Pot de Crème

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I like pudding. Any kind will do. Chocolate, bread, rice, summer, even blood (although that is not today’s recipe … perhaps we’ll save that one for autumn, when the air is crisp and folks are feeling more ghoulish). I was raised on Jell-O pudding, and it is Sugar-Free Jell-O that I still make on a regular basis for the kin-folk to enjoy as they huddle around America’s Got Talent, or Glee, or whatever it is they are watching these days.

But when company comes(or I feel like splurging) there is one pudding that shines above the rest. It is the exquisite Pot de Crème.

Technically it is not a pudding, but a baked custard. The difference is minor, but the result is sublime. This custard is made in the same way as crème caramel and crème brûlée, but it is less snooty and showy. More cream and yolks than its sister custards, Pot de Crème is rich and creamy, and needs no torched caramelized sugar on its surface or secret-squirrel hidden caramel sauce to impress. It is perfect as it is. Perhaps a dollop of crème fraiche or barely sweetened whipped cream would be acceptable, but that’s it. Any more would be gauche.

INGREDIENTS

16 ounces (2 cups) milk
6 ounces heavy cream
1 cup unsweetened chocolate, chopped **
1 egg
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar

METHOD

  1. Combine milk and cream in a saucepan and heat until just warm. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Stir until, melted. Whisk together yolks and sugar, then slowly whisk in warm chocolate milk. Strain and cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 325˚F. Place 6 ramekins in a roasting pan (or some oven proof dish with sides slightly higher than those of the ramekins). Pour cooled custard into ramekins, leaving at least 1/4 inch of space to the rim. Carefully place roasting pan on the oven rack, then add cold water to the roasting pan until it rises 2/3 up the sides of the ramekins. (Yes, I prefer cold water.) Cover the roasting pan with a sheet of parchment paper or foil, then bake about 1 hour until the custard is set with a “jell-o jiggle.” It should not be brown or souffléd at all, just set. Cool, then remove to the fridge and chill completely. (Overnight is best.)

**You create a different flavored Pot de Crème by omitting the chocolate and flavoring the milk. Steep in tea or coffee, spices, flower petals, lemon zest, etc. Be warned, though, that floating garnish like nuts or berries will float to the top and look lumpy at presentation.
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