The soft floral notes of honey mingle with sultry vanilla bean in this show-stopping baked custard that’s deceivingly easy to prepare.
Honey and vanilla make for a perfect combination in these perfectly petite, and perfectly adorable, pots de crème. The silky smooth texture is achieved by gently baking in a bain-marie or water bath.
Part two of my edible flower obsession, this time featuring chamomile flowers. They are most commonly used as herbal tea, but the fresh flowers are a lovely edible garnish for any dish, sweet or savory.
I was unsuccessful growing my own chamomile flowers last summer, and this year my efforts to find a starter plant came up short. I filled my garden with other edibles, including dianthus and marigold, but had resigned myself to a chamomile-less existence.
Then I spotted fresh cut chamomile flowers at Trader Joe’s, and immediately stashed a bunch in my cart (to Taylor’s obvious confusion since I never buy fresh flowers… because, cats.)
I had been planning to revisit these lovely honey pots de creme for some time now, the recipe one we originally developed for a honey company years ago but never actually posted it here. I had a container of honey comb I’d been saving for just this reason as well, so it appeared the stars (and flowers) had finally aligned.
I didn’t actually get to making and shooting the recipe until two weeks later (I blame books, which somehow make my entire weekend disappear before my very eyes). Luckily, chamomile flowers are a sturdy lot. I stuck them in a vase of water in the wine fridge and they still looked as fresh and perky as the day I bought them.
Paired with a little pyramid of glistening honeycomb, the cheerful flowers make the perfect garnish for this show-stopping dessert.
What I love most about these naturally sweetened custards is the delicate flavor of the honey that shines through the richness of the dairy for a truly unique treat. Normally in a baked custard like this, sugar is for sweetness only, but in this recipe the honey provides both sweetness and flavor, and a lovely flavor at that.
The custards are also flavored with vanilla bean, which serves as a lovely counterpoint to the floral honey. It’s like a rich French vanilla ice cream with a bee-autiful twist.
A pot de crème (literally: a pot of cream or pot of custard) is a French-style baked custard of eggs, cream, and sugar. It’s typically baked in individual ramekins, making for a unique and impressive presentation.
Both pots de crème and crème brûlée are baked milk and egg custards, though pots de crème are often a looser consistency. The main difference between them is, obviously, the caramelized sugar topping (or lack thereof). Additionally, pots de crème are served in deeper ramekins, compared to shallower crème brûlée-style ramekins designed to maximize the custard-to-caramel ratio.
If crème brûlée is your jam, this recipe can easily be baked in a shallower, porcelain or stoneware ramekin (adjust baking time as necessary to account for the shallower dish) and brûléed just before serving for a crust of caramelized sugar on top.
What kind of honey should you use here?
This recipe will work with any kind of honey. The honey flavor really does shine through in the final custard, so use a variety that you would enjoy eating straight out of the jar by the spoonful (go on, channel your inner Pooh bear). I find darker honeys too strong sometimes, almost medicinal even, which is why I went with something lighter.
I sampled both a macadamia flower honey (from Trader Joe’s) as well as a strawberry flower honey from our local berry farm. Both had a lovely floral undertone, though ultimately I felt the macadamia flower honey had a really unique, nutty flavor and velvety texture that paired beautifully with the rich cream and vanilla bean.
Likewise, you can also use maple syrup in place of the honey here, which I think would make for a lovely fall-flavored dessert (doesn’t maple vanilla sound absolutely divine?)
For delicate custards like this where texture is paramount, you don’t want to bake it too hot or you’ll end up with a rubbery or curdled consistency. Instead, gently baking it in a water bath (or bain-marie) ensures a consistent, creamy texture throughout.
Baking tip: place a damp paper towel or clean tea towel in the bottom of your baking dish to keep the ramekins from sliding around.
A word of caution, pouring hot water into a baking dish and transferring it to the oven is a precarious task. I sometimes find that placing the baking dish on an extended oven rack first, then pouring in the hot water using something like this gooseneck kettle, to be a much safer option than trying to transfer a dish full of hot water into the oven without spilling.
I used these 3.5oz oven-safe glass ramekins, and this recipe filled 5 of them, but if you have slightly larger, 4oz ramekins, you’ll probably only need 4.
If you’re unsure of your ramekin size or how many you’ll need, fill a liquid measuring cup with 400mL water, then pour it into your ramekins to the same level as you’d fill with custard (about 3/4 full).
While we felt that these little ramekins were the perfect petite portion size, you can easily scale this recipe as needed for larger ramekins or more servings. Note that larger and/or deeper ramekins will require longer cooking time, while shallower crème brûlée-style ramekins will bake more quickly.
Honey Vanilla Pots de Crème
The soft floral notes of honey mingle with sultry vanilla bean in this show-stopping baked custard. The silky smooth texture is achieved by gently baking in a bain-marie or water bath.
- ¾ cup (175 mL) heavy cream
- ½ cup (120 mL) whole milk
- ¼ cup (90g) mild-flavored honey
- pinch fine sea salt
- 3 large egg yolks
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped, (substitute ½ teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place a wet paper towel or cloth flat in the bottom of a baking dish (this will prevent the ramekins from sliding). Arrange oven-safe ramekins on top, leaving an inch of space between each one. In a saucepan or spouted kettle, bring about 3 cups of water to a simmer. You will need this later for the water bath.
- Combine cream, milk, honey and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until honey is dissolved and mixture starts to steam.
- In a bowl, vigorously whisk egg yolks for 30 seconds until lightened. Slowly ladle warm cream, about 1/4 cup at a time, into egg yolks, whisking constantly, until about half of the cream has been incorporated and mixture is warm to the touch. Whisk in remaining cream and vanilla.
- Divide custard among prepared ramekins. Carefully pour hot water into pan around ramekins, until the water comes about half-way up the sides. Very carefully place baking pan in oven, taking care not to splash water into the custards (or yourself, it’s very hot!) You may also find it easier to place the baking pan on an extended oven rack first, then pour the water into the pan and slide it back into the oven.
- Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes (more or less depending on the size/depth of your ramekins) or until edges are firm and centers are still slightly jiggly. Carefully remove pan from oven. Let cool completely to room temperature, then remove ramekins from baking pan. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 to 3 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.