Vanilla pots

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks with Zach home on Spring break and many dinner and birthday parties. Our oldest celebrated his birthday on Friday with friends and today with us. He wanted to cook and just asked me to bring his favorite dessert, Vanilla Pots. A delicious, rich dessert but a little tricky to make and I really could have done a better job on these.

But first I have to tell you about his Friday night party where his friends cooked for him! His brother Zach made some exotic carrots and Zach’s girlfriend, Agata, made my artichoke dip recipe with some of these homemade pita chips I’ve been making recently. For some reason I was still up when they came home at 2:30 am. (I’ll tell you why – I had a straight up martini starting at 6 pm and then promptly fell asleep for 4 hours!!! I guess I was just a wee bit exhausted.) Anyway, Agata was so thrilled that her artichoke dip was such a hit. She couldn’t stop talking about it when they got home. People kept asking what was it, what was in it, putting it on their meat and vegetables, where could they get the recipe and on and on. Bottom line is, she made something that people LOVED and in turn, she felt the love back. All warm and fuzzy. You give it, you attract it.

That’s what it’s all about!

VANILLA POTS de CRÈME –  adapted from Mark Bittman at the The New York Times
– serves 6

Mark says, as with all custards, this is best when removed from the heat when the center is still jiggly. It’s a leap of faith, but it’s the only way to get a perfectly creamy interior.

My  additional note is to remove the cream from the heat just when tiny bubbles start, as I said, start to form. You do NOT want the cream to scald and certainly not to simmer or boil. If you do, start over because then you have broken the molecules to a degree that you have lost the sweetness and creaminess of the cream.

2 cups heavy cream, light cream, or half-and-half (I always use heavy cream)
2 vanilla beans or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Pour cream into small saucepan. Split vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into cream. Put pod in cream and heat cream until tiny, tiny bubbles start to appear around the edge of the pot. Cover pan, turn off heat and let steep for 15 minutes. If using vanilla extract, just heat cream and let it cool while you proceed.Heating heavy cream with vanilla beans in a pot.

Beating egg yolks and sugar for making vanilla pots.Beat yolks and sugar together until light. Pour about a quarter of the cream (remove vanilla bean pod) into this mixture, then pour sugar-egg mixture into cream and stir. If you are using vanilla extract, add it now and stir. Pour mixture into six 6-ounce ramekins and place ramekins in a baking dish; fill dish with water halfway up the side of dishes. Cover with foil.

Bake 25 to 45 minutes, or until center is barely set. (Heavy cream sets fastest; half-and-half more slowly.) Chill, then serve.Vanilla pots du creme in white ramekins.

I know I baked these too much – they were in for 28 minutes. Plus I divided them up into seven ramekins as we had seven people so maybe 23 -24 minutes would have been perfect. Mine still tasted great – but could have been even better.