If you’ve ever made pots de crème, you’re likely comfortable baking with a water bath: setting vessels filled with custard (egg + milk) in a larger pan, filling the pan with hot water, then setting the pan in an oven to bake slowly.
There’s nothing hard about it, but it does require planning: custards typically bake for 45 minutes to an hour, then often chill for about 8 hours before serving.
Last fall, I had hoped to make chocolate pots de crème for a French bistro cooking class I was teaching at the Hillsdale General Store. If I made them the traditional way, it would have been a logistical challenge: making one batch ahead of time, shlepping it to Hillsdale, making a fresh batch, shlepping that one home.
It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it made me think: is there another way to pots de crème? It turns out yes. After a bit of googling, I found two recipes, one from Fine Cooking, the other from Cook’s Illustrated, each calling for making the custards stovetop. What I loved about the Fine Cooking recipe was that it was written to serve 2 people, so if it didn’t turn out well, it wouldn’t have been a huge investment in ingredients. I made it immediately, and it worked beautifully — easy to throw together, and after an hour of chilling, it was ready.
For the class at Hillsdale, we made the pots de crème first, and by the end of class, they were ready. Everyone raved, and I’ve since made the recipe for many occasions.
What’s nice about the recipe?
• As noted, you can make it just before your guests arrive, and it will be ready to be served by the end of dinner.
• Scalability: you can make it for 2 or for 20.
• If you have the time to plan ahead, these can be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge until needed.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Lovebirds!
Gather your ingredients:
Separate the yolks from the whites; you need 8 yolks. (Save the whites for angel food cake.):
Temper the yolks: slowly whisk the hot cream and milk mixture into the yolks:
Return the custard to the stovetop and cook until it coats the back of a spoon:
Add the chocolate, sugar, and vanilla:
Whisk to combine:
Strain to remove any curdled egg:
Pour into glasses and chill until ready to serve:
Meanwhile, make the whipped cream:
Whip until thick…
then spoon it into the glasses:
Shave chocolate over top if you wish:
Adapted from this Fine Cooking recipe. Pots de crème, which translates to “pot of cream,” is pronounced: POH-də-KREM
See notes below if you’d like to make this for only 2 people.
I recently made a double batch of this for a Valentine’s Day dinner at the Vischer Ferry General Store. For a double batch, I added 1/2 cup Grand Marnier, and I thought it turned out especially well. I also use Guittard 72% chocolate wafers, which also attributed to its especially nice flavor.
These are the glasses I used to serve the pots de crème in: 5 oz. Libbey Lexington Juice Glass. You have to buy a case, which has 36 glasses, which is a lot, but they are so handy for water, wine, all sorts of desserts. I’ve split a case with a friend in the past only to buy another full case to have on hand. If you want to buy fewer glasses, these are similar and you can buy fewer (12).
for the pots de crème:
- 2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup 2% or whole milk
- 8 large egg yolks
- 12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips or chocolate bars broken into small pieces (Guittard 72% cacao chocolate wafers makes for an especially delicious flavor)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 to 4 tablespoons Grand Marnier, optional
for the whipped cream:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar + more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon plus more to taste flaky sea salt such as Maldon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Heat the cream and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until scalding hot. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl. Slowly whisk the hot milk mixture into the eggs.
- Return the milk mixture to the pan, reduce the heat to low, and whisk until it thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, sugar, and a pinch of salt; whisk until melted. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Taste. Add a pinch more salt if necessary — I always do. Add the vanilla and booze if using. Start with 2 tablespoons, then add more to taste, stirring after each addition—the mixture might look thin, especially if you add 4 tablespoons of booze, but it will thicken in the fridge. Divide the mixture between eight to nine 6-oz. ramekins or serving glasses. Refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour.
- Meanwhile: make the whipped cream: Beat the cream with a whisk or with the whip of a stand mixer. When it begins to form soft peaks, add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and vanilla. Continue to beat until the peaks get firmer, but are still soft and pillowy. Taste. Add more sugar if it it’s not sweet enough; add more salt to taste. I like the whipped cream to not be too sweet because the pots de crème is sweet and rich on its own. I typically add a pinch more salt and a pinch more sugar.
- To serve, bring the pots de creme to room temperature 20 minutes before serving. Spoon whipped cream over chocolate. Shave chocolate over top.
If you want to just make this for 2 people, use these proportions:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- pinch salt