We recently had dinner at Vinegar Hill House, which I had heard such wonderful things about. Now, the place is warm and homey, and the decor feels like you’ve stepped into the uber cool dining room of a hipster friend who has also taken up hunting. Except that the staff was so cold and unwelcoming, it was like entering the uber cool, hipstery dining room of someone who was decidedly not your friend. The moment I got over the coolness of the walls, and made my way to our cramped table- alarmingly close to another couple- I wondered how this place could possibly have been voted as one of the best date spots. Our waitress had dangling earrings with large gold hearts, and sported the requisite striped shirt and bright red lipstick, and pretty as she was, she didn’t smile at us once, and practically glared at us when we asked for explanations regarding the hard-to-decipher menu. Aided by glasses of red wine, we warmed up to dinner, but the desserts proved anticlimactic. We ordered the Guinness Chocolate Cake with cream cheese frosting, which tasted like a corner-store devil’s cake, especially after the luscious frosting on these. The Salted Caramel Custard was so salty it was almost inedible. The party of four seated so close to us that we gave up maintaining appearances of having our own distinct conversations, was on the verge of ordering dessert, and asked us how ours were. One of the men nodded towards the custard, and said: “Too salty, right?” We walked out into the cold night, the East River glimmering at the end of the road, and I wished I had left the chef a note about the desserts. Because chocolate cakes are so easy to do right, and well, a few days before I had made the most incredible butterscotch pots de crème.
Well, at least I get to share them with you. The recipe for these elegant, utterly decadent specimens, came my way via Orangette, who mentioned the recipe lingered in her files for over four years before she got around to it. I looked up at the date of the post, and what do you know, four years had elapsed from when I first read it to when I got around to making it myself. Don’t continue this pattern. For one, it’s so easy and straightforward, you’ll be kicking yourself for all those years and those bleak wintry nights when with just a few minutes and a little bit of patience, you could have luxuriated on the couch with one of these. Also, Molly is very right to call these “pots of gold”. They are rich and creamy, and taste like biting into heaven. Yaki and I dug into them on the couch after a movie, and when he took his last bite he shook his head slowly, and declared them to be just too sinful. Which, in my book, is just about perfect.
Butterscotch Pots de Creme
These are rich and creamy, and surprisingly easy to make. The result is so impressive- so sumptuously decadent- that it will leave you breathless. (Although Molly notes that these are best on the first day, after which they develop a thin skin, I made these a day ahead for our at-home date, and we thought they were perfect. A thin skin was more apparent by day three, but they were still delicious!).
via Orangette who adapted it from M.J. Adams and Gourmet, October 2003
Yield: 4 servings
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar (I used plain dark brown sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 300F/ 150C, and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
In a small heavy saucepan, combine the cream, muscovado sugar, and salt. Place over medium heat and bring to barely a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat.
In a medium saucepan (preferably light-colored, Molly indicates, to make it easier to gauge the color of the mixture), heat the water and demerara sugar over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is browned and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully pour in the cream mixture, whisking until combined.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla. Slowly drizzle in the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a 1-quart measuring cup, and pour the custard through the sieve. Use a spoon to skim off any foam.
Divide the custard among four (4-ounce) ramekins or other oven-safe vessels. Line a baking dish large enough to hold the ramekins without any of them touching with a folded dish towel (this will insulate the custards from the hot bottom of the pan). Cover the top of each ramekin with a piece of aluminium foil, and arrange them in the pan.
Slide the pan into the oven, and immediately pour hot tap water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custards are set around the edges, but still jiggle slightly in the center when shaken, like Jell-o, about 40 minutes (mine took a little over an hour; they will continue to set as they cool).
Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack. Discard foil and allow the custards to cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a few hours, or until you’re ready to serve them.
Serve plain or topped with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.