A couple of weeks ago I made caramel pudding. I was so excited because I love pudding. It’s creamy and rich and yet can be made with fat free milk. Plus it reminds me of my childhood and my first experiences making pudding from the Jello packets. I always loved how with just one or two small changes it could go from pudding to pie filling (except I never once made the latter). And homemade pudding is even better, without requiring any particularly intricate steps or exotic ingredients. As I watched the sugar caramelize for that caramel pudding, I was sure you were going to love it.
Except I didn’t love this pudding. I didn’t only not love it, I found it hard to stomach. I hate throwing out food but, after convincing Andrés to eat one dish and giving a couple of spoonfuls to Julio, the rest went in the garbage. I comforted myself with the thought that it was mostly just milk that would have spoiled soon anyways. But, truthfully, I would have much preferred drinking all that milk plain than having one spoonful of this chalky goop. I think I know what went wrong with the dish (too much cornstarch), but it will take a lot for me to go back to that recipe.
Knowing I needed to redeem myself, if only in my own eyes, I turned my attention to a recipe that I’ve been wanting to try forever. Oh, it’s not another pudding. It’s not the type of thing you make on a Sunday afternoon because you just want to try a new recipe. It can’t be made from skim milk and it does require slightly exotic ingredients. These are the reasons why I have been thinking of this recipe for nearly a year and still haven’t made it. But in October my lovely older sister gave me a full set of ramekins for my birthday. On Monday I went to the store and bought those special ingredients I didn’t have on hand. And on Tuesday we had a couple of friends over for dinner and cards, which was enough of an occasion to finally make this dish. Which really is pretty easy once you have all the necessary things.
And the results? Phenomenal. These Pots de Créme are more than any pudding could be. They are silky smooth and have a rich deep flavor somewhere between butterscotch and caramel. One small spoonful makes you sigh. Another spoonful and you sigh again. I had to eat it slowly, both because it was rich and because I was so busy sighing with pleasure. Plus I didn’t want that little ramekin to go empty.
If you don’t trust me that this is good, then maybe you’ll believe the boy who spent fifteen minutes trying to get to the bottom of the bowl that I cooked it in. Let’s just say he didn’t do that over that caramel pudding.
Butterscotch Pots de Creme
Adapted from M.J. Adams through Gourmet
1 ½ cups heavy cream
6 Tbsp. dark muscovado sugar
¼ tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. demerara sugar
4 large egg yolks
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Bring cream, muscovado sugar, and salt just to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Meanwhile, bring the water and demerara sugar to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk cream mixture into the demerara sugar mixture and then remove from the heat.
Whisk together yolks and vanilla in a large bowl, then slowly add hot cream mixture in a stream, whisking. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve and skim off any foam with a spoon.
Divide custard among ramekins (for me this filled 5). Place a towel in the bottom of a medium pan and arrange the ramekins on top of the towel, making sure they don’t touch. Add water to the pan so that it reaches halfway up the ramekins. Bake the custards until they are set around the edges, but still tremble slightly in the center, about 40 minutes. Transfer ramekins to a rack and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to serve. We served these with strawberries, but they would also be good with whipped cream or plain.