Maple Pots de Creme (Baked Maple Custard)

I had been turning the thought of making custard over in my mind even before November’s monthly mingle (hosted by My Custard Pie) was announced. But, I always hesitate a bit about custard–not because I’m worried about the classic concerns, such as a glum pudding that resembles runny scrambled eggs (though I worry about that too) or that comes out overcooked (also angst-worthy)–but because it feels a bit profligate to use all those egg yolks. I feel bad wasting whites, so I keep them in my freezer until…

Yes, the guilt. (What is that old saw about women feeling needlessly guilty all the time?) My husband, who is very encouraging of my making of custard, has been trying to convince me this is silly and to just make some already. (Might I note that he also is blissfully unaware of my constant reshuffling of the fridge, shifting expiring items forward and sliding unopened milk cartons and orange juices jugs towards the rear).

Maple Custard (4 of 6)

Much as some of us buy new gym clothes to encourage us to work out (with not always stellar effect) I not-so-recently bought some miniature cocotte pots at Williams Sonoma’s (ahem) Christmas clearance sale (ahem) last January. (Another takeaway from this is to never doubt the power of the words “50% off already reduced prices.” Please note I was only seduced by very deep discounting: I don’t want you to think I spent the originally stickered $50 each).

And while you might think the fact that I had to pull those stickers off of them last week to make this custard could be the irrefutable proof that they were an unwise impulse buy, I have no regrets. They are just too charming. You know how it goes with things in miniature. And in my defense, it could have been worse. I could have decided I needed a kitchen blowtorch for creme brulee while I was at it. (Oddly, my husband thinks this would be a sensible purchase. This seems to beg another cliché about men and fire).

Now that this preamble is out of the way, on to the custard.

Maple Custard (3 of 6)

I can’t help but love this whole genre: creme caramels, pots de creme, crema catalana, flan, puddings…I went through a period where I just kept ordering creme brulees on the restaurant menu, until I realized I was becoming far too predictable and it was time to stop neglecting the other desserts out there. But one resists change: if dessert is about comfort, it’s hard to get more at that essence than this.

With just three components, using good ingredients matters, as does technique (for more on that, please see Shuna Lydon’s very helpful video tutorials over at food52.) I used my favorite Berkshires Jersey cream and local maple syrup. (Sadly, my source for free-range eggs has dried up, as chickens don’t lay as much when the days are shorter).

As for the technique, please see those videos I mentioned above, but here’s a few comments of my own. You’ll need to place your custard cups in a water bath: set your filled cups in a large cake pan, and then fill up about an inch or so with hot water. Make sure it’s hot, or it will never finish cooking (as I learned with a bad bread pudding episode). And make sure not to add too much water, or you risk splashing yourself–ouch–or your custards–sniff–with it when you go to remove the finished product from the oven. (Again, I learned the hard way). A hot water bath ensures your custards bake gently, resulting in a creamy, gliding texture.

Maple Custard (2 of 6)

The other potential misstep is making a custard that more closely resembles oversweetened, runny scrambled eggs. The same principle of the water bath applies: You want to be sure you do not allow the yolks to cook too quickly when they first come into contact with your hot milk or cream. Temper the eggs by stirring only a bit of the hot cream into your eggs, whisking well to prevent lumps. Add a bit more, whisk, and then you can finally completely combine all the cream–but keep whisking! Tempering merely means bringing two items of differing temperatures to the same temperature (it’s often done with chocolate as well).

As further insurance, strain your custard mixture through a fine mesh sieve. This will strain out any large cooked egg particles, as well as those stringy fibrous bits of egg white that can cling to even a well-separated yolk. (The technical name is chalazae, but please don’t ask me how to pronounce it).

Maple Custard (6 of 6)

This dessert: subtle but delicious. The maple was almost a background note, floating lightly and delicately in the rich pudding. The custard tasted almost nutty to me at first, which was startling, but then made perfect sense: why else would maple pair so pleasingly with nuts, from pecans to walnuts?

