Peach Pots de Crème
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One of the most useful skills you can cultivate as a cook is the ability to make connections between different recipes and methodologies. What works for one recipe may not work for another – but then again it just might. I was making ice cream a couple of weeks ago and reading David Lebovitz’s superb and timeless cookbook on the subject when I noticed how he uses sour cream in fruit ice creams. In the book he points out the fact that French-style ice creams (i.e. those made with an egg custard base) tend to be richer and creamier than Philadelphia-style ice creams (which are made without eggs). The richness of French-style ice creams is well-suited to rich and bold ingredients like chocolate and caramel, but can overwhelm brighter and lighter fruit flavours. Because of this many fruit ice creams are made in the Philadelphia style, but there’s a little trick that can do wonders: using sour cream. The tangy acidity of sour cream, used alongside regular cream, helps to brighten up and pop fruit flavors. This makes for more flavourful and refreshing desserts without sacrificing that silky, creamy texture that you get with custard ice creams.
As luck would have it that interesting little tidbit came in handy a lot sooner than I expected it to. When I first started to work on this post I knew I wanted to do something with some great summer fruit. I adore peaches and love baking with them, so a peach pot de crème seemed like a simple no-brainer – at least at first. But as I started to do some research I found that there aren’t that many fruit pot de crème recipes out there to work from (lemon being the possible exception), and I have a feeling that it’s due to the same issues that you run into with creamy French ice creams. A lot of fruit flavours tend to underwhelm against the richness of cream and eggs. But I figured it’d be fun to experiment a little, so I thought about how I could push pots de crème in a bright and tangy direction that would play against the peaches nicely. Turns out it was easier than I thought it would be, and all it took was a bit of yogurt. By swapping out some of the cream for plain yogurt you end up with something delightfully tangy (I was reminded somewhat of cheesecake), but with a creamy custard texture. As an added bonus, the yogurt drops the calorie count of the dessert significantly while adding a good serving of protein. At 325 calories you could even eat these as a slightly indulgent dessert if you were so inclined. I was so inclined on a couple of occasions.
Experimenting with flavours put me in the mood to experiment with techniques too, so I’ve actually worked up 3 distinct methods you can use to cook this recipe (using a high-speed blender, stovetop, or oven – click the links to jump to the notes for each method). If you’re short on time and you have the necessary equipment I recommend the blender version, but for the ideal texture and most control the stovetop method is the way to go.
This recipe is best suited to fresh, fully ripe in-season peaches (or nectarines). Because you’re not adding a lot of fruit to the recipe it’s easy for the flavour to get a little lost if you don’t have good, peachy-tasting peaches. You can dress these up however you like but I strongly recommend garnishing with more peach (sliced or diced). It obviously serves to double-down on the flavour, but it’s also a really nice bit of texture to have. You can also adapt this recipe to a variety of other fruits (especially stone fruits) – see the notes below for more on this.
The biggest thing to take note of in this recipe is the cooking method – or methods, to be more accurate. There are a variety of ways you can make these pots de crème, and I go into this in a lot more detail below. First though, I’ll explain a bit about pots de crème in general, as well as a few ingredient-based points.
Texture and Consistency
I want to make a very important note about what a pot de creme SHOULD be. I love a good mousse, but a pot de crème is NOT mousse. Mousse is well-set but airy – a spoonful of it should hold it’s shape very well. A pot de crème should be more like a pudding – not particularly airy, and somewhat loosely set (see the picture above). If you poured it, it would flow – albeit very slowly. The whole reason that they’re served in pots is that, unlike a flan, panna cotta, or crème caramel, pots de crème won’t hold their shape if you try to turn them out onto a plate.
All that being said, the final texture can vary depending on personal tastes and cooking methods. For more on this see the section below, and the next two photos for an idea of what to look for.
