My first encounter with “pot de creme” was in high school. I was working a part-time job at a fancy tea store - and in exchange for university savings, I learned a ton about tea. And because tea is only made better with food, we also sold heaps of delicious treats, all stacked beautifully in a shiny glass case. There were warm scones, slices of cake, fluffy cream puffs - and perhaps my favorite of all: pot de creme.
Translated literally, pot de creme means “pot of cream”. It’s a french custard, often flavored with chocolate, and baked in a water bath. I find it a bit denser than a mousse, in the best way possible. And to say it’s indulgent could even be an understatement. But it’s delightful. I remember always looking forward to when one of the little pots would pass its “sell by” date so that we could all dig in with little spoons.
With the weather turning colder and rainier, we’ve been curling up with plenty of tea. And slowly, but surely, a craving for pot de creme came meandering back to me. Nowadays, a bowl comprised mostly of egg yolks and whipping cream doesn’t seem as delightful as it used to. But, I was totally up to the challenge of developing a more wholesome version that tasted every bit as delicious. And of course, we weren’t giving up on any of the chocolate.
To celebrate the cooler months ahead of us, this recipe features a Chai flavored pot de creme. The warming spices provide a nice contrast to the chilled chocolate. It’s an easy twist that makes this treat feel even more special. While there are a number of ways to infuse chai flavoring, I landed on a simple blend of four spices - most of which are probably already sitting in your cupboard. The other method I tried was steeping tea bags. While the flavor was pretty good, it varied significantly by brand. But then, after a night of laying up at 3 AM still awake from the caffeine, I decided to scrap that plan altogether. I mean, I can’t be the only one who sneaks in some chocolate before bed?!
As for assembling this dessert, it’s anything but fussy. The canned coconut milk, combined with melted chocolate, helps the dessert set beautifully in the fridge. So there’s no need whip up a water bath or even turn on the oven. All you need is a blender. To give this dessert some extra body, silken tofu lends a hand. It covertly provides the body that heavy cream and egg yolk usually give, with less of the yucky stuff and more protein to boot. Don’t worry, you can’t taste it - at all. If you’re new to buying silken tofu, then your safest best is at an Asian grocery store. Some more mainstream grocery stores sell it, but not always, so best to call and ask before making a trip. Make sure to read the labels thoroughly as silken tofu is not the same as soft tofu.
In case you’d prefer to make a plain chocolate pot de creme instead, I’ve included some instructions on how to do this below. All you’ll need to do is omit the ground spices (adding a splash of vanilla is optional). While you don’t absolutely need garnish, it does jazz it up. A small spoonful of coconut whipped cream and a shaving of chocolate works wonders. Store extras, covered, in the fridge.
Chocolate Chai Pot De Creme
- 1 (14 fl oz/398 ml) can full-fat coconut milk
- 7 oz chopped dark chocolate (about 1½ cups, see note 1)
- ⅓ cup coconut sugar (or cane sugar or light brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1¼ teaspoons ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup silken tofu (see note 2)
- ⅓ cup water
- Coconut whipped cream (for garnish, optional)
- Warm coconut milk: Add coconut milk to a small pot and warm on medium-low until just barely simmering. Remove from heat.
- Whisk mixture: Add chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and salt to the pot. Whisk until the chocolate is fully melted.
- Blend: Transfer chocolate mixture to a blender, along with tofu and water. Blend until smooth and airy, scaping down the sides as needed. Divide mixture into 8 small cups/ramekins/jars (about ½ cup each, see note 3). Cover with lid or plastic.
- Refrigerate and serve: Refrigerate until set (about 4 hours). Garnish with coconut whipped cream and shaved chocolate, if you'd like.
- Dark chocolate: 70% cocoa recommended. If using a more bitter chocolate (such as 80%), you may need to add a bit more sugar. If vegan, check the label to confirm dairy hasn't been added. If you have a bit of extra chocolate leftover, keep it to sprinkle on top of the set pot de cremes.
- Silken tofu substitute: Try to find silken tofu if you can. Otherwise, substitute it with soft tofu. Soft tofu isn't quite as silky and smooth as silken tofu, but it'll work in a pinch!
- Containers and yield: One batch yields about 1 liter, which will make 8 (0.5 cup) servings. If you wanted to make larger servings, about 0.75 cups each, use 6 cups/ramekins/jars.
- Chocolate variation (no Chai): Simply omit the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves. Replace with 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract, or omit.