Maple Pot de Crème
I’ve never gone this long without baking.
I realize now that I took everything back home for granted – ingredients, books, supplies. Here, I don’t even own a fork. I miss my glossy black oven and my vials of vanilla beans, but I’m making the best of things. On Sunday I visited a friend who lives in Boston. Her kitchen is all blue, yellow, and white, flooded with light and breathtakingly lovely. I baked a triple lemon yogurt loaf (no photos, but heartfelt thanks to D- and her beautiful family) and brought some home to share with my floor.
The dorm food here is, well, my least favorite aspect of the school. It’s all wilted spinach, dried-out pizza and artificial-cherry Jello. Disappointing, if unsurprising. It’s even more frustrating than the screechy subway or our tiny elevators, which are always hot with the breath of people past. When the longing for good food overwhelms, I look through my collection of photos.
I had sixty recipes to choose from for this post, and I am so excited to share this particular one with you. Sixty recipes baked, fried, and frozen over the course of a few weeks, and this is possibly the stand out. Maple Pot de Crème. Would you believe that something so innocent could be so dangerous?
Back in July, I baked four or five desserts every day. The first thing I did when I woke up was preheat the oven, and the last thing I did before bed was wrap up any dessert left to cool on the counter. Every Sunday I gave my dad a bite out of everything, so he could taste test it all. On that particular morning, there were a lot of things to try.
He’d sampled everything by the time I drew the pot de crème from the fridge, the last thing to try in this buffet of sugar. This pot de crème was the creamiest, smoothest, silkiest custard I’ve ever made. I don’t know whether it’s the recipe, since I haven’t made it again, or if I just got lucky, but this particular batch of pot de crème was extraordinary. You could tell, even as the spoon sunk in. I watched him frown, speechless, and reach for another bite.
He scraped the ramekin clean.
We waited half an hour, and then I couldn’t help it. I reached for another. We knew it was a bad idea – my dad’s stomach has been in poor health recently – and I even joked about the amount of cream and yolk in every spoonful. It was a mistake, but a delicious one. All we could think was how close to perfection this pot de crème was, and how lucky we were to have it.
Not an hour later, my dad was balled up on the couch, and I was running down the street with my shoes half on. A neighbor drove us to the emergency room. It was rush hour, the car was barely advancing, the slightest bump made my father groan and why were we moving so slowly? Numbly, all I could think from somewhere in the back of my head was, “I shouldn’t have given him all that dessert.”
By the time we got to the hospital, thankfully, his pain was starting to lessen. By the time my mother ran in, he reassured her that he was fine. After a few hours, the pain had subsided, and we knew he was going to be okay.
This is the kind of man my dad is: after the attack was over and he was discharged, my mother left to bring the car around. As my father and I stood in front of the hospital, he leaned against a post, exhausted and still weak. Another car pulled up, and a middle-aged lady struggled to open a wheelchair and help her frail mother into it. Despite everything, my father had jogged over before I’d even straightened up, holding the mother’s arm and guiding her into the seat.
Before they walked away, the woman said to him, “The world would be such a beautiful place if there were more people in it like you.”
And when our Toyota pulled up to the curb and we piled in to go back home, he said, “I kind of want another maple pot de crème.” They’re just that good.
My dad finally had the surgery he needed, and while multiple pots de crème still might not be advisable, he’s going to be great. Last week was his birthday, and while I wasn’t there to make something special, I hope this post makes him smile. Happy birthday Dad, I love and miss you. You’re the best father anyone could ask for, even from across the country.
[PS: Many readers have asked where I got the ramekins. They were a gift from my grandma to my dad, who later regifted them to me. After a lot of googling, I managed to find them - they're part of the Andrea by Sadek collection and can be bought at this link.]
Months later, I still sometimes dream about this pot de crème. It’s so creamy and smooth, just decadent. And while I’m not a big fan of maple syrup, I couldn’t get enough of this. The maple flavor is pure and complex – use the best maple syrup you’ve got, because the flavor really shines.
I didn’t make it 100% perfectly, because a slight crust formed on the top, but once broken with your spoon it gave into the most velvety custard. Incredible.
When you pull the pots de crème out of the oven, they should be set, but still jiggle in the center when shook. The custard will thicken after chilling in the fridge.
Maple Pots de Crème
From Closet Cooking
Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and arrange four ramekins in a rimmed baking dish.
Combine the cream, maple syrup, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat until it comes to a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Using a small ladle, add some hot cream to the egg yolks a few tablespoons at a time. Whisk the egg yolks into the cream in the saucepan until combined. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.
Pour the mixture into the four ramekins. Carefully pour enough hot water into the rimmed baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the edges are set but the center gently jiggles when shook, about 50-60 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Eat, or cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge (I prefer them cold.)
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