Yes, yogurt! As I mentioned above, one of the things that makes this recipe different is the fact that is plays off of the tangy brightness of fruit by using a mixture of yogurt and cream. Any good quality plain yogurt will work fine, though I would personally use one with at least some fat. I used a standard yogurt, but I think that a Greek (or other thick-style) yogurt would work quite well, especially in the blender version where you’re looking for a bit of help with getting things to set up.
This recipe is well-suited to variations – especially with other types of stone fruit. Nectarines are obviously a possibility, but apricots and cherries would both make stellar substitutes (or additions, if you’re looking to do a mixed fruit pot de crème). Plums might work too, though they’re generally much softer and more fibrous which could make for a textural challenge. Berries are a good bet too, though you’ll want to strain out for any seeds (I actually like seeds in my berries, but they don’t do a smooth dessert like this any favours). Regardless of the type of fruit you choose to use, make sure it’s very ripe and flavourful. You’re not incorporating all that much fruit into the pots de crème themselves, so you want to make sure it’s got enough distinctive taste to stand out in the finished dessert.
Don’t worry about going overboard on the garnishing fruit here either, as it adds more flavour and a nice bit of contrasting texture to the finished pots de crème. And honestly, can you ever have too many good peaches?
Eggs can do some pretty amazing things when it comes to dessert. They can also turn into a scrambled mess if you don’t treat them carefully. Pots de crème (and other custard desserts) utilize an initial step of whisking heated cream into the eggs and sugar in order to create a stable, tempered egg mixture. These partially cooked eggs are less likely to curdle in the final cooking steps. It’s worth noting, however, that there’s some controversy involved in this step. The high-speed blender method (more on this below) skips it altogether because the eggs are effectively tempered as part of the low-heat cooking method. I’ve included tempering steps for the stovetop and oven methods, though there are arguments for skipping it (especially for the stovetop method, which is basically an extended tempering method as is). This might sound a little crazy, but it’s not without precedent even in classical French desserts – crème anglaise is generally made in much the same way as the stovetop pot de crème method I’ve given here, but without tempering the eggs in advance.
Ultimately, the tempering step is actually quite easy to do, so don’t feel like you should worry about getting it done (or leaving it out). If you do curdle your eggs by accident, read the section on troubleshooting below.
I tested the heck out of this recipe in order to come up with a few different cooking methods. Each version has pros and cons, so I’ve gone into a bit more detail below.
Most importantly, I found the flavour profile pretty much identical across all three methods. The photo above shows the finished pots de crème and give you some sense of how the different cooking methods affect the final appearance of the dessert.
Pros: Extremely easy and fast, nearly impossible to overcook
Cons: Somewhat runnier texture, lots of bubbles, requires a high-speed blender
By far the easiest method (and the one I was most curious to figure out), this version requires no stovetop tempering or cooking, and no baking. High-speed, high-power blenders (e.g. Vitamix, Ninja, and Blendtec) are able to heat food up considerably thanks to the friction of the blades whirring through the ingredients. They generally can’t get hot enough to boil foods, but that happens to be just perfect for cooking custards and other recipes where you want to cook eggs without scrambling them. The blades also keep everything moving, which takes the place of whisking needed in other methods.
I recommend this method if you’re in a hurry, if you don’t have a reliable stove/oven, or if you’re nervous about getting custards to work right. You can also combine this method with the others by partially cooking the custard in the blender before finishing it on the stovetop or in the oven (with adjusted cooking times of course). If you find that the finished custard isn’t quite at the thickness you’re looking for you can also finish it by using the last steps of the stovetop method – but do note that the dessert will set and firm up more as it cools.
Pros: Excellent texture, no bubbles, no special equipment
Cons: Labour intensive
This method was quite the lovely surprise to me, as it yielded a wonderfully smooth and fairly thick end product. It takes less time than the oven method and you have a lot more control over the texture of the finished pot de crème. The basic idea behind this method is that you’re using relatively low heat to cook the custard mixture while keeping it in constant motion. This keeps the eggs from curdling, but it does mean that you need to be ready to attend to the stove and stir fairly quickly for the duration.
