Sunday, July 5, 2015

Salted Burnt Caramel Pots de Creme

Pots de Creme are baked custards full of rich, creamy, sweet goodness...these add saltiness and a slight edge of bitterness to highlight those things. I wanted to make a portable dessert to take to the Symphony at Stern Grove today, so I tweaked a recipe from so it would yield enough to fill ten 4 oz Mason jars and let the caramel go just a touch longer with delicious results. I know, I know...enough with the Mason jars! They serve a purpose here, though, turning a delicious restaurant dessert into a portable picnic or potluck treat. You could, of course, bake them in ramekins if you preferred.
Photo courtesy of Caresa Capaz
In a medium saucepan (this one is a little small), warm 2 c heavy cream, 1 c milk, 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, and a heaping 1/2 tsp sea salt. 

Just heat this mixture until it's starting to bubble a little, then remove it from the heat, give it a stir, and set it aside. 

In a large saucepan (3 quarts is great), stir together 1 c white sugar (raw worked for me once, but can crystallize more easily), 2 Tbsp light corn syrup, and 1/4 c water. 

Although the corn syrup we buy at the supermarket is not the same as the HFCS we're all avoiding these days, you can omit the corn syrup and replace it with an equal amount of sugar if you like. The caramel might be a bit more temperamental, though. I've messed up more than one batch over the years!

Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then stop stirring when it starts to bubble. 

Continue cooking about ten minutes, until the mixture turns a deep amber color and JUST starts to smell slightly burny. Take the pan off the heat immediately and CAREFULLY add in the cream mixture a little at a time, stirring well. Sorry I didn't get pics of these steps, but they require quick and careful action! You can find more info on making caramel at

If you don't like the bitterness of burnt caramel, stop cooking when it turns a medium amber. Also, if you go too far and burn the heck out of it, start over before adding the cream. And use a different pot!
Now you have a gorgeous but thin caramel we're going to thicken it into a custard. Separate 6 eggs and whisk the yolks together. Put the whites aside and use them for something else...maybe tomorrow's breakfast or some meringues? 

If you add the yolks right into the hot caramel sauce, you'll end up with scrambled eggs in caramel sauce. Yuck. To avoid this, ladle about a cup of the caramel into the yolks while whisking, then pour that mix back into the caramel and whisk well.

Next, you want to strain this custard through a fine mesh sieve or mesh colander to remove any little lumpy bits from the milk or the caramel. If you don't, it's not the end of the world. Strain it into a 4 cup liquid measure if you have one, or a bowl if you don't have one.

Warm up a tea kettle of water to have ready for the baking process. It shouldn't quite be boiling.

Pre-heat the oven to 325. Put 10 four-ounce Mason jars or ramekins into a large baking dish and pour or ladle in the custard, up to about 1/2 an inch from the top.

I'm going to share two ways to do the water bath - I'm tall and my oven is low, so the first is how I do it.

Very carefully pour warm water into the baking dish (not into the ramekins, obvi) up to about halfway up the jars.

Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and move it CAREFULLY to the oven. FYI, this will not be the last time I use the word carefully in this post. Pots de creme are not super hard, but making them involves a lot of steps that could be burny in a bad way. 

The other way to do it, which can be safer if your oven is higher up the wall or if you're shorter than I am, is to put the pan with the jars in the oven before pouring the water in and covering with the foil. Somehow I manage to burn myself more this way, but it's usually recommended as a safer method.

Bake at 325 for about 35 minutes, until the edges are starting to set up (taking on a different color and texture). You'll need to check them by opening the oven and CAREFULLY opening the foil to get a good look.

CAREFULLY remove the baking dish from the oven and the jars from the hot water. Cover each jar with the lid (you can put on the rings later when they've cooled more) or a piece of plastic wrap. Alternately, remove the jars from the pan and leave the pan to cool in the oven. 

Put the jars in the refrigerator for 2 to three hours to cool and finish setting up. Sprinkle a little finishing salt over each custard before serving. Enjoy!!!

Right click to save the image below to print. 

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