I’d like to say that I fell in love with pots de creme in a small cafe in Paris one rainy autumn afternoon as I gazed into the smoldering eyes of a passionate man I had just met.
I’d like to say that but since I am really honest I can’t because it isn’t true. I fell in love with pots de creme in a tiny apartment kitchen in San Angelo, Texas when I was first married and just learning to cook. I cooked incessantly from the only cookbook I owned, one I bought in a local bookstore. When I made the very basic but oh-so-amazing vanilla pots de creme I was in love. Thoroughly, incredibly, head over heels in love with this silky, meltingly rich and not overly sweet dessert.
The custards are cooked in hot water in the oven, covered. This allows them to cook evenly and slowly, creating that hauntingly memorable texture. There is nothing you have ever had in your mouth that is like it when it is done right, and it is awful when it isn’t done right. Luckily, I am going to tell you how to do it right.
Here’s a tip — I like using 4 oz mason jars for pots de creme and other single serving desserts. They are the perfect size, they are heatproof, and they have screw on lids for storage. SO very convenient and they aren’t expensive.
Nice of me, huh?
First of all, no matter what ANYONE says…even if they have written 47 cookbooks, have a cooking show on food network, or are the most popular blogger on the Internet… perfect pots de creme cannot, I repeat, CANNOT be made with whole eggs. Not even one. You want egg yolks, preferably fresh, golden, organic egg yolks. Sometime if you get the chance make the pots de creme with duck egg yolks (but only make a strong flavor like chocolate) because the duck eggs make it even silkier. In any case, perfect pots de creme are made with egg yolks only. The whites keep it from getting silky because they are not fat and the perfect pots de creme needs ALOT of fat.
These are sort of a whimsical twist on a pretty elegant dessert. Full of peanut butter flavor but not overwhelming. The brulee top adds a nice, crunchy texture contrast and a shot of intense sweetness. I wouldn’t use whipped cream on these, myself, they are rich enough. If you don’t want to brulee then finely chopped peanuts or finely chopped chocolate (or a combination) would also be nice.
These are seriously easy. Yes, you have to plan ahead a little bit but they will stay fresh and delicious for up to three days so you can make them ahead. Don’t freeze them or they will be awful.
The baking time is not exact. I have found that these will be done anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes so check after 20 and then at 5 minute intervals. The middle should be shaky and slightly liquid, it will firm up on chilling. If you over cook these they will be grainy and the texture will be off.
Also, it is a good idea to strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer before adding to the custard cups — this way if you have curdled any egg at all it will be strained out. I don.t strain it and I have not had a problem — I think the problem with curdling arises if you use cold eggs, egg whites, or have the cream too hot when you mix it. If in doubt — strain!
You will love these, I promise. And once you learn to make pots de creme you will be addicted…just like me. Oh, one more thing… pronounce it poe-deh-crehm NOT potz dee cream!
Learn to make it/learn to say it and then proceed to knock the socks off anyone you want to be impressed with your mad kitchen skillz.
images: Copyright © marye audet 2011, all rights reserved