I recommend this method if you don’t mind stirring for a while and if you want a relatively thick pot de crème with a very smooth texture. If you’re looking to try another recipe that uses this method, I’d urge you to check out this one from my friend Janice at Kitchen Heals Soul – it’s a great recipe, and she helped me sort out some of the methodology stuff related to all of this egg tempering business.
Pros: No special equipment, less labour-intensive
Cons: Much harder to control texture and consistency of finished product
This might be the OG way to make pots de crème, but it’s also my least favourite way. The technique involves submerging the pots partially in water in order to control the high heat of the oven and keep the eggs from curdling. While it is fairly hands-off (following the tempering period), it’s tricky to figure out the exact right time to get the things out of the oven. It’s also trickier to control cracking/separation of the custard (as you can see in the photo above). Likewise, it’s easy to overshoot a bit and end up with a slightly chunky end product (as you can see in the photo below). It definitely helps if you know your oven well – if it’s finicky or has significant hot spots you’d probably be better off using one of the other two methods listed above.
If you do go with the oven method and you have any trouble with the custard over-cooking, check out the section on trouble-shooting below.
I really, really wanted to come up with a method for making these in the Instant Pot. I desperately wanted it to work, so I did a ton of research and tried out a variety of methods.
T’was not meant to be.
There are some Instant Pot egg custard and pot de crème recipes out there and I did a fair bit of sleuthing to try to get things to work, but something about this recipe makes it very difficult to avoid overcooking. I tried both tempered and un-tempered versions, and even a zero minute cooking time overcooked the custard. There may be a way to make it work by depressurizing after a set period of time, but that’s going to make for a finicky, elevation-specific technique that will be very hard to replicate at home. I plan to experiment with it further in the future, but I didn’t want to publish a half-finished method. So no Instant Pot for now. BUT – those troublesome failures did lead to a boon of sorts. I was able to figure out how to rescue the overcooked batches, turning them into perfectly lovely and smooth pots de crème. I thought it’d be nice to share that info with you.
Fixing Overcooked Custard
If your custard gets badly overcooked you’ll end up with chunky egg bits floating in a thin liquid. Not good. Fortunately it can be salvaged with a blender and a few fresh ingredients. Simply add the overcooked custard back into a blender along with an extra whole egg, about 1/2 cup of cream, a tablespoon of sugar, and another half a peach. Blend everything together VERY thoroughly. If you’ve got a high-speed blender you can just run it for about 4-5 minutes to set the curd (though if you badly overcooked things you probably weren’t using this method to begin with). Alternatively, I would suggest going to the stovetop method and finishing the salvaged pots de crème this way. I fixed a couple of pots with this method and they were deliciously indistinguishable from their more successful siblings.
If your pots de crème are just a tiny bit overcooked, you can empty them into a heat-proof bowl and whisk vigorously, then strain and pour back into containers to set. Don’t attempt this method if you’ve got badly curdled eggs, but it does work nicely if you’ve ended up with something that looks sort of like wet ricotta. That being said, this is more of a cosmetic issue than anything; slightly over-baked pots de crème will still taste fine.
Dealing with Bubbles
It’s easy to end up with a lot of air bubbles in the uncooked custard. These have no bearing on the taste of the finished dessert, but they’re not terribly pretty, and they can mess with the texture a little. The constant whisking in the stovetop method does a great job of working out most of the bubbles, but there are a couple of things you can do to try and deal with them while using the other methods too.
First of all, try tapping the ramekins on the counter repeatedly. A lot of bubbles will rise to the surface and pop this way, though it’s tough to get them all. If you’re using the blender method you want to try to do this as much as you can before the hot custard cools off. The bubbles do tend to rise to the top well, but won’t always pop. You can skim the top layer with a small strainer to get rid of them if you’re so inclined.
It’s trickiest to deal with bubbles when using the high-speed blender method, as you’ve got to try to get them out of the hot/set mixture before they cool off. Try tapping the entire mixture vigorously and skimming the top layer before pouring into ramekins. If you’ve still got a lot of bubbles to deal with but your custard hasn’t cooled/set yet, you can carefully transfer it to a large bowl and whisk it to get rid of a lot of them (basically replicating the end of the stovetop method).
