Food & Wine

A citrus-and-spice flavor twist boosts desserts made with Angostura bitters

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You may have noticed over time that I’m a big fan of Angostura aromatic bitters. Aside from being a mainstay in cocktails like Manhattans, bitters adds an amazing yet subtle flavor dimension to so many foods.

It was developed in Trinidad in 1824, and is used widely in foods throughout the Caribbean. Usage is similar to umami (the fifth taste – soy, mushrooms, red meats) in that it invigorates and boosts the flavor of many foods, adding another layer of flavor. The bitterness is not unlike that in bittersweet chocolate, dark-roast coffees and toasted nuts. Yum.

Angostura orange bitters makes the perfect pumpkin partner because the flavor complements and enhances the pie’s traditional ingredients. This is now my go-to pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving, here we come!

If you are pumpkin-ed out, or generally averse, my recipe for Crème Caramel, a time-honored custard (also known as flan), is laced with bitters, giving it a luscious flavor twist.

Los Altos resident Rita Held offers more cooking ideas and recipes on her blog at GetCookingSimply.com.

Crème Caramel

Caramelized sugar:
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons water
• 6 6-ounce ramekins

Crème:
• 4 large eggs
• 2 cups whole milk or half & half
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons Angostura aromatic bitters or 1/2 teaspoon Angostura orange bitters
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 325 F. Place ramekins in 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan, with sides that are at least 3 inches high. Combine sugar and water in small saucepan and stir. Boil gently over medium heat approximately 10 minutes or until sugar starts to turn golden.
Remove from heat and divide among ramekins, coating bottoms of each as you pour. Note that sugar will continue to caramelize after removing pan from heat. Meanwhile, boil a quart or 2 of water for the 9-inch-by-13-inch pan.
For crème, whisk eggs in medium bowl or 4-cup measuring cup. Add remaining ingredients; stir to dissolve sugar. Divide among ramekins. Pour hot water into pan halfway up ramekins. Bake 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand in hot water 10 minutes. Remove ramekins from water and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or for several days.
Serve in ramekins or invert onto plates. To invert, run thin knife or rubber spatula around inside edges of ramekins. Place serving plate on top and quickly turn over. If Crème Caramel does not drop out, wiggle ramekin a bit.

Pumpkin Pie with Orange Bitters

• 1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie crust (4-cup volume)
• 2/3 cup sugar*
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• Dash each of ground nutmeg and cloves*
• 2 large eggs
• 2 teaspoons Angostura orange bitters*
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract*
• 1 can (15 ounces) Libby’s Pure Pumpkin
• 1 can (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 425 F. In small bowl, mix sugar with salt and spices. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, orange bitters and vanilla; whisk in sugar mixture and pumpkin. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie crust and bake 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 F. Bake 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool pie on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

* Ingredients with asterisks are my personal variations to the Libby’s canned pumpkin label recipe. Use the label recipe as is, or substitute your own favorite recipe. The real game-changer is Angostura orange bitters. Try adding fresh orange zest along with the orange bitters.

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