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Coffee-Caramel Pots de Crème

Scott Phillips

Servings: eight.


  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar  
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved (or 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract)
  • 1 Tbs. ground espresso (or 2 tsp. instant coffee or instant espresso granules)
  • 10 large egg yolks


  • Put a large pot of water on to boil for the water bath. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Put eight 6-oz. ramekins in a large roasting pan or baking dish with high sides.

Make the caramel cream:

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture is deep amber. Remove the pan from the heat and add a few tablespoons of the cream. Be careful—the hot caramel will spatter. Add a bit more cream and then the rest. The caramel will seize and harden, but it will melt in the cream as you simmer it. Set the pan over medium-low heat. Add the vanilla seeds and pod (if you’re using extract, don’t add it yet) and the espresso or coffee to the caramel cream. While stirring constantly, slowly bring the cream to just below a boil; remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks until smooth. Whisk a ladleful of the caramel cream into the yolks and then whisk the yolk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the caramel cream. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, 3 to 4 min. Strain immediately through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. If you’re using vanilla extract, stir it in now.

Bake the custards:

  • Divide the mixture among the ramekins in the roasting pan. Pull out the oven shelf, put the roasting pan on it (be sure it’s stable), and pour enough boiling water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the ramekins with a sheet of foil (simply lay the sheet on top, don’t crimp the edges) and bake for 25 to 45-min.—start checking early—until the custards are set about 1/4 inch in from the sides, the centers respond with a firm jiggle (not a wavelike motion) when you nudge the ramekins, and the centers of the custards register 150° to 155°F on an instant-read thermometer (the hole left by the thermometer will close up as the custards firm). Let the custards cool to room temperature in their water bath. Remove the custards from the bath, cover them with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to two days before serving. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream (or a rosette from a pastry bag). Or try a sliver of candied citrus peel, a sprig of mint or another delicate herb, or a candied flower (available from Meadowsweets).


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