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In Japan, the kabocha (also known as a kabocha squash) has traditionally been cooked as a savory dish that’s served for dinner, with the seasonings containing a balance of sweet and salty flavors. In recent years, though, sweets and desserts using kabocha have become more popular. Personally, I think kabocha is better for sweet dishes than pumpkin since it has a dense, creamy texture in addition to its sweetness.

This recipe is for a rich kabocha caramel purin (pudding) that uses fresh cream and real vanilla beans in addition to the kabocha. It has a dense and luxurious, mousse-like texture and tastes divine. Making it takes longer than the usual recipes presented in this column, but the end result is worth it.

Recipe:

Serves 4 to 6 (that’s a pan about 18×13×6 centimeters in size)

Prep: 1 hour

Cook: 50 mins., plus the time needed to chill the pudding

For the pudding:

  • 300 grams cooked kabocha squash (about 500 grams before cooking)
  • 150 milliliters milk
  • 150 milliliters heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla pod, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 60 grams sugar
  • 3 large eggs

For the caramel sauce:

  • 70 grams sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon hot water

Directions:

1. Cut up 500 grams of kabocha squash. Put it in a microwave safe container, and microwave on high for about four minutes (the time varies depending on the wattage of your microwave oven). When the kabocha is tender, remove the peel and weigh out 300 grams of cooked flesh. Mash it until smooth. (Remember to save the remainder, including the peel, for a soup later on.)

2. Split a vanilla pod in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Put the milk and cream into a pan with the vanilla pod and the seeds. Heat over low heat until the mixture is hot but not bubbling. Take off the heat and leave to infuse for at least 20 minutes. (If using vanilla essence, just add it to the cream-milk mixture.)

3. Make the caramel sauce. Put the 70 grams of sugar and 1 tablespoon of water in a frying pan. Heat over high heat. It’s important not to stir as doing so will cause the sugar to crystallize and clump up. Swirl the pan around to catch any stray sugar. The sugar will first melt, then form into a white mass; in a while the sugar will start to turn brown and melt. Things happen quickly once it starts melting. As soon as all the sugar has melted (it will be brown), take the pan off the heat. Add the tablespoon of hot water (be careful as it may splatter and burn you). Stir well. Pour the sauce in the bottom of the oven dish and spread it around.

4. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

5. Break the eggs into a bowl and break up with a fork or whisk, but don’t let it become foamy. Add 60 grams of sugar and mix. Add the kabocha mash and mix well. Add half the infused cream-milk mixture and mix well. Then, add the rest of the mixture. Pass the mixture through a sieve, pushing through the kabocha squash. Pour it into the oven dish.

6. Put the oven dish into a large oven container and fill up the larger container with hot water until it comes up to half the height of the main oven dish. Bake at 170 C for about 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

7. Cool the pudding, then refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight. Run a knife around the perimeter, and put the oven dish in a bowl of warm water for a minute to loosen. Invert the pudding onto a plate and serve.

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