Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Classic French Dessert: Chocolate Pots de Crème from Cleo Coyle

For many American kids, pudding is something premade in a plastic cup. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have it homemade for you from a cardboard Jell-O pudding box. This was my experience growing up. Sure, I enjoyed plenty of homemade Italian foods (my mom was born in Italy), but pudding was an American thing; and American things were found in boxes and cans, or wrapped in plastic. 

Cleo Coyle, searching for
new things to cover with
chocolate while writing
her next Coffeehouse
 When I finally discovered pots de crème, the clouds parted. The sun appeared. I’d found pudding nirvana!

This classic dessert, which translates from French to English as "pots of cream," is not your grade school cafeteria’s chocolate custard. It’s a rich, smooth, sinfully chocolaty experience. It’s also very easy to make. No special culinary skills needed.

BTW, on the subject of pots of chocolate, my fellow crime-writing cook, Mary Jane Maffini, recently gave us a wonderfully easy, no-bake chocolate mousse recipe. If you missed it, you can check it out by clicking here.

My version of this classic French recipe makes approximately six 6-oz servings. This is a generous portion size for the typical pots de crème, but let’s be real. In America, the home cooks’ main concern is: Did you have enough? Would you like seconds? Which is one reason "palate fatigue" is (happily) a non-starter in most American homes.

If you’d like to learn more about the modern gourmet philosophy of palate fatigue, read my sixth Coffeehouse Mystery: French Pressed. You’ll see I have a strong opinion about it!

Cleo Coyle’s
Chocolate Pots de Crème

To download this recipe in a free PDF that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Servings: This recipe will produce 4 cups of liquid to divide among your ramekins, custard cups, or ovenproof coffee cups. Consequently, depending on the size of your containers, this recipe will give you 6 to 8 servings.


12 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate chopped (or chips)
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
6 egg yolks (extra large or jumbo size)
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Step 1: Melt the chocolate - Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put your chopped chocolate (or chips) in a metal or glass bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and milk until it’s just about to boil, but not yet boiling. Pour this hot liquid over your chocolate and let it sit for about a minute until the chocolate is softened. Then stir this mixture until it’s smooth. The stirring will take one to two minutes.

Step 2: Beat the eggs - Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs well, for about 1 minute. Gradually mix in sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and salt. Now gradually beat the chocolate mixture you made (in Step 1) into these egg yolks.

Step 3: Strain and pour into containers - Strain this custard through a fine-meshed sieve (I use a small metal colander). Pour the strained liquid into a container with a spout. This will make it easier to evenly divide the mixture among containers.

Step 4: Prepare for Baking - Place the cups in a shallow baking pan. Carefully fill the pan with boiling water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the custard cups (or ramekins or ovenproof coffee cups).

Step 5: Cover and Bake - Cover pan with foil, seal ends, and pierce in several places so that steam can escape. Bake for about 25 - 35 minutes in the center of your 300 degree F. oven until the tops of the pots de crème look solid, but the custard still jiggles slightly when you shake it. Don’t worry; the custard will firm up as it cools.

Note on Cooking Time: The smaller your cups, the quicker your custard will set. The deeper your cups, however, the longer your custard will take to set. If your custard still has a liquid top after 35 minutes, then turn up the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. and bake another 10 minutes. (If you use cool or room temperature water, rather than boiling water for the water bath, the cooking process may take longer, as well.)

Step 6: Chill, baby! - Now carefully remove the hot pots from the oven and the hot pan and let them cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge. After they come to room temperature, make sure to cover these with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. The custards should be chilled at least 3 hours before serving.


Because this is a classic French dessert, many versions exist in cookbooks and on the Internet. For variations on this basic recipe, reduce the vanilla to 2 teaspoons and add 2 tablespoons Kahlúa (or try dark rum, Grand Marnier, or coffee syrup).

Coffee syrup can be bought pre-made. It can also be made from scratch. My recipe can be found by clicking here or turning to the back of the fifth Coffeehouse Mystery Decaffeinated Corpse.

For many more ideas on variations
for French pots de crème,
click here and have fun! There are some wonderful ideas there.

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes, win free coffee,
or find out more about my books, visit me
 at my *virtual* coffeehouse:

Click on the book covers above
to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.


A final, quick note for our mystery reading fans.
The latest Mystery Readers Journal with the theme Hobbies, Crafts, and Special Interests is now available.

The issue, edited by Mystery Fanfare's Janet Rudolph, includes many mystery authors who have guest posted for us over the past year. You can check out the contents by clicking here, which will also give you info on how to purchase a copy (hard or electronic) for yourself.



  1. Cleo, your recipe sounds delicious and looks so yummy. Homemade pudding from starch is so much better. Now I'm craving chocolate and it's almost 1 a.m. LOL

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. What a lovely, easy dessert! Chocolate in a pot--what's better than that? No palate fatigue here! :) Ha!

  3. Thanks, Cleo! This looks super. I'll be trying it soon. I love the printable form too.

  4. I'm not a fan of pudding, but I'm willing to give this a try.

  5. Cleo, this looks delicious. Luscious. And perfect for the day after Valentine's! Love it!


  6. Cleo, this is excellent. I appreciate the shot of the different options for cups or ramekins or mise en place bowls that you used.

    So, it's a chocolate custard (but the French sounds so much better)


  7. I can always eat chocolate! What a lovely basic recipe with imaginative options. Is it too early to drool over chocolate?

  8. Pure, smooth chocolate richness at its decadent best. I haven't tasted this in far too many years! I have even collected little pots over the years for this specific purpose, but have never gotten around to using them. Thank you, Cleo, for the encouragement to change this sad state of affairs.

  9. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I have eaten this as a dessert but never tried to make it.

  10. Like Dru, I'm not into pudding usually, but the rest of the family is, so I've put this on my to-do list! Heck, it's chocolate. I'll have some!

  11. I actually own an inherited set of pots de creme pots with lids and a matching tray. They are adorable, but I rarely find occasion to use them. I will definitely be making this!!

  12. I'm so surprised that your Italian mother thought of pudding as American. My German mother grew up eating pudding in Germany and made it all the time. I know, different cultures, but they're not that far apart as the crow flies!

    Your Pots de Creme look lovely and delicious, Cleo!

    ~ Krista

  13. Like Dru and Julie I am not a fan of Pudding, but this is chocolate and this I can do for the rest of the family. I will have to give this a go and see how it comes along. Looks easy enough and again it is Chocolate :).

  14. Big belated thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments! I’m so sorry my reply is coming so late. Marc and I are under the gun on back-to-back deadlines and I had to put the writing first this week, but I wanted you all to know that I always, ALWAYS appreciate the kind support you give me when you take the trouble to drop by the Kitchen and leave a comment.

    K - Quick reply to you: "Budino" is the term Italians use for this kind of custard, but my mother did not make budino (or gelato)! She did make a type of custard from scratch but ONLY for use with cakes and tarts. We never had pudding in a cup -- unless it came from an American product box, lol!

    Eat with joy!
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter