Maple Pot de Crème

September 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm 92 comments

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.

Maple Pot de Crème

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.

Maple Pot de Crème

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.

Maple Pot de Crème

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.”

It’s true.

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.]

Maple Pot de Crème

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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92 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Halley  |  September 18, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    This looks amazing! And where did you get your ramekins? They’re adorable.

  • 2. Aunt Lollie  |  September 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Like Halley, above, i love these ramekins also!
    But i want to tell you what a sweet post it was to read.
    You’re lucky to have a wonderful dad, and it sounds like he’s got a wonderful daughter. I’m glad you treasure each other.

  • 3. Peggy  |  September 18, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I just stumbled on your site from another site and I loved your story about your dad and this delicious recipe. Hope he has a wonderful birthday and I know he is blessed to have a daughter who loves him so much.

  • 4. Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen  |  September 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    60 recipes? Wow! You must have been a baking machine this summer! I’m looking forward to the rest of them, as this one looks fantastic. Bummer about the dorm food, but I guess it’s all a part of college, right?

  • 5. Ashlae  |  September 18, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    What a sweet story about your father – the world does need more human beings like him. Your ramekins are beautiful!

  • 6. Ivonne  |  September 18, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Hang in there, Elissa! I know what it’s like to go for an extended period without baking. When you finally do bake, it’ll be that much better. You’re a sweetie!

  • 7. ALittleBite  |  September 18, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I’ve been reading for a long time, but this is my first comment. I just wanted to say that your writing is really, really touching – you describe everything perfectly, it’s almost as if I were there with you and your dad.
    Keep up the good work, I’m sure you’ll do great in college.

  • 8. Tara  |  September 18, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    You are an amazing writer Elissa…I almost feel like I was there with you, tasting these pots de creme and holding your dad’s hand at the hospital… With all of these ingredients in my house, I think I will make them this weekend!

  • 9. jackieruinsthecake  |  September 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    I’m so glad your dad was okay! He sounds like such a great guy.

    Ah, the “wonders” of college cafeteria food. My dorm had its own kitchen; I wish yours did too.

  • 10. Joe @ Eden Kitchen  |  September 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    I am definitely making these tonight! Would you believe a 32oz bottle of maple syrup here costs $60!! Luckily my friend came back from the states yesterday with 2 bottles so that should last me a while. Can’t wait to try it. Beautiful photos, I hope your dad is doing ok now :)

  • 11. Katy  |  September 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    I think it’s so sweet that you and your dad have such an incredible relationship. It’s so fantastic that you two are as close are you are. I hope you know how lucky that makes you! :)

  • 12. candiieli  |  September 18, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your inspirations and stories. I’m procrastinating at the moment from trying to write college essays. Bleh. But this post really gave me a boost to to go back to it and try to write something as inspiring as this. Haha. Maybe after a quick snack though.

  • 13. Pearl Joy  |  September 18, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    that looks soooooooo good!! you are an excellent writer :)

  • 14. Betsy  |  September 18, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Your dad sounds awesome, maybe this dessert is as great as he is?

  • 15. Kate  |  September 18, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    What a wonderful story and what delicious looking desserts.

  • 16. Pamela  |  September 18, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I was so touched by this post, thank you for sharing with us :-)

    The personal story behind this recipe makes me all the more inspired to try & make this for my family. Can’t wait. The pictures look amazing, too.

  • 17. Suz  |  September 18, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Oh, your poor dad. I’m glad he’s doing better now. He sounds wonderful. :)

    “I kind of want another maple pot de crème.”

    That made me laugh. They do look and sound amazing. Your photos are gorgeous.

  • 18. Sue  |  September 18, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Your writing is as delicious as your baking. I can’t wait to make this! Hang in there with the dorm food. Maybe upperclassmen have kitchens? Glad your Dad is dong better!

  • 19. Bonnie@WhatAboutPie  |  September 18, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    This sounds amazing! I have got to try it! I have all the ingredients in my fridge! I happen to have pure Pennsylvania maple syrup too!

  • 20. Alli  |  September 18, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Elissa, your photos are gorgeous. I loved reading your story about your dad, and I’m glad that he’s doing better. Maple pots de creme sounds delicious – I can’t wait to try it out! I hope that despite the bad college food and screeching subways and tiny elevators, you are still enjoying your college experience. This might seem like a random question, but are you allowed to have rice cookers in your dorm? My sister (also a college freshman) is in the same situation, and I directed her towards Just Bento – there’s an ongoing series on meals that can be cooked in a rice cooker – it might help to alleviate the caf food doldrums.

  • 21. lynne  |  September 18, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    These look amazing! I’m glad your dad was alright :)

  • 22. Anna  |  September 19, 2010 at 12:56 am

    That is such a sweet story, I’m glad to hear your dad is doing okay and I’m sure this post will be a nice birthday tribute. Also, those are the cutest little creme pots I’ve ever seen! Where did you find them?

  • 23. Geni  |  September 19, 2010 at 2:19 am

    I have tears in my eyes and read your post to my husband. Your writing is always beautiful, but this post in particular hit a note with me and made me melt. I can feel how much you miss him and could picture him helping the lady in front of the hospital. Keep up the stellar work and have a great Freshman year! :) –Geni

  • 24. linda  |  September 19, 2010 at 6:45 am

    your writing has overwhelmed me this morning.
    wishing your daad good health & a belated happy birthday.
    we learn from our parents & you certainly had a kind helping of humanity from your dad…but, i know you already knew that.
    all the best as you journey down the road!

  • 25. Robyn  |  September 19, 2010 at 7:13 am

    I can totally relate to ur dad, have stomache problems to but they get forgotten when it comes to sweet things. :) these look awesome! Such a touching story

  • 26. Abeer khan  |  September 19, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Glad to hear about your father!!!!!!!!!

    And also very impressed about what have achieved at just 18. I hope I won’t suck on blogging anymore.

    Abeer Khan

  • 27. Amy  |  September 19, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Although I’m not a big fan of custardy, creamy desserts, this one has piqued my interest!. This crisp fall weather seems to call for eating something luxurious, smooth and maple flavored, right?

    I’m glad your father is okay. The story of his hospital visit brought tears to my eyes :-(

  • 28. buttersweetmelody  |  September 19, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Pot the creams are possibly one of my favorite desserts! They’re like a baked ice cream (which is good in case you were wondering) thank you so much for sharing these!


  • 29. hannah {thepastrykook}  |  September 19, 2010 at 11:03 am

    what can i say? this is beautiful (:

  • 30. Elissa  |  September 19, 2010 at 11:55 am

    To everyone who asked about the ramekins – I found them! I’ve updated the post with the link, and here it is again:

  • 31. Jessica  |  September 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    What’s a triple lemon yogurt loaf?! Even without pictures is there a recipe of this deliciousness? I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, it sounds absolutely delicious. Sorry dorm life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s about the people more than anything! Yesterday there was the 2010 New England Dessert Showcase in Copley, I wonder if you would have gone? $17 from Groupon. they sold so many tickets I think they underestimated Boston’s appetite for desserts and it was quite cramped (body to body). Even with 1.5 hours of sweets eating, I still go to your blog and drool over the amazingness

    • 32. Elissa  |  September 19, 2010 at 12:34 pm

      Jessica – The triple lemon yogurt loaf is highly recommended! It’s a light lemon pound cake made with yogurt and the zest of two lemons. Then you use the lemons’ juice to make a lemon syrup, which you pour over the hot cake, and a lemon glaze, which you pour over once the cake has cooled. The recipe comes from Ina Garten and I didn’t change a thing:

  • 33. melissa  |  September 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm


  • 34. Sarah  |  September 19, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    I’m so sorry your dad was sick, but I’m glad to hear he’s okay now! My dad got surgery for sleep apnea a couple years ago and he spent an entire month on the couch subsisting on nothing but vitamin supplements and vanilla pudding. It was awful. But your post is lovely–it made me realize how much I miss my dad–and an extremely fitting birthday present from far away.
    On the food side, this looks so deliciously fall-y! Even though I know technically maple syrup is a late winter thing (thank you to Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Museum of Natural History) I always think of it as a fall ingredient. I’m in DC right now and it refuses to act like fall–85 degrees every day. But I can dream about crisp mornings and changing leaves as I look at your pictures and read your recipes!

