As a young teenager I spent many afternoons baking with our neighbor next door. Armed with my great love for sweets and baking skills newly acquired from my mother (who had quite a reputation as a baker herself), we experimented with many recipes. Some were disasters, but this pots de creme recipe was one of our greatest successes. Spicy, creamy, and delicate, this sweet works especially well as an ending to an Indian meal; the subtle play of its sweet spice complements highly aromatic savory dishes.—Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness
For the pot de creme custard
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon loose Darjeeling or Earl Grey tea
1-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken in half
6 green cardamom pods, pounded in a mortar and pestle just to break open the shells
5 whole cloves
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
4 black peppercorns
3 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
For the whipped cream
1 cup whipping cream
4 teaspoons granulated sugar (or 1 tablespoon, if not using garam masala)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (see Note)
Make the custard
1. Combine the cream, half-and-half, tea, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, cover, and let steep 15 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line a 13-x-9-x-2-inch baking dish with a dishtowel. Place six 6-ounce ramekins in the baking dish and set aside.
3. Combine the egg yolks, whole egg, sugars, and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed until the mixture has thickened and leaves a ribbon trail when you lift the beaters from the bowl, about 2 minutes. Strain the spice-infused cream into a medium bowl. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually pour the warm cream into the egg mixture and mix to combine.
4. Carefully divide the custard among the six ramekins and put the baking dish in the oven. Use a cup to pour enough hot tap water into the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and punch several holes in the foil to allow the steam to escape. Bake until the custards are just set and the centers still jiggle when shaken, about 30 minutes.
5. Remove the pots de creme from the hot water and let cool on a rack. (Turn off the oven and let the water in the baking dish cool before removing it from the oven.) Then chill until completely cold.
Make the whipped cream
1. Beat the whipping cream with the sugar and garam masala, if using, in a medium bowl to soft peaks. Spoon a dollop of this spiced cream on top of each chilled pot de creme and serve.
Note: Garam Masala is a special spice blend which can be purchased premixed at Indian stores or food specialty shops. If you wish to make your own:
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup cumin seeds
1/3 cup coriander seeds
1 rounded tablespoon green cardamom pods
1 rounded tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 whole, dried red Chile
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
Combine the cinnamon, bay leaves, cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves, and red chile in a frying pan and toast over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the cumin turns uniformly brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Put into a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the mace and store in an airtight container.
Recipe © 2004 Suvir Saran. All rights reserved.