These delicate baby puddings scented with a touch of rum and orange zest started life as the filling for my mother’s pumpkin pie. But since I don’t have Devin’s deft hand in the pastry department, I decided to skip the crust and make these sweet little desserts instead.
Melt half the sugar in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the sugar starts to melt around the edge of the pan, stir until all the sugar has melted. Add the remaining sugar and stir until it has turned a caramel colour. This could take up to 15 minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, it should register 250°F (120°C), just below hard boil.
Stir in the pecans and salt and quickly pour the mixture onto a lightly buttered counter or baking sheet. Use a lightly oiled spatula to smooth the brittle into a thin layer (about 1/4 inch/6 mm thick). Allow to cool and then break into shards. Extra brittle will keep in a closed container for a few days.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and mace in a large bowl.
Whisk together the eggs, evaporated milk, rum and orange zest in a separate bowl. Stir the egg mixture into the puree.
Divide the custard among six 3/4-cup (190 ml) ovenproof ramekins and place in a roasting pan. If there are any small bubbles on top of the custards, draw the tip of a small knife across the top to break them.
Make a bain marie by pouring warm water into the roasting pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Place a piece of foil lightly over the top and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the puddings are barely quivering in the middle.
Remove the ramekins from the oven, cool on a rack and refrigerate, covered, until an hour before serving.
Cinnamon Whipped Cream
Combine the cream and vanilla in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and cinnamon. Whip until the cream is soft and billowy. Refrigerate.
Garnish the flans with a dollop of whipped cream and a shard of pecan brittle.