Chocolate Pots de Crème with Lavender and Sea Salt

chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog | sarah kieffer
Back when I worked at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, I spent a lot of time making banana bread. It was one of my daily tasks, and after weeks and weeks of mixing and mashing I could have made the bread in my sleep. However one Friday afternoon, after making it had become more routine than pleasure, I had four loaves that sunk in the middle and tasted terrible. I had no idea how it happened, as this recipe was etched in my soul for all eternity. Larry (the coffeehouse owner) walked over to my prep table to take a peek at the wasted loaves, and I’ll never forget his words. “The kitchen gods are always watching,” he said. “You may think you have a recipe down, and that you can never make it wrong, but the minute you feel you own a recipe, or have pride approaching your workspace that lacks any form of humbleness for your ingredients and movement, the gods will remind you, and teach you respect again.” He said it in all sincerity, and in such a strong, kind voice, that those sentences have never left me in my own kitchen.

Which brings me to chocolate pots de crème. It was Thursday. I was just going to ‘whip these up, easy,’ while also interacting with two little ones who were officially on summer vacation and were already bored, working on three other things in the kitchen for blog posts and our own evening meal, and trying to clean my house for dinner guests. I rushed around, unfocused on what I was doing: the chocolate looked completely melted, it must be. I didn’t bring the eggs to room temperature, but they will be fine. But what came out of my oven, 30 minutes later, was not creamy chocolate pudding. The top was bubbly and the darkest brown, and the bottom almost gray with tiny flecks scattered throughout it. I didn’t stop to really notice this, however, and threw them in the fridge to cool. “They’re fine! How bad can pudding taste?” Actually very bad, as my dinner guests and I found out later that evening. Grainy, gray pudding is not what one wants to serve new friends who just finished asking you questions about your food blog. Larry’s words came to mind as our guests graciously finished their cups and said kind things. I had forgotten to take that moment to breathe, feel my ingredients, linger in the whisking and melting and pouring. I had served myself humble pie (or, pots de crème, I guess), aware of the gods above.

Later that week I made the dessert again, taking my time to get things right. I’m happy to report it is delicious: creamy and dreamy, as I knew it would be. I offered up thanks to the heavens, grateful for hard lessons that eventually bring beauty.
Chopped Dark Chocolate | The Vanilla Bean Blog | Sarah Kieffer
chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog | Sarah Kieffer
Vibrant Food Cookbook
chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog
Months ago, Kimberley Hasselbrink from A Year In Food asked on Facebook if anyone would be up for testing recipes for the book she was working on. I immediately emailed her; I had been a fan of her site for such a long time. A few weeks later she sent me some to test: Cornmeal Pancakes with Kumquat Syrup, Autumn Breakfast Bowl, and Summer Berry and Peach Crisp. I knew right away this cookbook was going to be on heavy rotation in my home.

One thing I love about The Year In Food is Kimberley’s unique, yet unpretentious recipes. I always leave her space wanting to make something; I may have to pick up an ingredient or two, but the recipes are beautifully simple and never boring. So here’s another cookbook to add to your wish list: Vibrant Food.

Lavender and Sea Salt | The Vanilla Bean Blog | Sarah Kieffer
Chocolate Pots de Crème with Lavender and Sea Salt

adapted from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink

2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 65% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 large egg plus 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
flaky sea salt (for sprinkling)

In a saucepan combine the milk, sugar, salt, seeds from the vanilla bean, and the pod. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is hot and steaming and the sugar has dissolved. Do not let the milk boil. Remove the pan from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 325. Place six  4-to 6-ounce custard cups (or jars) in a roasting pan. Have plenty of boiling water ready.

Put the chocolate in a heat proof bowl, and strain the milk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve over the chocolate, stirring gently until the chocolate is melted and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Rinse the saucepan and scrape the chocolate mixture back into the pan. Warm gently over medium-low heat until hot and steaming, stirring occasionally.

