My friends at Frieda’s Specialty Produce recently sent me some vanilla beans to test out in my kitchen. I was so excited, because vanilla is one of my favorite flavors…I hate it when somebody uses the term “plain vanilla.” To me, vanilla is far from simple. It's complex…with an intoxicating aroma. Especially when you go right to the source: vanilla beans! Vanilla beans are actually the dried pods from the vanilla orchid. Before they can be used, they must be carefully dried in order to preserve their wonderful flavor and aroma. I knew that I wanted to make a dessert that was worthy of such a special treat. But what? I did a lot of research and ultimately tweaked Emeril Lagasse’s White Chocolate Pots de Crème recipe.
I used it for a jumping off point, but made it my own by adding a vanilla pod to the custard…and then topping each serving with strawberries macerated with raspberry white balsamic, sugar, and more vanilla beans. My heavenly creation is called Vanilla Bean-White Chocolate Pots de Crème with Vanilla Bean-Balsamic Strawberries! This dessert is simple to make, has only a few ingredients, and is fancy enough to serve to guests. Since the ingredients are simple, buy the best-quality ingredients you can get your hands on. These custards need three hours to chill in the fridge, so make sure to account for that when deciding when to serve them. This treat is a bit indulgent…but so worth it! Let me show you how simple it is to make.
Vanilla Bean-White Chocolate Pots de Creme with Vanilla-Balsamic Strawberries
adapted from Emeril Lagasse
Step 1: Preheat oven to 350. Pour 1 1/3 cups half and half in a 4-cup measuring cup, and for 3 minutes in the microwave. While the half and half heats, add 4 ounces good-quality white chocolate in a large bowl (I used Ghirardelli premium white baking bar). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for 3-4 minutes.
Step 2: Add the following ingredients to a second bowl: 4 egg yolks, ¼ cup sugar, and the beans from inside a one vanilla pod – split the pod with a sharp knife and use the edge to scrape the seeds from the inside. Whisk well to combine.
Step 3: Whisk the white chocolate mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Slowly pour the mixture into the bowl with the egg yolk-sugar-vanilla mixture, whisking the entire time. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Place a dishtowel in the bottom of a 9x9 pan. Place four 6-ounce ramekins on top of the towel and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Step 4: Pour the custard mixture into a 4-cup measure; you should have 2 cups of custard. Add ½ cup of the custard to each ramekin. Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and carefully place it in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, increase the temperature to 350, and bake for another 15 minutes. The custards will be a bit jiggly, but will set up as the cool. Cool on the counter for 30 minutes, then place in the fridge for another 3 hours to completely chill.
Step 5: Make the strawberry topping by combining the following ingredients in a small bowl: 1 cup chopped strawberries, 2 tbs. sugar, 1 tbs. raspberry white balsamic, and the seeds from one vanilla bean pod. Stir well to combine and refrigerate. Before serving, spoon ¼ of the berries on top of each pot de crème.
This dessert is out of this world! Perfectly creamy, but not overly sweet or too rich. The combination of vanilla beans and white chocolate gives the custard a mellow flavor and the most amazing smell! The strawberries take it right over the top: sweetly tart, with a gentle vanilla background note. Put it all together, and it’s a party for your mouth. If you’re looking for something a bit different for your Thanksgiving dessert menu this year, this would be perfect. It’s not the least bit heavy, and it’s definitely something to be thankful for ;)!! My Texas-based readers can find Frieda's vanilla beans at their local HEB grocery store.
Disclosure: Frieda's sent me vanilla beans to facilitate this post. The opinions expressed are my own.