Pots de creme, the fancy French way of saying “pots of cream,” are nothing more than a cooked custard that has been chilled in the refrigerator until unctuously smooth and creamy. They require several hours in the refrigerator before serving, making them an ideal make-ahead dessert for dinner parties and special occasions that may require more of your time to be spent on the main meal.
Making pots de creme intimidates many people because you have to temper the egg yolks, which is just fancy talk for slowly adding hot liquid to egg yolks so they don’t scramble when you add them to the pot of hot liquid. Don’t sweat it- just make sure you add the liquid slowly while whisking the egg yolk with your other hand, and you’ll be golden. This recipe is scaled to serve two people, but it is easily doubled or tripled to serve more, and you can also vary the size of the serving dish (use teacups, ramekins, small mason jars, or whatever you have) to adjust portion size.
4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups cream
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Bittersweet chocolate shavings*, freshly whipped cream, red currants or other seasonal fruit
1. Place the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and set a mesh strainer on top of it, then set aside. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the cream, milk, salt, and sugar until just starting to simmer. While the cream mixture is heating, place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Once the cream mixture is quite hot, use some of it to temper the egg yolks. To do this, slowly drizzle a few tablespoons or so of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks while whisking the yolks simultaneously. Continue to do this until you have added roughly half of the cream to the yolks, then add the eggs and cream back to the pot with the rest of the hot cream. Over low heat, using a wooden spoon, stir the custard continually, making sure to reach all the way to the bottom of the pan, until the custard has thickened and will thickly coat the back of the spoon. You want it to be about as thick as a pureed vegetable soup.
3. Immediately pour the custard through the strainer and into the bowl of chocolate. Give it a very quick stir, then let it rest, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. As long as you have chopped your white chocolate finely, it should easily melt and incorporate into the custard at this point. Stir until homogenous, then pour into individual ramekins or other serving vessels and refrigerate for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and continue to refrigerate for at least 4 more hours or overnight.
4. To serve, remove from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Top with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and berries. Pots de creme can be served cold or at room temperature, and you can make them a few days in advance and garnish just before serving.
*To make chocolate shavings, simply use a vegetable peeler on a brick or bar of chocolate.