It surprises people to learn that technically there isn’t much difference between creme caramel, pots de creme, and creme brulee. The rich custard is the same, it is the topping that is different.
The custard is impossibly rich and creamy because it is baked in a water bath, and covered so the ingredients cook very slowly and with plenty of moisture from the steam that is locked in to the container. To achieve that rich, perfectly smooth, buttery texture you have to be careful not to over cook the dessert.
I like to use the small, wide mouthed jelly jars – 4 ounces I think. They are a perfect one serving size, have covers, are inexpensive, and I have a lot of them because I used to can a lot. There are also custard cups that you can buy that are made especially for pots de creme, creme caramel, and creme brulee.
Don’t whip your ingredients – you don’t want to much air into the ingredients. By stirring slowly and carefully you will be able to achieve that dense, creamy texture that is so incredible.
Now, here are the differences:
- Creme Caramel has a caramel sauce in the bottom so that when the custard is unmolded (if it is unmolded) the caramel flows down the sides of the custards and puddles on the plate.
- Creme Brulee has a delicate, crispy layer of caramelized sugar on the top which the diner breaks through with his spoon. The sugar is sprinkled on the finished custard and caramelized with a torch.
- Pots de Creme is the foundation for the other two. It is the custard without the caramel sauce on bottom or the crispy brulee on top.