Baked Maple Custard (adapted from Lindsay Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts)

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2c maple syrup
  • 6 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Heat the cream until steaming hot. Whisk the syrup into the egg yolks (do not allow the mixture to sit unmixed as the sugar will chemically “cook” the yolks). Pour about a 1/4 c or so of the hot cream mixture into the yolk-sugar mixture, whisking all the while. Add about another 1/4-1/2c and whisk. You can now add this back into the hot cream, continuing to whisk.

Pour into your custard cups (anything ceramic or cast iron will work well). Use a kitchen scale to make sure you pour the same amount into each cup, so that everything bakes evenly. Set your cups into a cake pan, and fill halfway up the sides of your custard cups with hot water. Place in the oven. (You can also add the water after you put the pan in the oven). Lay a piece of aluminum foil over your cups.

Bake for 45 minutes or up to 60 minutes or more (a deeper pot, like mine, will cook more slowly). Your custard will still jiggle when it is done, and you can use a tester to double-check. (If it comes out clean, it’s definitely done and hopefully not overdone). Chill before serving. (We ate it warm, and it’s certainly good that way, though better cold).

Notes: Since maple syrup is the star here, it’s worth saying a few words. Maple syrup comes in various grades. Grade A “Fancy” is perhaps the most well-known, but Grade B (which is preferred by “real” New Englanders) has a more robust flavor. (This recipe in fact suggests Grade C maple, which I have never seen for purchase) I usually buy only Grade B, but here I used a mix of A and B, for no other reason than that I was trying to use up a small jar of Grade A syrup I bought at the farmer’s market last year. Please don’t tell me if maple syrup doesn’t keep that long. I don’t want to know).

You’ll notice, if you watch the videos (which I hope you do) that I did not incorporate all of Shuna’s suggestions. Namely because I started these custards too late in the day! But I hope to try all of her tricks very soon.


121 thoughts on “Maple Pots de Creme (Baked Maple Custard)

  1. I’m drooling…custard in any form is my favorite type of dessert. You share great tips here. I only buy Grade B syrup, too – I’m intrigued by Grade C.

    Sadly, no backyard eggs for me right now either. My hens are not laying due to molting and the shorter days. Sigh!

  2. YUM! They look amazing. I can’t even imagine the deliciousness that is Grade C syrup, I’m going to have to ask about it at my sugar shack.

    • Please tell me what you find out (and where’s the sugar shack–since we’re in the vicinity, if it’s not a secret?!) I read on wikipedia that C is commercial grade in the US (though that in Canada the grading system is different; we have multiple grade As, they have fewer) so i’m very mixed up–plus my edition of this book is an ebay purchase and is an 80s edition so maybe there was a “shakeup” in the maple syrup industry since then (ha).

      • My sugar shack is not a secret, but it’s also not in the vicinity – I make an annual trip to the North Hadley Sugar Shack. I got hooked on them in college and have been loyal ever since.

    • I know, I couldn’t resist. They will be nice if we ever manage to have a dinner party again, by which I do not mean when toddlers throw spaghetti on the floor. That bargain sale that they have twice a year is good stuff. Also, I for some reason receive lots of gift cards to Williams Sonoma, can’t imagine why.

  3. I just had maple creme brûlée tonight, so I can imagine how good this must have been. And ever since I worked at a bakery and torched creme brûlée with a propane torch every morning, I’ve been thinking I need one at home too.

  4. When we were in Belgium last April, I found some small spoons in a random kitchen store in Antwerp. (We also found a French fry cutter in the same store which definitely goes into as one of those I didn’t know I needed one so desperately until I saw it category.) I held them up, explaining that I needed them for pot de creme. Granted, I’d never made it before, but knew I would if I only had these spoons. I came across a maple custard this fall which involves thyme, bookmarked it, and then realized I only had four ramekins. I’m in the gearing up for XMas season, where I randomly announce things I need to help Santa’s Little Helpers along. Just this morning I announced I needed 8 ramekins. Last week I announced I needed cute little forks, in the same vein as my Belgium spoons, for eating pies and cakes: it assures the pastry is eaten slower and more enjoyed, I said as way of explanation. Also, I have a classmate who is a professional baker, and she told me that I should just go to the hardware store for a blow torch and be done with it.

