>Since morning sickness took over my appetite, three months ago, I’ve had to change the way I cook and plan in the kitchen. My weekly menus have been replaced by bland but safe repetitions of pasta, ravioli, and cereal. Because cooking is like therapy for me, I turned to making desserts instead of dinners. While just thinking about a bloody steak could send me running for the bathroom, cakes, cookies, and puddings brought me boundless joy and comfort.
My favorite dessert for the last few months has been Vanilla Pots de Creme. Although the name can be literally translated as pots of cream, this pudding is actually quite light. I don’t like to use heavy cream when I make them because it makes them too cloying and thick. The ingredient list is short and easy: milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla, nothing requiring a special trip to the supermarket. These pots de creme are something that can be quickly whipped up by a desperate pregnant woman with a craving, by a harried mom at witching hour, or a loving husband fixing a surprise dinner for his exhausted wife.
Many recipes call for infusing the milk with a vanilla bean, but I love to use Nielsen Massey Vanilla paste. I’m always a little grossed out by the tortured vanilla beans, I never know if they’re too dry, and almost expect some sort of exotic bug to come jumping out as I scrape the seeds. This paste has the seeds and intense flavor you get from infusing a vanilla bean without any of the work.
You can eat these Pots de Creme chilled from the fridge. For the last few months though, I’ve been enjoying them still warm from the oven, one delicious spoonful after another.
Vanilla Pots de Creme (Pots de Creme a la Vanille)
Makes 6 small ramekins
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
1 1/3 cups of Milk (30 cl) (don’t mess around – use whole milk for best texture)
1 Tablespoon of Nielsen Massey Vanilla Paste (or 1 infused vanilla bean)
3 egg yolks
3 Tablespoons of sugar (45 grams)
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees centigrade). Prepare a large sheet pan with high sides or a wide Pyrex pan, big enough to hold 5 ramekins without touching each other, and with sides that are at least 2 inches tall and set aside.
- Pour the milk in a small saucepan. Add the vanilla. Warm over low heat but do not boil. Whisk occasionally.
- In a medium bowl, mix the egg yolks and the sugar with a blender. At first the mixture will be a beautiful brilliant yellow. Keep mixing for about 5 minutes, until the egg yolks whiten almost to the shade of mayonnaise.
- Take the milk off the heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of the vanilla milk onto the egg mixture. Whisk immediately to avoid curdling. Add another 1/2 cup of the milk and whisk quickly again. Continue in small quantities, pouring and whisking quickly, until all the milk has been added. Make sure to scrape all the vanilla seeds out of the saucepan – they add all the flavor and beauty to the dish.
- Now pour the mixture into small ramekins. You should have enough to fill five ramekins halfway up.
- Place the ramekins in your pyrex or sheet pan with the high sides. Pour water around the ramekins to the halfway mark. The water bath will keep them cooking evenly.
- Cook the ramekins at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. Then pop them in the fridge for a few hours to chill, or be a greedy glutton like me and eat them warm from the oven.