Sunday, January 15, 2012

Butterscotch Pots de Crème

Hello there. I’ve missed you all these past few months, I really have. Let me make it up to you by sharing a divine recipe for Butterscotch Pots De Crème, which was definitely one of my best culinary discoveries in 2011.

If December is typically a season of much merriment and revelry, January is traditionally the time to jumpstart my commitment to becoming a healthier and more vibrant person. Most January magazine issues are filled with empowering articles with titles such as “Two-Week Detox For Foodies!” or “Ten Steps To A Newer Healthier You!” Don't get me wrong,  I have no problem with committing to regular exercise and all of those other good things that I know I should do.  I do love eating vitamin-rich greens and nutritionally dense whole grains, and in January I usually try to post recipes here that help facilitate the post-holiday-party-season detox process.

But it’s been a long time since I’ve been here on Kitchen Fiddler for a whole variety of reasons: cranking out thousands of truffles for CocoaRoar, being locked-in to a new show, still trying to navigate many of the things I wrote about here, etc. I’m confident that you will find enough inspiring healthful recipes elsewhere to permit me to share this totally decadent dessert with you today. I know you won’t be sorry once you try it for yourself.

A pots de crème is essentially a rich custard. The ingredients for this particular recipe are simple enough: two kinds of brown sugar, cream, egg yolks, and a bit of vanilla for flavor. (Next time I’m going to substitute bourbon for the vanilla, just to see what happens.) The custards are gently baked in a water bath at a low temperature, which guarantees that their texture will be impossibly silky and smooth. After they’ve baked and cooled, these little butterscotch pots are topped with a generous dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream and a pinch of flaky sea salt. We’re talking heaven in a ramekin.

The recipe specifies using both muscovado and demerara sugars that add complexity of flavor. The dark muscovado tastes deeply of molasses and has an appealing texture like wet sand at the beach, while the lighter demerara sugar crystals sparkle with golden sweetness. I splurged for the fancy sugars, but I think you could use regular light and dark brown sugars and still not be disappointed with the results.

This was originally printed in Gourmet a few years ago, but I first encountered the butterscotch pots de crème recipe on Orangette, one of my all-time favorite food blogs. The post is entitled “Pots of Gold”, and believe me, I felt like I hit the jackpot when I tasted my first bite of this. Rich and thick, this deeply caramelized custard is comfort food at its finest. However, as unprepossessing as they appear, these golden creamy custards are definitely festive enough to serve at the conclusion of an elegant dinner party, something I have done to rave reviews on several recent occasions. Be prepared for moans of pleasure from your guests once they experience that first spoonful.

This is a great trick to have up your sleeve as the recipe falls into the Easy-Yet-Totally-Impressive category of desserts. And who couldn’t use more of those recipes in their repertoire?! I promise that next time I’ll bring you something more appropriate for a Healthy January, but I couldn’t resist sharing this today, especially since I am so glad to be back here again. Happy New Year indeed!

Three Years Ago: Chorizo and Clam Stew (aka Happy Clams)

Adapted from a recipe by M.J. Adams in Gourmet, October 2003

I have found the muscovado and demerara sugars at places like Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma, and other specialty food stores. But even if you don’t have access to these specific sugars where you live, please don’t let that deter you from making this recipe. While the flavor might not have as much complexity and warmth as this version, you can substitute regular light and brown sugar as I’ve indicated below, and I promise that you’ll still be happy with your custards.

It's worth noting hat these taste best on the day that they’re baked. But if you must make them ahead of time, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days.

1-½ cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar (or dark brown sugar)
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons demerara sugar (or light brown sugar)
4 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving
flaky salt, for finishing

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Position the oven rack in the center of the oven.

In a small heavy saucepan, bring the cream, muscovado sugar and the salt to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, combine the water and demerara sugar over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes until the mixture is golden and bubbly, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the hot cream mixture.

Whisk the egg yolks and vanilla together in a large bowl. Carefully pour in the hot cream mixture, slowly adding it to the egg yolks in a thin stream, whisking constantly until well combined. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large glass-measuring cup and pour the custard through the sieve to strain out any lumps.

Divide the custard between six 4-ounce ramekins. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish with a folded dishtowel and place the ramekins inside the dish. (You don’t want the custards to scorch, so the towel protects the ramekins from directly touching the hot pan.) Cover each ramekin with a little piece of foil to prevent a skin forming on the top of the custard as it bakes.

Place the pan on the rack in the middle of the oven and immediately add hot tap water into the baking dish, just enough to come up midway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custards have set around the edges but are still a little jiggly in the centers, about 40 minutes. (Remove the foil to check this.) Use kitchen tongs to transfer the ramekins to a cooling rack, and remove the foil tops. Let the custards cool to room temperature, and they will continue to firm up a bit as they cool. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve them.

I like to serve these with a generous dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream and a healthy pinch of flaky salt on top. Makes 6 small but rich servings.


Anonymous said...

I've made this twice with SPECTACULAR results. The first time we were all pounding on the table after each spoonful. Last night it created a culinary crescendo complimenting "Cenovia's Puerto Rican Chicken". And the Mauritius sugars started a spirited discussion of African travels. One guest said, "I think it's the best meal I've ever had!" Thank you Rita, Cenovia, and Louise. XOXO Dad

louise said...

Thanks! I suppose that these could be a variation on having flan for dessert following the PR Chicken. I'm only sorry that I didn't get to witness your reaction upon that first magical bite!