1/3plump vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
3tablespoonsunsalted butter (plus extra for the ramekins)at room temperature
1/4cupunrefined sugar (such as Alter Eco's muscobado sugar), or brown sugar, (1 1/2 ounces)
3tablespoonsgranulated sugar, (1 1/4 ounces)
1large egg, at room temperature
1/2cupsquash puree, at room temperature , (homemade, see above, or canned)
1/3cupall-purpose flour, (1 1/2 ounces)
1/3cupwhole spelt (or whole wheat pastry)flour, (1 1/4 ounces)
1/4teaspoonfine sea salt
1/4teaspoonfreshly grated nutmeg
powdered sugar, for dusting the cakes
Make the Crème Anglaise:
In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the dairy and the vanilla pod and scrapings. Warm over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until steamy and bubbles form around the edges. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep 15-30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, salt and sugar. Whisk until pale and thick, 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the warm dairy, whisking constantly, then return the mixture to the pot. Place over low heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heat-proof silicone spatula, until the mixture thickens to the texture of cold, heavy cream, and/or registers 175ºF on an instant read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Immediately strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and into a metal bowl. Place the bowl in an ice bath, and stir occasionally until cold. Pour the sauce into an airtight container and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. The crème anglaise will keep for up to 3 days.
Make the cakes:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º.
Coat four 4-ounce ramekins with butter and dust with flour, knocking out the excess. Place the ramekins in an 8" square baking pan. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
Combine the butter and sugars in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until lightened in color, scraping the mixer and paddle once or twice. Add the egg, and beat on medium until smooth and light, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, sift together the flours, baking powder, salt and spices into a medium bowl.
Add half the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add the squash puree and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold a few times with a rubber spatula to make sure the mixture is evenly combined.
Divide the mixture among the ramekins, filling them 2/3 of the way (a spring-loaded ice cream scoop works well for this). Pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the ramekins, and cover the pan with foil, leaving a little room over top for the cakes to rise. Carefully transfer the cakes to the oven.
Bake the cakes until they are puffed and pulling away from the sides of the ramekins, and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean with a few moist crumbs, 35-45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let the cakes cool for at least 15 minutes (they are still cooking from residual heat).
To serve, run a thin knife around the edges of the cakes and turn out onto plates or shallow bowls. Dust with powdered sugar, and pour a puddle of crème anglaise around each cake.
Adapted heavily from The Arrows Cookbook.If you wish to make your own squash puree (though canned pumpkin should work just fine), halve a small winter squash (hubbard, kabocha and butternut are my favorites) leaving in the seeds and strings. Place the squash halves cut-side-down on an oiled, rimmed baking sheet, and bake in a 400º oven until bronzed, tender, and beginning to collapse, about 45 minutes. Let cool, then scrape out and discard the seeds and strings. Scoop the flesh into a food processor and puree smooth. Extra squash puree can be stirred into oatmeal or polenta, or turned into Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns or Pumpkin Ice Cream.For best results, have all ingredients at room temperature, which ensures that the batter will emulsify and bake up light and fluffy.Both the cakes and the crème anglaise can be made up to 2 days in advance; reheat in a 350º oven for 15 minutes.I like a rich crème anglaise, as shown here, but it can be made with all half and half or whole milk for a lighter version.If you lack ramekins, you can bake the cakes in disposable foil cups or muffin cups.Nutritional values are based on one of four cakes served with creme anglaise.