.

      The little packets have filler to bulk them up and allow the powder to flow out of the packet. It's such a tiny amount of stevia powder to get the sweetness level of regular sugar that in a packet it would likely coat the inside with nothing left to tip into your coffee. The stevia powder I used for the recipe is lacking any of the bulking or flow ingredients.

      If you go with the amount of sugar in the original Libby's recipe I worked from, you would need the equivalent of 36tsp of sugar. I don't have any of the little packets, but there should be some indicator on the packaging to say it is equivalent to 1 tsp, or the like, of regular sugar.

      A little bit of math might be needed, but here are the basics:
      1/4cup sugar (the sweetness level in the recipe above) is 12tsp/4Tbsp
      1/2cup sugar is 24tsp/8Tbsp
      3/4cup is 36Tbsp/12Tbsp
      1cup is 48tsp/16Tbsp

      Changing to another sweetener may change the volume of the recipe and you might need an additional ramekin. 1/4tsp vs 24 little packets or 1/4cup maple syrup, etc. hasn't been something I have tried, so be aware that changes in volume or moisture level could produce different results... But the they could be better! (And if they are, let me know, ha!)