Add the egg and yolks to the heatproof  bowl and whisk together until combined. Slowly pour the chocolate mixture over the eggs, whisking constantly, until combined. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring pitcher (you will have about 3 cups). Divide the mixture among the custard cups and skim any bubbles from the top of each. Place the roasting pan in the oven and carefully add boiling water to the roasting pan, until the water comes halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake until the custards are nearly set and jiggle slightly in the center, 25-30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the cups to a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. Cover each cup with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours. To serve, top each pot de crème with some of the sugared flowers (recipe below) and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

Sugared Flowers
1/4 cup sugar
12-18 edible small culinary lavender blooms
1 large egg white

While the custards are chilling, make the sugared flowers. Reduce the oven heat to 170. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the sugar in a small bowl. Using a small paintbrush, coat each flower with a very thin layer of egg white. Dip the flower into the sugar, shake off any excess, and lay on the sheet pan with the stem end down. Repeat. Place in the oven until the flowers are dried to the touch, about 1 1/2 hours. Set aside to cool completely.

Also: if you can’t track down lavender, you could always substitute ice cream! Last week Snoqualmie Ice Cream sent me a box of various flavors to try, and I have become smitten with the French Lavender and Crème Fraiche. They both tasted amazing with the pots de crème. (And, I haven’t been paid in any way to say that. Their ice cream and gelato is delicious).
Pots de Creme and Ice Cream Pints | The Vanilla Bean Blog | Sarah Kieffer

  • Reply
    Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Incredible taste and amazing..

  • Reply
    Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Distraction is so easy, and yet the flip side is that being fully present enriches the experience of cooking and life. Did a follow-up post on a new blog, On Pleasureful Pastry, that I’ve started for a Baking & Pastry Management program at the Oregon Culinary Institute.

    Great work!

  • Reply
    Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

    I am a huge chocolate fan. I love the title of this blog. So cute. 😀

  • Reply
    Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Truly a flavour match concocted by the gods of the kitchen. I’ve been thinking of growing some lavender…These pots seem like reason enough.

  • Reply
    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    These look so delicious and that lavender, girl, the best!!

  • Reply
    Cynthia A.
    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    These look so incredible! Since you do not live down the street from me (so that I could just casually wander down to your house and ask for one of my very own) I had to make do with a piece of chocolate bar from the kitchen cupboard. Not the same thing at all – sigh.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Lavender is one of my favorite flavors, will definitely be trying this recipe!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    This looks AMAZING!!!

  • Reply
    Monday, June 30, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Your story sounds all too familiar.. But, I love that Larry’s words were able to bring about a degree of reflection and encouragement that you have found to be so helpful. This pots de creme look amazing. I have been dying to buy Kimberley’s book, and this is making me want it even more!

  • Reply
    Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 11:56 am

    So yummy…and the lavender and sea salt make it extra delish!

  • Reply
    Boozy Epicure
    Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I cannot tell you how many times the kitchen gods have given me the smack down. Looking forward to making these pots de creme. Will make sure I’m paying full attention!

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Larry’s words gave me chills. And after pompously approaching a few tried and true recipes yesterday – ones that completely flopped – I can say with 100% certainty that the gods ARE always watching and they will deflate that ego when it gets disproportionately big. In fact, I think they’re almost happy to do it.

    These pots de créme are incredibly stunning, as is Kimberley’s book. <3

  • Reply
    Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 12:37 am

    I love this idea of kitchen gods and kitchen ‘hubris’ (arrogance). And I love these otherworldly flavours. You write so beautifully, Sarah – it’s so inspiring. Thank you.

  • Reply
    erin {yummy supper}
    Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Sarah, isn’t Kimberley’s book fabulous! I’m so glad you made her pot de creme. I can’t wait to try this one myself.
    I know those humbling kitchen moments well. Just when I boldly think I can whip something up without any problems, I have a serious miss that keeps me on my toes;)

  • Reply
    Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I cannot wait to try the vanilla bean pots de creme with lavender and sea salt. They sound delicious. Your photography is so beautiful. Nice site.


  • Reply
    Sandra Brooks McCravy
    Monday, June 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    These look divine! Looks like I will be making a trip to the grocery store!

  • Reply
    Amanda - A Cookie Named Desire
    Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    I feel as though the kitchen gods are always stirring things up in my kitchen. These chocolate pots look divine and infinitely better than the low-calorie vegan chocolate pudding I made myself in about 5 seconds and am slowly eating, pretending it is something more like this.

  • Reply
    Millie l Add A Little
    Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 2:27 am

    These look amazing and super fancy – love them!

  • Reply
    Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    You’ve made the chocolate chunks look so luscious in that second pic. Luscious I tell you. I think I need these in my life.

