Silky-smooth custard, salty-sweet caramel, pumpkin-spiced joy. This seasonal treat is a perfect fit for Instant Pot’s dessert wheelhouse – like we learned when we made Maple Espresso Creme Brulee and Greek Yogurt Cheesecake, high-pressure steam can be a very effective way to quickly and evenly cook any custard.
If you’ve never made caramel before, it’s an interesting reaction to observe. Upon heating pure sucrose, the sugar molecules begin to break down and their pieces get shuffled around to form a virtually infinite array of new and different compounds, each with unique flavors and aromas. This is why as caramel darkens, it gradually becomes less sweet and more complex.
Be sure to use only white, granulated sugar when making caramel. If you attempt to use any type of “raw” sugar, the trace micronutrients present (remember when we learned about the “impurities” extracted into molasses during sugar refinement?) disrupt the delicate chemical ballet – you’ll end up with a burned mess, unfortunately.
The part that can take some practice is cooking the sugar syrup to just the right amber color (the color in the saucepan photo above is what I shoot for). Be ready to act fast, because the caramel can turn from golden to black in the blink of an eye. The moment it’s ready, quickly stir in the salt and carefully spoon the caramel into your prepared ramekins.
Once you master making your own caramel, Instant Pot makes the rest of the cooking process a cinch. The custards get 8 minutes of hands-off pressure cooking, then chill in the fridge before serving. These would be a great make-ahead dessert for your Thanksgiving meal, or any night that calls for a salty-sweet seasonal treat.
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[Instant Pot] Pumpkin Salted Caramel Flan
For the Caramel:
- 100 g (1/2 cup) white granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1.5 g (heaping 1/4 teaspoon) salt
For the Custard:
- 130 g (1/2 cup) pureed pumpkin fresh or canned
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground dried ginger
- 50 g (1/4 cup) sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- Prepare six 4-ounce ramekins by lightly coating them with butter. Make the caramel by adding the sugar and water to a small saucepan over medium heat. Swirl to combine, but avoid stirring (which can encourage the sugars to crystallize). Watch the syrup boil until it turns to a light amber color, then quickly stir in the salt and immediately spoon the caramel evenly between the ramekins.
- Stir together the pumpkin, spices, sugar, eggs and yolks in a small bowl until well combined. Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix gently to keep the mixture smooth with minimal bubbles. Pour the custard mixture evenly between the ramekins, then cover each with a small piece of aluminum foil.
- In a pressure cooker, place a low trivet or rack and pour in 1 cup of water. Arrange three ramekins on the rack, then place the other three, spaced evenly, in a second layer on top.
- Cover the pressure cooker with the lid, ensuring that the valve is in sealed position. Cook under high pressure for 1 minute (with Instant Pot, press ‘Steam’ mode, and adjust time to 8 minutes).
- When the cooking time is complete, wait for 10 minutes before opening the lid for a natural release. Remove the ramekins to a rack and allow them to cool to room temperature before chilling in the refrigerator. To serve, invert the custards onto a small plate, allowing the salted caramel sauce to run over.