  5. Most of the restraunts in my town
    Don’t searve Creme’brulee so I
    order it whenever I see it featured
    on a menu – the reason I’de rather
    not make custard is I don’t want to
    spoil it’s novelty.

    A tip – scramble those egg whites –
    place on toast with salsa and cheese.
    Now you have a meal to go with your

    There is also a white creamy candy
    called divinity that I think calls for
    whites and not yokes

  6. Custard is one of the scarest things I think about making, but you’ve def. proved that no only is it doable, but I can look beautiful! Mad Props, maybe I’ll give it a whirl this holiday season!

  7. Just stumbled onto your lovely blog (great name!). I love everything about this post and am quite envious of your beautiful mini cocottes. I’m going to have to try this recipe (in some boring ramekins).

  8. I love the very stylish pots that you used for the Baked Maple Custard. Liked that you used a quality maple syrup instead of the other “stuff”! Regarding pulling the stickers of your new pots… reminds me of when I bought 8 cast iron mini cocottes!

  9. I’m a custard woman. For sure. And adding maple?! What a perfect autumn combo. I’ll be baking this ASAP. Just wish I had some of those adorable custard cups to bake them in!

  10. You had me at maple. I don’t have a lovely set of matching pots (excellent snag on yours at WS, btw!) but I doubt that would be an issue, as I would eat all the custard before my guests arrived. Wonderful post, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  11. YUM! All of my life I never cared for those puddings in the cups that you buy but recently I had homemade vanilla custard fresh off the stove and I ate a huge bowl of it. It was eye-opening for me. I will also eat anything with the word ‘maple’ attached to it, that is one of my favorite flavors. Thanks, I will definitely be dusting off my ramekins and making this.

  12. You write like I like to eat – deliciously decadent (and the custard looks great too). I’m looking forward to what else you have up your chef’s sleeve for this winter.

  13. Looks fantastic and scrumptious! Maple Syrup goes along way and you can even use it on watermelon and rock-melon. Absolutely divine. You should try it sometime, it has become my fave especially for tropical parties.. I love the dishes they are gorgeous.

    P.s – Congrats of Freshly Pressed. Well Done!

    All the Best,
    EzzY ♥ ♥

  14. I confess to being a Williams Sonoma junkie and I declare that your buy was totally worth it. I am also now in love with your husband and want to dine at your table….thanks for sharing. Cook On Sister

  15. I also bought some cast iron ramikin type things because they were heavily discounted and have never quite gotten round to using them. This recipe will be perfect for their maiden voyage so to speak. Thanks a bunch! 🙂

  16. This looks delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe and for the humorous so-called “preamble”. Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    BTW: My boyfriend too mocks my impulse purchases from Sur La Table but insists that we get a brulee-ing torch. Men.

  17. I think the comment I related to the most was the guilt over what to do with all those wasted egg whites. Not that it should stop you from making such a yummy dessert but it makes me smile to know there are others out there who shuffle them around in their frige as well.

      • Sara, Laura, and all you other posters who have egg whites lurking in the refrigerator: merinques! A couple of years ago Mark Bittman posted his recipe (plus variations) for meringue kisses at My favorites are the peppermint ones and the chocolate chip. And too many years ago to even contemplate, a German friend taught me her family’s favorite dessert recipe for special occasions: a merinque-and-ice-cream loaf. I can’t find the recipe any more, but I don’t let that stop me! Make a stiff meringue, lightly sweetened, and fold in chopped nuts. Spread the meringue on a large, parchment-lied cookie sheet, and bake at about 250 until the meringue is crisp. Cut the meringue cross-wise into 3 evenly-sized rectangles. On top of one rectangle, spread lightly softened ice cream (your choice of flavor). Top with second rectangle, and spread that layer with more softened ice cream, then top with the last rectangle Freeze until ready to serve. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes (or a shorter time if your kitchen is hot), then slice the loaf cake and serve. Both recipes are quite easy, and you can really knock out the supply of frozen egg whites that way. Good luck!