What can you do if the set pots de crème have more bubbles than you want on top? Cover everything with garnish. Sure it sounds like cheating, but it’s really just a cosmetic issue. And hey, you’re going to want to put a bunch of tasty, tasty peaches on top of these anyway, so there’s no need to drive yourself crazy.
Note: Nutritional Information is given for a single serving (1/6th portion of the total recipe, including garnishes).
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
A tangy twist on a French classic made with sweet summer stonefruit! These easy desserts can be made in a variety of different ways and adapted to other fruits too.
Note that the cook time summary is shown for the high-speed blender method. The cooking times for the stovetop and oven methods are indicated in the instructions.
- 1 cup chopped peaches (~225 g or 8 oz) peeled or unpeeled (see note 1)
- 1.25 cups whipping cream
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 peaches sliced or diced
- 6 blackberries
- 1/4 cup whipped cream (optional)
Combine the egg, egg yolks, cream, vanilla, and sugar in a high-speed blender (e.g. Vitamix) and mix at the highest speed setting for 3 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and mix at the highest speed setting for an additional 5 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and allow the mixture to cool slightly (it will be steaming hot right out of the blender).
Pour the mixture through a fine strainer, sieve, or chinois. Pour the strained mixture into ramekins, small jars, or another small container. Set aside to cool slightly. Cover and chill for 2 hours (or overnight). Garnish with peaches, blackberries, and whipped cream and serve cold.
(Note: these first 5 tempering steps are followed for both the stovetop and baking methods)
Blend or puree the peaches (see note 2 below).
Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla together in a large heat-proof bowl and set aside.
Heat the cream in a small pan over low heat on the stovetop. Stir constantly to avoid scorching. Once the mixture is nearly simmering, remove it from the stove top.
Slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Do not pour the cream too fast or the eggs will scramble.
Stir the pureed peaches and all other remaining ingredients into the tempered eggs and cream. Whisk well to combine, then pass the whole mixture through a strainer, sieve, or chinois.
Pour the strained mixture into a small saucepan (you can use the same one you used to heat the cream) and heat on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
Whisking constantly to avoid scorching, cook the mixture until it's thickened considerably. This should take 3-5 minutes, but may vary a bit depending on the heat you use. If the mixture isn't setting enough, increase the heat a little, but be careful not to go too high.
Pour the cooked mixture into ramekins (or other heat-proof cups) and allow them to cool on the counter for a while, then cover and chill for 2 hours (or overnight). Garnish with peaches, blackberries, and whipped cream and serve cold.
Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
Pour the strained mixture into ramekins (or other heat-proof cups) and place them in an oven-safe dish with high sides. Fill the dish with water so that the ramekins are submerged up to approximately the half-way point.
Carefully move the dish to the oven and bake until the pots de creme are set, but still jiggly (approximately 25-30 minutes, but keep a close eye on them).
Remove the dish from the oven and the ramekins from the dish. Allow everything to cool, then cover and chill for 2 hours (or overnight). Garnish with peaches, blackberries, and whipped cream and serve cold.
Note 1: If you're using one of the blender methods you should be able to chop the peach skin up finely enough to avoid any textural issues (especially since you pass the puree through a strainer/chinois). The blended skins will turn into tiny colourful flecks, which I kind of like the look of. If you want to omit the skins you can peel your peaches before adding them to the recipe. I find this easiest to do by dunking the whole peaches in boiling water for about 30 seconds before transferring them to an ice water bath. The skins should slip right off.
Note 2: If you're using the old-school method you'll need to turn your peaches into peach puree. This is easiest if you've got a blender (stand or immersion), but you can also pre-cook the peaches (e.g. on the stovetop with a splash of water) and crush them with a potato masher. If you don't use a blender you'll want to peel the peaches first (see note 1 above).