I have to confess to never buying actual vanilla beans. I usually have some really good vanilla paste on hand and always seem to go with that but this recipe specifically asked for the bean. This meant a trip to the store and after I read the price tag for the vanilla three times I took a deep breath and threw it in the basket. Don’t think I’m cheap, frugal would be a better word and I don’t mind buying expensive things which will either last a while or are really worth it and this was for a special dinner. After making these Pots De Creme which should be called Pots De Smooth Silky Lusciousness, I immediately realised the difference between a vanilla bean and paste is night and day!
The recipe calls for 6oz ramekins but I thought that would be a little on the large side especially if you had seen the amount of food we ate beforehand, so I chose to half the original recipe and use 3.5oz ramekins which was just the right size for us. I served them with some chocolate twists on the side and another great thing about this dessert or any other custard base is the necessity to make it the day before and let it set in the fridge overnight.
Here’s the recipe taken from Bouchon by Thomas Keller: (This has already been halved and will serve about six 3.5-4oz ramekins)
1 1/4 Cups heavy cream
1/3 Cup whole milk
2.5 Tbsp sugar plus another 2.5 Tbsp for mixing with the eggs later
1/2 Vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 Large egg yolks
Combine the cream, milk and the first 2.5 tbsp of sugar in a pot along with the vanilla scrapings and the pod.
Simmer until warm and then turn off the heat and cover. Let sit for 1 hour.
Meanwhile add the other 2.5 tbsp of sugar to the egg yolks and whip until well combined.
Add a little of the cream mix into the egg and whisk, this is tempering the egg and if you add too much at once the hot cream will scramble the egg. Keep adding little amounts of the cream until all is incorporated.
Strain through a sieve and keep in the fridge until ready for the oven.
Preheat the oven to 300. Place the molds in a metal tray suitable to hold enough water to reach halfway up the side of the molds.
Stir the custard and pour into the molds about 2/3 of the way up. Fill the tray with HOT water so that it reaches about halfway up the mold. I usually boil a kettle full of water as I switch the oven on.
Bake for about 30 minutes and test for some slight jiggle on the top of the dessert, they should be jiggly but not runny and they may take another 5-10 minutes. They will firm up in the fridge and can be made 2-3 days ahead.