Let’s see. Where to begin?
Much has happened since we last left off. I’ve moved, suffered a terribly sad breakup, a gladiatorial chest-rattling ailment, and a two-hour midterm on microbes.
Instead of feeling incredibly weepy for myself, I come here today with an offering of pots de crème for the universe. Essentially, this is pudding. But pudding so good it has silenced rooms. And I’ve yet to see it last longer than a minute or two in any human’s presence.
I’ve made the recipe a few times—once with muscovado and later on with plain old brown sugar. If you do not have the former do not be dissuaded. In either case, it’s well worth the pint of cream.
The result is more custardy than you might expect—heavy cream and egg yolks will do that. It’s not tooth-achingly sweet either, as some butterscotch desserts can be. I also highly recommend leaving the cloud of whipped cream on top unsweetened. It wonderfully balances the rich, toasty caramel that lies beneath.
The recipe conveniently makes four dinner guest-sized portions. Except when you are only having two dinner guests. Then you conveniently have a double ration for the cook. Or perhaps you walk the ancillary portion down to your friends at the neighborhood wine shop? Who devour it instantaneously in your presence. And might even swear a little.
The point is, no one who has seen the likes of these pots de crème has been able to resist them. Nothing but praise. Dishes scraped clean. So tuck this recipe away for a day when you’ll need a little extra oomph.
Because all is fair in love, war, and pudding.
Butterscotch Pots de Crème
Adapted from Orangette and Gourmet
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream, divided
6 tbsp dark muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp demerara sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
Set your oven to 300 degrees and make sure you have a rack positioned on the middle level. In a small saucepan, combine 1½ cups of heavy cream with the muscovado (or brown sugar) and salt. Bring to barely a simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
In a medium saucepan, combine 6 tbsp of water with the demerara sugar over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar gets browned and bubbly (it helps if you don’t use a dark-colored pan, so you can easily check the hue). You’ll want it almost chestnut in color (this should take about 5 minutes).
Remove the browned sugar liquid from the heat and slowly add in the cream mixture, whisking to combine. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla and then add the hot cream mixture in a slow, thin stream, continuously whisking until combined.
Set a fine-mesh sieve over a glass measuring cup and pour the custard through (you’ll need a 1-quart size or you’ll have to pour it in batches). Skim off any foam with a spoon.
Select a baking dish that is large enough to hold four ramekins (or other oven-proof containers) without touching. Fold a dishtowel to line the bottom of the dish. Place your ramekins in the pan and divide your mixture among them. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of each to help prevent a skin from forming.
Slide the baking dish into the oven and pour hot tap water into the dish until it is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custard is set around the edges but still slightly jiggles in the middle when shaken (about 40 minutes).
Carefully remove the ramekins (they will be hot) and let cool on a wire rack (discard the foil). The custard will continue to set as it cools. Meanwhile, whip the remaining ½ cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form (you can do this by hand or with a stand mixer). Refrigerate both the cooled pudding and the whipped cream for a few hours.
Divide the whipped cream among the puddings and serve.
-These are best the day they are made.
-I don’t have any tried-and-true suggestions for a demerara sugar substitution. You might try using the Sugar In The Raw packets you see at coffee shops. This is turbinado sugar and isn’t as deeply molasses-flavored but may be a good last-ditch effort.