  18. I enjoyed your little meander about Williams Sonoma. I don’t think I would have passed on the cute little pots either. Thank you for a fun and informative post.

    • Yes, I should just remember to do that. My sons eat lots of scrambled eggs (but I can’t overdo it as they are picky about their balance of yolk to white). Maybe the advice will finally stick though!

  19. I want one right now, but I will just have to make this for Thanksgiving!

    By the way, if you don’t ever want to feel guilty about eggs, cream, and yummy yummy fats, you should look into the Weston A. Price Foundation. They advocate fat filled diets that mimic those diets of our ancestors that were very rich in fats. I’ve never felt better since I started increasing my butter intake 🙂

  20. Love the mini Staub pots and know exactly what you’re talking about, since I was working at Williams-Sonoma during the holidays last year, ha! This looks absolutely delicious.

  21. Wow. I am so excited to make this! I found a recipe for maple pots de creme that uses maple sugar (hard to find around here) and IMITATION maple flavoring. It’s good to know that my intuition about the recipe was right. I look forward to following your blog.

    • Thanks Alex, I hope you enjoy! The recipe I adapted from said that you could use maple sugar but that is so much more expensive than maple syrup I didn’t even consider it. (Real maple sugar as I understand it is made from maple syrup so it’s not bad stuff). However, who knows if there’s imitation maple sugar as well as imitation maple syrup. We grew up with imitation syrup (being in Oklahoma) but now that I’ve had the real stuff I always buy it!

  22. What a beautiful post. I wish that was my spoon digging into that maple custard. I have some of those adorable Staub pots too – irresistable. So glad you joined the mingle in such a glorious (and very informative) way.

  23. Sara, This is a fabulously detailed write-up. Love that you used Berkshire Jersey cream and local maple syrup for this dessert homage to New England and Lindsay Shere’s book is always an inspiration for making fabulous desserts.

  24. Hi Sara, thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I replied on my blog.
    These little custard desserts look heavenly. I’ve never thought of using maple syrup as the sweetener but that sounds like a great idea. I wonder if it would be yummy if you use Lyle’s Golden Syrup (I love that stuff, so much so, I have to stop myself from eating it with a spoon).

  25. Pingback: Maple Pots de Creme (Baked Maple Custard) | laurascheaptricks

  26. Love your cocotte pots.
    Have you tried to reduce maple syrup by about 30%? I mostly use it for cheese cakes and pots de creme. It will give a bit (quite a bit) extra flavor.

    I usual by low grade maple syrup and reduce it to suit my baking needs. I prefer it over honey since it does not give this sticky sweet feel.

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  28. I’ve made two creme brûlées in the last week, having recently unearthed my kitchen torch and found butane for it!! Will be posting on it soon, but I cannot wait to try this recipe – being a new Englander, of course I am all about the maple syrup!

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  30. You shouldn’t feel guilty about all those egg yolks…just make lots of macarons! I love the idea of adding maple to the custard, in fact I wish I could eat a big spoonful right now 🙂

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  32. As a NYS maple producer, I can tell you that last years maple syrup is perfectly fine. As long as it is refridgerated after it’s opened, it will last longer that it lasts! You may find that sugar crystals develope on the bottom of the container if it’s been around for several months. But that doesn’t hurt. I also have never heard of Grade C syrup, and my husband’s family have been making real maple syrup since 1925!

    • Great news! (I’m still here so it must have been OK, ha). Pretty cool to have been making maple syrup that long. We just enjoyed some with pancakes this morning!

  33. I think you may singlehandedly be responsible for boosting the sales of cocotte pots! I have always seen them in stores but just passed them by. After reading your post, I must have them, and a blowtorch too!
    OK, now I must stop reading all your old posts and get some real work done here! If I leave any more comments I will officially veer into stalker territiory!

  34. Pingback: Rhubarb-Rose Ice Cream | Three Clever Sisters

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