Happy Endings

The recent addition of a rice cooker to my home has resulted in a wide array of foods being tested and enjoyed -- rice, of course, among them. However, one of my favorite dishes to make with my rice cooker isn't rice at all and is, ironically, a dessert. A rice cooker is ideal for steaming custards.

If you haven't had custard before, you don't know what you're missing. Imagine a pudding with an even creamier texture and a flavor that, for lack of a better word, is incredibly intense. Custards are truly one of my favorite desserts and having a rice cooker means shorter cooking times and not having to rely on heating my entire oven for just a couple bowls.

Of course, the oven's got its role to play as well. Most notably, if you are serving a crowd, you're better off making your custards in the oven since you can easily fit six custard cups into a 9 X 13-inch baking dish filled with water. Either way, you've got a great dessert that already comes in its own serving dish -- all you need to add is whipped cream ... and that's not even required.

This month's recipe actually tops my custard cravings list. A delightful combination of pumpkin and maple flavors, it's truly divine. In fact, I like to crush a little peanut brittle to sprinkle over the whipped cream that I inevitably spoon over this delightful dessert. Some other great sprinklers include chopped pecans (regular or candied) and even candied ginger, which adds a little heat to the dish.

As always, I encourage you to share your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at . Enjoy!

Steamed Pumpkin Custards

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 c. half and half
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. pureed pumpkin
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Spray 3 custard cups with cooking spray and set aside. If using a rice cooker, place a trivet on the bottom of the pot and fill with water until the trivet is covered by half an inch of water. Plug the rice cooker in and set on HIGH. If using the oven, preheat to 325 degrees and place a 8-inch square pan on the bottom rack. Pour about an inch of water into the pan.

Pour the half and half into a small saucepan and heat until steaming, but not boiling. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and maple syrup together. Carefully add the hot half and half to the egg mixture. Add slowly and a little at a time to avoid scrambling the eggs! Add the pumpkin and seasonings to the mixture and pour evenly among the prepared custard cups. Cover each cup tightly with aluminum foil if cooking in a rice cooker and place them in the cooker. Replace the lid and cook for 25 minutes. If using the oven, do not cover the cups and instead carefully place them in the pan filled with water. Bake for about 45 minutes. To test the custards in either case, carefully jiggle the cups. The edges should be set, but the center should jiggle with the consistency of gelatin.

Using metal tongs, carefully remove the custard cups from the water and set on a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and transfer the cups to the refrigerator to chill. If desired, top with whipped topping before serving.

  • Yields: 3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes, plus cooling and chilling times