  • Reply
    Sini | my blue&white kitchen
    Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Oh yes, the mighty kitchen gods and goddesses; they truly remind us of not getting too confident, too sloppy. I’ve been there too, like last week making caramel. I had to throw the first batch away but, thankfully, the second one turned out perfect.
    These pots de crème look luscious, and I’m intrigued by the candied lavender flowers on top. A perfect, sophisticated dessert. Really can’t wait to get my copy of Kimberley’s book!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    I relate to this story so much! Thank you for sharing! And these look so good. I love the combination of lavender and chocolate.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    What a beautiful story. I’m glad you shared. The photos and food looks incredible!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    Love your blog. Have been following for a while now and decided it was time I actually left a comment! I love your simple but beautiful photos and delicious recipes. The vibrant food cookbook looks amazing, definitely on my shopping list.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    That looks amazing!!! I love sprinkling salt on things and it seems like a perfect addition to this pot!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Our best teachers are the disasters, aren’t they? I learned a similar lesson from a mentor in culinary school that I’ve never forgotten; he told me that allowing ourselves to become complacent with our food, the knowledge of food and how it’s created is the surest way to kill our love for it. He was always encouraging us to explore and stretch our understanding, to never stop seeking new methods to broaden our creativity, to never decide that we know the best way to make any one thing we do. I’ve heard his words echo in my head so often since then, and I’m so grateful for his guidance. Food teaches us way more than we can ever imagine.

  • Reply
    Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 7:11 am

    So lovely! These look delicious. I will definitely have to check out the cookbook! Just the name sounds enticing.

  • Reply
    Emma Galloway
    Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 7:06 am

    That quote from your old boss is gold. I love it. xx

  • Reply
    Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 4:01 am

    Oh yes, this is so true. There are so many times when I think I’ve got this baking thing done and then I’m served with an ugly reminder of how you can never really stop learning and never really take anything for granted.

  • Reply
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Beautiful, important words from Larry that I’ve felt many times in my own kitchen. These pots de crème are stunning with their sparkly floral tops. I cannot wait to receive Vibrant Food.

  • Reply
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    These look just incredible! Everything from Kimberly’s book looks incredible!

  • Reply
    Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Isn’t it weird when fluky things happen like that? I feel as though the kitchen gods have it out for me when it comes to bread lately. It doesn’t rise or it over-proofs and turns into flat little pancakes. Maybe I need to go back to square 1 and reset!

  • Reply
    Carol at Wild Goose Tea
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Aaaahh the kitchen gods. I and I am sure all your readers totally identified with the kitchen gods excerpt. Well in the end you made a mighty fine pot of chocolate puddin’, ,my dear. So dark and rich and creamy looking. Just like it should be.

  • Reply
    Sam @ Love, Cake
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks for this lovely post, Sarah. It’s good to hear that everyone has these moments in the kitchen. I’m glad the pots de creme turned out delicious in the end. They look fantastic.

    Today, in an effort to speed through an easy cake, I dropped it into my empty shoes. The cake actually filled my shoes. Those pesky kitchen gods…

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    These sound positively lovely! Such a yummy flavour combo!

  • Reply
    Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    These pots de creme look seriously heavenly, as does anything I’ve seen so far from Kimberley’s book! Adding both to the wish list. 🙂

  • Reply
    J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    pot de creme is so simple and so delicious. I remember reading on canelle et vanille how this was an afternoon treat that was just ‘whipped up’ after school and that was what finally convinced me this wasn’t a fancy pants recipe but an easy baked pudding that I should attempt.

    And at least the kitchen gods have smiled on you again 🙂 Always so harrowing when a recipe turns out wrong and you have to serve it to people, even if people seem to be ok with inside I want to scream “This isn’t how I normally make it I swear I can do so much better!!”

  • Reply
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    lavender & chocolate make such a heavenly match – may the kitchen gods (guess we all know their anger from time to time) be reconciled!

  • Reply
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

    You write so beautifully, Sarah, with gentle turns of phrase and quiet power.

    I haven’t yet seen Kimberley’s book but I’m so eager to. Plus, I bought the smallest pack of culinary lavender buds about 2 years ago. I find myself sprinkling it here and there but I still have plenty left. I’m grateful for this additional idea for where to use it.

  • Reply
    Michelle @ Hummingbird High
    Monday, June 16, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Wow, these pots! Also, I love this story about the Kitchen Gods. I’ve had this happen to me many times — confidence in a recipe I’ve made multiple times before, only to have it fail as I’ve gotten too cocky, taken unnecessary shortcuts and what not. Your writing is wonderful!

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