Chocolate Pots de Crème

Chocolate Pots de Crème
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chocolate pots de creme

Okay, has this ever happened to you? You open the refrigerator, take a look inside and see a pint of heavy cream that will be out of date in a few days, and you have no idea how you’re going to use it. Yeah, us, too. One of the hazards of scratchin’, we guess. So, what did you do?

We just thought, “what uses a lot of cream? Well, pots de crème, of course.” With a name that literally means pots of cream, this dessert is bound to use a whole lot of cream, and, if there’s some left over, we can always make up a small batch of home-scratched sour cream or crème fraîche, right? That we can use pretty much anywhere.

For the recipe, we hit the ‘net and found a recipe that came from Bouchon, by Thomas Keller, figuring that, as with every other recipe of his we’ve tried, it would be a winner. We did divide the recipe in half, so, for those people who use a scale, we’ve provided the measurements by weight as well as by volume.

Chocolate Pots de Crème

Yield: 4 (4-ounce) servings

Chocolate Pots de Crème


  • 1 1/4 cup (300 g) heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup (80 g) milk
  • 4 1/2 Tbs (55 g) sugar, divided
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 ounces (90 g) dark chocolate, finely chopped

Abbreviated Instructions

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine heavy cream, milk, and 2 1/2 Tbs (30 g) sugar. Split and scrape vanilla bean into mixture. Heat, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved and hot to the touch, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for an hour.

Strain cream mixture to remove vanilla pieces, and return to the saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until warm, stirring often.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 2 Tbs (25 g) sugar. While whisking, slowly add warm cream mixture to temper the yolks. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place over medium low heat and warm to about 130°F.

Place chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl and pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate. Whisk until melted.

Strain mixture into something with a pour spout. You should have 2 cups of liquid. Divide among 4 custard cups and place custard cups in a baking dish.

Preheat oven to 300°F and bring a large kettle of water to a boil.

Place baking dish in the oven, and pour boiling water into the baking dish to bring water 2/3rds up the sides of the custard cups.

Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the custard jiggles (like jello) when the cups are moved.

Remove cups to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Refrigerate 8 hours before serving.

Ingredient discussion:

This dessert is basically cream, chocolate, and eggs, so use the best of each. We used organic heavy cream to avoid carageenan (seaweed — read those labels!). For the chocolate, we used Callabaut dark chocolate (70% cacao), and, as always, our eggs came from free range hens that forage on grass and bugs. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, feel free to substitute 1/2 tsp of 100% pure vanilla extract (not imitation).

Procedure in detail:

It might seem as though there are a bunch of steps to making this dessert, and there are, but they’re all easy, so let’s just take it a step at a time and we’ll get it done.

measuring cream
Once you master a scale, it’ll be as easy as one, …
measuring milk
… two, …
measuring sugar
… three, to measure out the cream, milk, and sugar.

Warm cream. Measure the cream, milk, and sugar into a medium saucepan. With a scale, this is quick and easy. Place the pan on the scale, press tare, add 300 grams of cream. Press tare, add the 80 grams of milk. Tare, add 30 grams of sugar. Done. Now split the piece of vanilla bean in half, scrape out the insides, and add it all to the mixture. Place the pan over medium-low heat and warm, stirring often, until it feels hot to the touch, about 10 to 15 minutes.

heating cream
You don’t want the cream mixture to boil; just heat it until it feels hot to the touch. Then it’ll steep for about an hour.

Steep. Remove the cream mixture from the heat, cover, and let everything steep for about an hour. This will help bring out a lot of vanilla flavor, and, even though we’re making chocolate pots de crème, a good amount of vanilla flavor is essential.

straining cream
A strainer will make short work of getting out small bits of vanilla bean.

Strain. Once steeped, strain the mixture into another bowl or large measuring cup; we used a 2-cup measuring cup with a pour spout. This straining will remove the bits of vanilla bean that would ruin the creamy texture of the dessert. After straining, we washed out the saucepan to remove any large bits of vanilla and used it to reheat the cream mixture.

