Pumpkin Ginger Rice Pudding

1/2 small pumpkin or 1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2/3 cup long-grain white rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (2 oz)
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar such as Sugar in the Raw (optional)

Bake pumpkin:

  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Arrange pumpkin, cut side up, on a sheet of foil. Top with 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Wrap in foil and bake, cut sides up, in a shallow baking pan until flesh is tender, about 1 hour.
  • Open foil and cool pumpkin slightly, then scoop flesh into a food processor and purée until smooth.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Cook rice while pumpkin bakes:

  • Heat rice, salt, 4 cups milk, and remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until very hot. Transfer to a large metal bowl set over a large saucepan of simmering water (or to a double boiler) and cook over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender and most of milk is absorbed, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. (Add more simmering water to saucepan if necessary.) Remove pan from heat and keep rice warm, covered.

Make pudding:

  • Lightly whisk yolks in a large bowl, then whisk in vanilla, ginger, 1 1/3 cups pumpkin purée (reserve remainder for another use), and remaining cup milk. Gradually stir in warm rice, then pour mixture into a buttered 2-quart flameproof shallow baking dish (not glass). Set baking dish in a roasting pan and bake pudding in a hot water bath, uncovered, in oven until set, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  • If caramelizing pudding, sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar, then move blowtorch flame evenly back and forth over sugar until sugar is melted and caramelized. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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