A bite of this flan, fragrant with traditional pumpkin-pie spices, is very comforting despite the dessert's modern looks; a topping of pumpkin seeds, seasoned with cayenne, creates a play of sweet and heat.


I halved the recipe and used a 2 quart soufflé dish; inverted flan onto a dinner plate.


For caramel and flan

1 & ¾ C cups sugar – divided

¼ Cup water (caramel)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

5 whole large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk

1 (15-oz) can solid-pack pumpkin (1 3/4 cups; not pie filling)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt


For spiced pumpkin seeds

1 cup green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (1/4 lb; not toasted)

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne


Special equipment: a 2-qt soufflé dish or round ceramic casserole dish

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.


Make Caramel

  • In a small heavy saucepan, dissolve 3/4 Cup of the sugar in ¼ Cup water over moderate heat. Stir and bring the syrup to a boil and let it boil, uncovered and undisturbed, until it begins to turn golden.
  • Boil the syrup, swirling the pan, until it is a deep caramel color. Pour immediately into your soufflé dish and tilt pan to coat the bottom and an 1” or 2” up the sides. Let the caramel harden.


Make flan:

  • Bring cream and milk to a bare simmer in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat; remove from heat.
  • Whisk together whole eggs, yolk, and remaining cup sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then whisk in pumpkin, vanilla, spices, and salt until combined well.
  • Add hot cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking.
  • Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, scraping with a rubber spatula to force through, and stir to combine well.
  • Pour custard over caramel in dish, then bake in a water bath until flan is golden brown on top and a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours (check starting at 40 minutes – mine was done at 1 hour – should be at 75 degrees)
  • Remove dish from water bath and transfer to a rack to cool. Chill flan, covered, until cold, at least 6 hours.


Make spiced pumpkin seeds while flan chills:

  • Toast pumpkin seeds in oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until puffed and golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Toss with salt and cayenne until coated.


To serve:

Dip dish bottom in hot water to melt caramel. Shake dish gently from side to side and, the flan should move freely in dish. If it doesn’t work, run a thin knife between flan and side of dish to loosen and dip dish again. Invert a large platter with a lip over dish. Holding dish and platter securely together, quickly invert and turn out flan onto platter. (Caramel will pour out over and around flan.) Sprinkle flan with spiced pumpkin seeds just before serving.


Cooks' notes:

• Flan can be chilled 1 day.

• Spiced pumpkin seeds keep in an airtight container at room temperature, 3 days.