Reheat cream. Put the cream mixture back into the saucepan and heat on medium-low, stirring often, until it’s warm. It doesn’t have to be hot, just warm. We checked by tasting a spoonful. Yum.

Whisk yolks. While the cream is heating, place the sugar and egg yolks into a medium bowl and whisk together until smooth and pale yellow.

tempering egg yolks
To start tempering the egg yolks, we add a tablespoon of warm cream at a time while whisking. After about 4 tablespoons, we can start drizzling in the cream.

Temper yolks. Since the cream is just warm, this shouldn’t be a problem, but, just to be sure, start whisking the yolks with abandon while you slowly add the warm cream mixture. We often start by adding a tablespoon at a time. Once we’ve added four or five tablespoons of the warm liquid, we slowly drizzle in the remaining cream. After adding all the cream, return the mixture to the saucepan. No need to clean this time.

reheating cream
Since we want to melt the chocolate, we need to warm up the cream mixture a bit. We went with 130°F, which felt nice and warm.

Heat custard. Again, place the mixture over medium-low heat and heat until quite warm. We measured the temperature and thought that 130°F would be about right. You don’t actually have to measure the temperature; just heat it until it seems very warm to the touch. Not hot enough to burn, but just very warm.

adding cream to chocolate
The finer the chocolate is chopped, the faster it’ll melt. Unfortunately, we don’t have any tips for keeping the chocolate in place while you chop it.
chocolate custard
A bit of whisking and it’ll be like the richest, tastiest, hot chocolate ever.

Melt chocolate. Place the chopped chocolate into a medium bowl and pour the mixture over it. Whisk everything together until the chocolate is completely melted and mixed in, about 5 minutes. It should look like a thick, rich hot chocolate. It tastes like it, too.

starining custard
Strain the custard one last time, just in case there are lumps of chocolate left.

Strain. Once again, strain the mixture — to remove any lumps of chocolate — into a container with a pouring spout. You will have two cups of liquid.

custard cups with custard
Divide the custard among four (or six) ramekins or custard cups. For a French dessert, we used French-style custard cups, of course.

Divide into custard cups. Pour about 4 ounces of liquid into each of four custard cups. Now, you may read on the internet that you should cover the custard cups with plastic wrap, and, ideally, you should cover the custard before baking, but, TRUST US when we say DO NOT use plastic wrap, unless you want to look in the oven, find the plastic melting, and then burn your fingers trying to remove semi-melted plastic. Again, TRUST US on this. If you have something else to cover the custards, use it, but not plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. At the same time, place a tea kettle of water on the stove and bring to a boil.

making a water bath
We made the mistake of listening to the internet and put plastic wrap (Glad brand) over the custard cups before baking. It melted, making us scramble to remove it without getting burned and before it fell into the custard.

Make water bath. Set the custard cups into a baking pan. This will form your water bath, which will allow the custard to bake slowly, making for a smooth, creamy texture.

Bake. Set the pan with the custard cups on the oven rack, then pour the boiling water into the pan. This is a lot easier than filling a pan full of boiling water and trying to transfer it to the oven. Just be careful as you add the water; if you spill it on the oven window, well, you might be needing a new window. Bake in the water bath for 30 to 35 minutes or until the custard jiggles like Jello when you move the custard cup.

chocolate pots de creme
Let the custard cool to room temperature, then into the fridge for eight hours. Just keep saying, “good things come to those who wait.”

Cool. Remove the custard cups from the water bath and place on a cooling rack to cool. You can now empty the pan of hot water, too. Be careful.

Chill. Once the pots de crème are room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 8 hours before serving.

These are good, but ours did not turn out as creamy as we’d hoped. Instead, the chocolate left just the slightest bit of graininess, mainly near the top of the custard (that part cooked faster, since it was uncovered), making us think that plain vanilla — omit the chocolate — would be better. We know that might be heresy to confirmed chocoholics, but we call them as we see them. Four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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