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What’s this, two dessert recipes in a row? I know, I know, we’re all watching our waistlines ahead of the end of the year binge fest that’s literally less than 90 days away. But if you’re a coffee addict like I am, you’ll be over the moon for this recipe. I’ve been on the hunt for comfort food and this dessert is certainly comforting.
There’s a common misconception that pots de créme are difficult to make, but I can assure you that they are the fanciest easy desserts you can add to your repertoire. Literally a “pot of cream” or “pot of custard” you need limited baking skills to put them together: the ability to whisk eggs, the ability to measure and not burn simmering heavy cream. Put them together before the kids wake up or after you’ve eaten breakfast, stick them in the refrigerator for at least four hours and you can forget about them while they finish setting up. From start to finish (not counting the chilling time), you can have this done in less than 45 minutes leaving you the rest of the day to garden, yell at your spouse to clean up after themselves and take a nap.
I like to think of this particular recipe as the recipe I whip together when I don’t have the patients for something more elaborate but want to make an exquisite dessert that will knock everyone’s socks off. It’s rich and savory and it’s the closest thing to perfection I can think of for one reason alone: it pairs perfectly with a nice glass of Tawny Port in it’s very own special glass.
You knew the wine would appear eventually, right?
The silky texture of these custards make it ideal to serve alongside a traditional after dinner dessert wine. With the presence of the coffee flavors, it’s important that you not accidentally serve a ruby port. Port itself is a fortified wine and that means in order to stop the fermentation process, brandy is added before the yeast can eat up all the natural sugars from the grapes. There’s one major difference between a tawny port and a ruby port: the time it’s been aged. At one time or another, you’ve probably tasted ruby port. It’s sweeter and has been aged for several years and it compliments chocolate nicely. Tawny on the other hand, is typically aged anywhere from 10 to 40 years! With a tawny, you’re going to find some nutty flavors from oxidation, which is why they’re ideal for this particular recipe, especially one that has been aged for more than 10 years. Each vintage you can expect certain characteristics.
But enough about wine–let’s get back to these luscious little pots of coffee custard. Make no mistake, the savoriness of this dessert will likely be too rich for kids unless they’re also coffee fiends. Though, because there is caffein in them, it’s probably best to keep this as an adults-only treat.
They’re the perfect dessert for autumn and winter. Even though they’re served cold, they leave you with a warm tingly feeling–maybe it’s the port but really, minor details! You can use instant coffee or espresso powder, though there will be a difference in flavor depending upon what you use. I have found that coffee, however, seems to be more pleasing to larger crowds as not everyone enjoys the flavors commonly found in espresso but trust your instinct, especially if you know your dinner guests’ after dinner habits. For an extra kick, instead of using vanilla extract, sometimes I’ll use coffee extract for an even richer experience, which is what I personally prefer. One thing I cannot stress enough is using pure extract due to the simplicity of this recipe you can and will taste the difference.
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 egg yolks
- Preheat oven to 325º Place a baking dish in the oven and add about 3/4 inch of water.
- Over medium-high heat, simmer the heavy cream until tiny bubbles form around the edges. DO NOT BOIL.
- Whisk the egg yolks until blended. Add the hot cream mixture SLOWLY while whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into four 1-cup custard cups or ramekins. Place the cups in a baking pan and cover the pan with aluminum foil.
- Bake until just set but the centers still move slightly when the cups are lightly shaken, 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the cups from the water bath. Let cool on a wire rack until you can touch a cup, then cover cups with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least four hours before serving.