just desserts: peach pot de crème
Who can resist the combination of peaches and cream? Why not step up the combination with a peach pot de crème served with seasonably fresh peaches? Pots de crème are essentially custards baked in diminutive pots. Custard is derived from the medieval word “croustade” which means dishes served in a crust. As most of us know, a custard is made with milk (or cream) and eggs, but according to the book On Food and Science any liquid combined with the eggs will do, even water! As long as a mineral, such as salt, is dissolved a “coherent gel” will form. This is an interesting fact, if not an appealing one. Our modern definition of custard arrived in the 1600’s when it became popular to bake fruit crèmes in individual dishes instead of using them as a filling for crusts. The pots associated with pots de crème arrived on the scene during the early to mid 1730’s. However, the pots with one handle were used to serve à jus. A diner could sip the warm broth during the course of a meal. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that the small pots were used for desserts, specifically baked custard, hence pots de crème. Today you can find many recipes for pots de crème. The custard is a blank canvas waiting for you to flavor it as your taste demands. My taste buds were demanding peaches and cream when I came upon the beautiful donut peaches at my farmers market. Donut peaches. Not only are these little heirloom peaches adorable, they are low in acid making them gently sweet, with a hint of almond. It is hard to resist just eating one after another, but even harder still if they are served with pots de crème. The pairing creates the perfect summery dessert that will disappear before your eyes. Pots de crème is dessert comfort food baked in an oven, but during the dog days of August who wants to turn on the oven? Admittedly I’ve been anti-oven this summer. I have been avoiding the oven as if it was a dark and evil beast. I’ve turned to my crock pot, treating it as a mini oven. Crock pots are associated with busy schedules and cold weather comfort food. Never would I imagine putting my pots de crème in the crock pot to “bake”. Craving pots de crème and also craving the need to stay cool, I prepared the pots de crème as I would normally, but then I placed them within my crock pot (in a water bath), covered with the lid and set on high. I walked away and two hours later I had perfection.
Ingredients 2 cups cream 1 tsp peach extract 1 vanilla bean 6 egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1. Heat 1 3/4 cup of the cream with the vanilla bean. 2. Beat egg yolks until they are pale. Beat in the sugar, salt, extract and 1/4 cup of the cream. 3. Gradually beat in the hot cream, stirring constantly. Strain the mixture into a large 4-cup measuring cup. 4. Place 6 - pots de crème cups (soufflé cups or ramekin) in a large roasting pan. Divide the mixture evenly into the cups. Pour enough hot water in the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Cover the pan with foil or with the pot lids. Place in oven and bake at 350°F until the custard is just set around the edges. Time will vary based on the depth of your cups or ramekins and how much is poured into them. 5. Remove the pan from the oven. Remove cups from the pan and allow them to cool. Then, cover and chill in refrigerator at least 2 hours.