Friday, October 28, 2011

nutmeg pot de crème

I made pot de crème twice yesterday. The joy of working from 1 PM to 9 PM two days in a row is that you can make a pot de crème in the morning, screw it up, get home in time to purchase more ingredients from the grocery store and try it out all over again.

Let me tell you something about how my brain works. Sometimes it just completely glosses over stuff. For example, the first time I made these yesterday, I followed the recipe as written and completely forgot to cut the brown sugar, even though my standard custard recipe uses half of that in regular sugar. The finished product was inedibly sweet and the nutmeg was totally overpowered by caramel flavour. I threw it down the toilet with a sad face, but vowed to try again in the evening.

Round two was more successful than the last, but only by sheer luck. I cut the brown sugar to 1/4 cup and things were tasting pretty magical. I realised then that I'd forgotten the salt. Panic! Disaster! Emergency! So I grabbed the salt and added it, forgetting to reduce that as well. 1/4 tsp of salt is a lot when your total amount of sugar is 1/4 cup. I tasted it. Salty salty salty. So I was forced to add 2 tbsp of sugar - of course I conveniently accidentally used white sugar. That actually turned out to be a good move, it kept the caramel notes a little more subdued. In the end, the level of sweetness ended up being perfect, though I could still taste the salt. Needless to say, the recipe below will correct for salt.

That's my story of how I tried to rush through making nutmeg pot de crème twice in one day.

Tips: If you don't want scrambled eggs (and trust me, you don't), do not overcook your custard. Cook it on low heat and watch it like a hawk. When the first bubble blorps to the surface, remove it from the heat immediately.

nutmeg pot de crème
Inspired by Not Without Salt

2 cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean (or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
1 1/2 tsps freshly grated nutmeg
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
pinch salt
more nutmeg for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 320ºF.

Off heat, split vanilla bean if using and scrape seeds into a medium sized pot with whipping cream and nutmeg. Put vanilla bean itself into pot and bring to a light simmer. Remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt. Add to cream mixture and whisk vigorously to distribute the egg and prevent it from cooking in clumps. Return to medium-low heat and stir constantly until you see the first bubble. Remove from heat immediately and run through a sieve.

Divide custard into four ramekins and place them in a water bath. Bake until they are almost set and the centre jiggles slightly when gently shaken. Ashley at Not Without Salt suggests that you begin checking them at 30 minutes, then check them every 5 minutes until they are done. Mine took 45 minutes.

Allow to cool, then place covered into the fridge and chill for at least two hours. They will continue to set. Sprinkle with more nutmeg and serve!

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