Earl Grey Pots De Crème with Lavender Cream

Sweet Recipes, Winter • 29 Dec 2013

The landscape is cold and grey, blustery, and definitely grim. The matte sky is fiercely bright, almost-blinding white; relentlessly caustic raindrops sting the skin as they drop like burnished nails from the sky. Upon further inspection, the endless blanket of clouds is rather ashen, a bit reminiscent of just-sullied snow. When it isn’t raining, it is snowing- thick, downy snowflakes, clustered together like cotton balls, fluttering from above- leaving behind an attractive but paralyzing colorless panorama. Nothing good comes from this climate.

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Such muted dreariness leaves me floundering and adrift. Everything is umber or onyx or charcoal or some other humdrum hue best suited for turtleneck sweaters and shoes, not landscapes. The ground is barren, the trees are naked and this soulless existence perfectly mirrors my state of being. Nothing thrives in this weather.

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The Northeastern New Year is afoot and I drown my somber-weather blues in cup after cup of tea, which goes well beyond a comforting morning ritual. A deep amber mug of Early Grey or Assam capped off with a swirl of luscious milk and a crystalline spoonful of sugar is my preferred witch’s brew. Billowing steam loudly wisps from the kettle, a force seductive enough to rouse me with a jolt from my dark, velutinous cocoon. Despite the desire to rebuff daylight, tea is a powerful mistress, my weapon for combating seasonal ennui, my day-to-day tradition.

Traditions run deep in my household, as do steaming cups of tea. New Year’s Day is for movie watching, popcorn eating and tea drinking (big, smiling, rotund pots; and hot cocoa for the younger set). New Year’s Eve is for bubbly fondue, tingly champagne and smooth custards- crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, lemony puddings or pots de crème.

Pots de creme

Pots de crème is a little pot of custard made with egg yolks, milk, or milk and cream, sugar and flavoring such as vanilla or chocolate or yes, tea. I infuse my cream and milk with vanilla seeds and loose Earl Grey leaves, which binds the slick dairy with subtle undertones of the robust tea.

Pots de crème is made a lot like crème brûlée- eggs and hot cream are combined and baked in a water bath until gently jiggly and wiggly and lusciously velvety. You bring the cream, milk and tea to a slow, gentle boil, whisking so as not to burn the bottom, and let the tea leaves steep for about 30 minutes to an hour. Make sure you busy yourself while you wait for the tea to infuse the milky cream, otherwise it will feel like waiting for water to boil, or watching paint dry.

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Separate the eggs, reserving the whites for another use, and stir in sugar, a pinch of salt and the vanilla seeds. Whisk until lemony yellow and add the warm cream slowly until thoroughly combined. Stir gracefully and methodically. Divide the cream between porcelain ramekins or glass pudding jars and cook, covered, in a water bath. Make sure to cool before imbibing.

The result is delicate and soft, smooth and milky-creamy custard, with an upfront but delicate hint of tea. The taste of dairy on my tongue is pleasing- the slight smudge of greasy, buttery cream on my lips; chilled silk slides down the throat easily.

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We ate our pots de crème topped with piles of lavender whipped cream, all washed down with delicate flutes of champagne. It turns out, tea-laced desserts thrive in this weather.

Earl Grey Pots De Crème with Lavender Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea leaves
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split down the middle, seeds scraped out
1 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream, milk, and tea leaves and vanilla bean (the seeds have already been set aside for later use) to a slow boil.

2. Remove pan from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes to an hour.

3. Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl until lemon colored and frothy. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla seeds. Reheat the cream mixture and pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Discard the leaves. Add about 1/3 of the cream to the eggs, whisking well so the eggs don’t cook. Slowly add the remaining cream, whisking to combine.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put 6 4-ounce ramekins in a large roasting pan. Evenly divide the cream mixture among the ramekins and add boiling water to the pan, about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until the custard is set but slightly jiggly in the center (make sure to check after 30 minutes, and then frequently thereafter).

5. Remove ramekins from pan and let cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Cover ramekins with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight, and up to 3 days.

6. To make the whipped cream, combine heavy cream and dried lavender in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then remove from heat and let steep, covered, for about 30 minutes. Strain the cream though a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard the lavender. Cover and chill cream until cold, about 2-3 hours.

7. In a mixing bowl, beat cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. If using orange zest, fold in. Use immediately or cover and chill while the Pots de crème set.

Yield: Serves 6.

10 Responses

  1. Ooooh, this looks just heavenly! If only I had the patience!

  2. Mira

    These are really so delicious. Their texture and flavor are delicious. A perfect dessert for this time of year!

  3. Emily

    I hope mine will bake and set properly. I used heavy whipping cream and 2% Acidophilus milk. I didn’t have any grey leaves so I used 2 earl grey tea bags by Twinings. I baked 40 minutes uncovered 🙁 Hopefully I didn’t ruin them. I can’t stomach whole milk very well which is why I changed it. Thanks for this recipe.

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  6. Jeffrey

    How wonderfully you capture the cold blahs of winter . Although, I reside in Alberta Canada and with the exception of rain I became entranced with your description of the blank, yet calm and tranquil season. Took me back to my youth when I had embraced the harsh and cruelness of the season .
    Thankyou Kate! I will add this delightful dessert to a dinner I am catering in September.

  7. Rachel

    I stumbled across this recipe by accident but just had to try it! It was everything I could have wished it to be! So delicious!

  8. Freida

    I have now made this recipe twice! Even though it takes a little bit of waiting, it’s really quite easy and incredibly delicious! Thank you so much for making this recipe!

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