If you aren’t ready to crawl into your sea berth and tie up your lee cloth yet, you will be after this…chocolate pots-de-creme – a richer, smoother, deeper pudding – infused with vanilla bean and lavender and served with the world’s most contented dollop of freshly-whipped cream. In fact, we are so sure of its sedative properties, we respectfully suggest you send your most sober sailor topsides now to check the anchor before succumbing to this. Go ahead, we can wait…the holidays have officially wound down.
This recipe is easier and more foolproof than it might sound, but you will need a Bain Marie (water bath) with four ramekins to fit. That said, my 8″ square metal cake pan and these Pyrex ramekins from the grocery store work beautifully, so don’t let seemingly specialized gear deter you. You will also need, as you have for this 3-course meal, culinary lavender, which differs from what you might have in your garden or find at florists or home decor stores! Mine came from the Leelanau Peninsula in northern Michigan, but it’s not difficult to find. Ditto vanilla bean pods…a little gourmet, but worth it now and then.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Warm 2 cups heavy cream with one vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise, and bring to a simmer without boiling. Add 3 tablespoons culinary lavender, turn off the heat, and allow the mixture to steep until it is just lukewarm.
While the cream steeps, separate 6 eggs and squirrel the whites away in the icebox to make an omelet tomorrow when you are overcome by dietary repentance. Beat the yolks with 1/4 cup sugar.
When lukewarm, strain the cream to remove the herbs. Here is where I realized I didn’t have a fine mesh strainer aboard. You know what works? A french press coffee maker! First cup of Joe the next morning is a little flowery, but it’s all good.
After straining, return the cream to medium heat, bring to a simmer without boiling and add 4 ounces shaved dark chocolate, stirring to melt, and remove from heat as soon as chocolate has conceded defeat.
Pour the chocolate cream into the egg yolks and whisk well to combine.
Butter your ramekins well and fill each with cream as full as you can and still move the pan without spilling…the cream will not expand while cooking. Fill the pan around the ramekins with warm water to cover as much of them as you can and not spill or – heaven forbid – slosh water into the cream. Note: this recipe make 6-8 small ramekins’ worth, so halve the recipe if that’s what you have, or double your pots, or do a second batch in that case.
Cover the whole Bain Marie with foil and place carefully in the preheated oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until set. Whip a pint of cream while they are cooking. It is perhaps the most accurate expression of how lovely this dessert is, that the fresh whipped cream provides a nice, light, clean note of contrast and balance to the rich pudding as you spoon them up together. It’s like the patisserie’s answer to the sushi chef’s pickled ginger.
Remove foil to confirm they are set and look roughly like this.
Baptize with whipped cream, and tuck in. In every way. Happy New Year, friends! Eat well even in small spaces this year.