You really don’t have to do anything other than scoop the flesh out of a pawpaw to have a superb dessert. But if you want to take your foraged harvest to a whole new level…try pawpaw creme brulée. It’s one of the most unique and wonderful flavors I’ve ever experienced. You’ll need a cup of pawpaw purée for this recipe, which should require either two large pawpaws or three smaller ones. If you come up a little short or a little over, just do some math and keep the proportions (listed below) the same.
What You’ll Need to Make Pawpaw Creme Brulée
- 2 large (or 3 small) perfectly ripe pawpaws
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons bourbon
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 5 egg yolks (save the whites for meringue cookies, or add them to your next omelet or scramble)
What You’ll Do to Make Pawpaw Creme Brulée
First, you’ll need to purée the pawpaws. Slice each pawpaw in half and scoop out the flesh. The seeds are large and the fruit clings tenaciously to the seeds. So as not to waste a precious speck of fruit, use your fingernail to slice through the jacket of pawpaw flesh that coats the seed, then pull it off.
Transfer the flesh to the bowl of a food processor, and purée until it’s perfectly smooth. Pawpaw purée freezes well, so if you end up with more than a cup, you can freeze the leftovers. Or you can just eat it with a spoon.
Next, combine the cream and bourbon in a saucepan and bring it just barely to a simmer. Whisk to prevent scorching. Remove it from the heat as soon as the first bubbles appear, and set it aside.
Whisk the sugar and salt into the egg yolks. Then, add the heated cream mixture to the eggs, a little at a time, whisking constantly. This is called tempering the eggs and the goal is to raise the temperature of the eggs without cooking them. If you add too much hot liquid, too quickly, the eggs will cook and solidify rather than form a silky, thickened liquid. It’s easier than it sounds, as long as you proceed slowly and carefully.
Stir in the pawpaw purée and combine thoroughly.
Pour the custard mixture into 3″ ramekins and place the ramekins in a shallow roasting pan. Fill the pan with water to within a half inch of the top of the ramekins, then bake at 350F for about 30 minutes. The tops of the custards should not be entirely solid when you take them out of the oven; they should look a little jiggly.
Refrigerate the custards overnight or for at least 4 – 6 hours.
Before serving, sprinkle a layer of sugar on top of each custard (about 1 Tablespoon per ramekin). Then, using a small torch, melt the sugar, and let it cool (briefly!) to form that glassy, sweet topping that cracks so satisfyingly under a gentle whap from your spoon.
Do not kid yourself thinking there will be leftovers and you might save one pawpaw creme brulée for breakfast. There will never be leftovers.