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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Kitchen Mailbox: Pot de creme, creme brulee are rich custards

Thursday, September 07, 2000

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When Deborah Pike of Churchill sent Kitchen Mailbox a request for caramel pot de creme, she stated, "this dessert is made like a custard, and it's not the same as creme brulee."

Caramel pot de creme is a custard, and so is creme brulee. Custards are basically eggs, milk, sugar and flavoring, such as vanilla extract. They're simple to assemble, but they need plenty of attention while cooking. If you overcook a custard, it will curdle, and that's something you don't want to happen. Custards should be smooth and silky -- not lumpy like sour milk.

Now, about the difference between the two custards. "The Food Lover's Companion," by Sharon Tyler Herbst, tells us that pot de creme (poh duh KREHM) is French for pot of cream. It's a rich, creamy custard that's served in small pots or ramekins. There are many variations of pot de creme, but the classic is vanilla.

The translation of creme brulee (krehm broo-LAY) is burnt cream. Creme brulee is a chilled custard that just before serving is sprinkled with brown sugar or sugar and set under the broiler so the sugar caramelizes and becomes brittle. The completed dessert gives you a brittle topping with the smooth and creamy custard underneath.

One tip about these wonderfully luxuriant recipes: They will turn out perfect if the directions are followed.

We absolutely loved both recipes!

Pat Sadler of McCandless sent us this luscious recipe. Pat serves this dessert with vanilla whipped cream.

Caramel Pot de Creme

6 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Place yolks in bowl and whisk lightly. Scald * milk and cream over medium-high heat. In a large pot (large enough to hold the milk and cream and the sugar/water), dissolve sugar in water over low heat; this should take about 5 minutes. Increase heat to high and cook until amber colored, about 5-6 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat, and slowly add scalded milk/cream mixture, blending well with wooden spoon. Return to heat and stir to dissolve caramel; this should take about 5 minutes. Whisk caramel cream into yolks, strain and refrigerate until cool.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Pour custard into 6 6-ounce ramekins. Place in ovenproof pan (we used a 9-x-13-inch cake pan). Fill the pan 1/3 up the sides with water. Cover lightly with foil and bake 50 minutes or until set around the edges but not quite firm in the center. Refrigerate several hours before serving.

*To scald milk is to heat the milk so tiny bubbles form around the inside edge of the pan.

Pat's Vanilla Whipped Cream

Whip 3/4 cup cream (we used whipping cream) until soft peaks form. Mix in 2 teaspoons powdered sugar and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla. Whip until stiff. Serve immediately.

Here's a recipe for creme brulee sent in by Hershey Dugan of Monroeville.

Creme Brulee

1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
5 egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoon brown sugar

In a bowl, blend egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. In heavy saucepan, heat cream and half-and-half until light skin forms on top. Remove from heat and cool slightly; pour 1/2 cup cream into egg mixture, beating quickly. Pour egg mixture into remaining cream, stirring constantly. Cook (low to medium) without boiling until mixture coats the back of a spoon (this should take about 8-10 minutes). Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour into four 6-ounce ramekins and chill overnight. Before serving, sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and place under broiler until bubbly.

Chill and serve.


Andi Cipa of Murrysville is looking for a recipe that calls for fresh mozzarella cheese, dried tomatoes and prosciutto. The tomatoes and the prosciutto are rolled up in the cheese and then sliced. This dish may also call for basil.

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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