Some people wait eagerly for Labor Day to roll around just so they can start drinking gallons of pumpkin lattés; others herald the return of sweaters as summer turns to fall.
Now that the weather is dipping below sweltering, I’m jonesing to throw on my favorite pair of L.L. Bean moccasins and bake up all the maple desserts I can handle.
Despite the late-winter timing of maple tapping season, its connotations of brittle-leafed trees, woolen scarves, and chilly air makes me think of fall.
Truth be told, I’m a year-round maple syrup eater, but it’s really in autumn where the sweet liquid has its heyday, what with all the apples, pumpkins, cinnamon, nutmeg, sweet potatoes, and other warm, hearty ingredients in abundance during the season.
And when I have a chance to play with my favorite seasonally-themed bakeware—like these adorable Le Creuset stoneware ramekins—I barely give summer a passing nod on its way out the door, so eager am I to get the festive orange goods on the table.
Oven, dishwasher, and freezer-safe, these puppies get heavy rotation until the Thanksgiving turkey leaves the table and the advent calendar opens its first door.
(The only thing these ramekins can’t do is go directly on a stovetop burner, since they’re ceramic instead of enameled cast iron—but hey, they’re still wonderfully insulated for baking and lightweight!)
While they’re versatile enough to keep soup warm, bake both sweet and savory bread puddings, hold a heaping helping of stuffing or other side dishes, and even store Halloween candy under their cute little lids, I can’t resist using my Le Creuset ramekins to make single-serving pots de crème in my favorite fall flavor.
Truly, pot de crème is just a fancy way to say “pudding,” but when I do it, I like to fancy it up all the way and serve my individual desserts with a flourish.
Isn’t it more fun to eat your pudding out of a pumpkin than just a plain old bowl? I thought so.
Imagine how impressed your dinner party guests would be to have their own mini Chicken Fajita Casserole served in these sweet little pumpkins. Dinner party super hero!
Pots de Creme Recipe
- 2 Heavy Cream
- 0.75 Pure Maple Syrup Grade B
- 1 Vanilla Bean scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 0.25 Ground Nutmeg freshly ground
- 6 Egg Yolk large
- 0.25 Kosher Salt
- Mascarpone Cheese or crème fraiche (optional)
- Ground Nutmeg freshly ground (optional)
- Maple Sugar (optional)
- Shortbread Fingers (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325˚F and place a teapot filled with water on the stove to boil. Place your ramekins in a high-sided ovenproof baking dish like a 9×13-inch Pyrex or ceramic casserole dish. I also place a thin dishcloth beneath my ramekins to prevent shifting and clinking as they go into the oven.
- Whisk the cream, maple syrup, and nutmeg together in a 1-quart high-sided saucepan and place over medium-low heat. If using a whole vanilla bean, add both the scraped seeds and the pod to the milk; if using paste or extract, just whisk that in. Heat to a bare simmer, just until you see bubbles around the edge of the pan.
- While the cream heats and the water comes to a boil, place the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl.
- When the cream comes to a simmer, discard the vanilla bean pod, if using, and whisk the hot cream slowly and evenly into the eggs until fully blended. Whisk in the salt.
- Divide the custard between the ramekins and gently place on the center oven rack. Carefully pour hot water from the teapot around the ramekins, making sure not to splash water onto the custard, until the water comes halfway up the sides of the pan.
- Bake for 20-40 minutes until the pots de crème are still slightly jiggly in the center but nearly firm; timing will vary based on the size and shape of your ramekins, so watch carefully so you don’t overbake them.
- Carefully remove the dish from the oven and lift the pots de crème out of the water bath onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
- Cover each ramekin with its lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours until completely chilled.
- Serve cold with your desired toppings: I love to place a dollop of crème fraiche or mascarpone cheese sprinkled with nutmeg or maple sugar on top of each pot de crème, and add a few shortbread fingers on the side for crunching or dunking.