  • 35. Cooking Rookie  |  September 19, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Mmmm… looks delish :-)

  • 36. Heather  |  September 19, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Wow, I just made this tonight. You are right, they are amazing! I also am not a big maple syrup person, but the maple in this recipe was perfect. It was like a delicious bite of fall in every spoonful!
    The texture of mine too were different on the top than in the rest of the pot de creme, but I don’t know if I would call it a crust…it was just a thin layer that had a thicker consistency. I can’t think of a way to avoid this because it must be due to the exposure to air, and more direct heat. My husband said he wouldn’t change it though, he thought it was like a natural ‘icing’! He thought it added to the experience.
    I had to keep them in the oven for an hour and a half before they were ready to come out. Maybe my oven is cool.

    So fabulous and decadent! It’s taking all my self control not to take another one out of the fridge and eat it right now!

    Thanks Elissa!

  • 37. ardna  |  September 20, 2010 at 7:13 am

    60 recipes? Wow! can’t believe you bake that much! I totally adore your determination :)

  • 38. klmackie  |  September 20, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Love reading your blog! And those ramekins are the cutest ever!

  • 39. Mary  |  September 20, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Love reading your blog, and i TOTALLY understand the dorm/kitchen conundrum. I l was born in boston, lived in southie and martha’s vineyard pretty much my whole life, and lived in boston for the past 5 years so if you need any restaurant suggestions (or names/locations of good baking supplies/goods stores) email me! (

  • 40. cozydelicious  |  September 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Your pot de creme look fantastic. Of course. And as for college food… well, I have faith that you will find a way! Believe it or not, cafeteria food was even worse ten years ago (so I’m told). So I set myself up a not-so-allowed kitchen in my dorm room. You’d be amazed at what you can cook in a coffee pot and a toaster. I highly suggest a little clandestine cooking! And when all else fails, babysit. I’m not kidding. Those toddler Moms and Dads have good kitchens!

  • 41. Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking  |  September 20, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I’m so glad to hear your Dad is on the mend. What a story. This dessert is beautiful, and I can only imagine how delicious it must be that he would request it again and again. Wonderful job, Elissa, and thank you for sharing this!

  • 42. Dana - Food for Thought  |  September 20, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Glad to hear your dad is feeling better… but I do have to admit, if you’re going to get sick, there’s no better way than to do so than by eating some delicious desserts :)

  • 43. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  September 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    This looks lovely, and i’m excited to try it!

  • 44. Carolyn  |  September 21, 2010 at 7:22 am

    i admire your passion for baking. can’t wait to see where you’ll go with it :) your father sounds amazing. i’m praying for his full recovery. i have an incredible dad too, so glad that there are little girls like us who are fathered by everything a man should be

  • 45. Jenny  |  September 21, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    How you do this, Elissa, I’ll never figure out. Hope things are going well for you – your maple pot de creme post makes me so nostalgic for being home with my parents, I can’t tell you. Last week was my dad’s birthday too.

  • 46. Madison  |  September 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    There’s nothing quite like a delicious dessert is there? I’m glad your dad is feeling better, and I hope he had a wonderful birthday!

  • 47. Margarita  |  September 21, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Yummy. Thank you for sharing your loving relationship between a father and a daughter. It’s beautiful. Your father is a gentleman. You are both blessed to have each other. I’m so happy to hear that he is doing well. I am looking forward to some kind of dessert like the pot de creme, soon. Maybe sometime in October to celebrate fall and many good things.<3

  • 48. Jennifer @ Maple n Cornbread  |  September 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    I LOVE maple syrup. I’ve done maple custard a few times. Saving your pot de creme recipe! :)

  • 49. Alex  |  September 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    I just made these- they were as amazing as you said they were. I ate a ramekin without even blinking! I’m also half Canadian so the idea of a maple syrup pot de creme was an immediate must try for me! And I totally understand about missing your home appliances. I’m a senior in college and just got my own apartment and for the first time it has a full kitchen- I am in heaven. I love baking and trust me, college is tough to go through when you can’t bake! Keep posting amazing recipes, and beautiful photos, you are talented!

  • 50. Ellie (Almost Bourdain)  |  September 22, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Beautiful photographs and amazing flavours!

  • 51. Becca@Baking Monster  |  September 23, 2010 at 12:11 am

    I love pots de creme! and 4 to 5 recipes a day?! I knew I liked you! That’s awesome! This whole summer i couldn’t bake because I was working in New York and it was horrific so I know where your coming from. I’m glad your dad is doing well!


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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