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Cooking with Virginia: Chocolate Pots de Crème

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Deliciously Decadent

Chocolate Pots de Crème are undeniably creamy and indulgent — these are the French version of pudding cups. Typically, lunchroom fare certainly isn’t considered very glamorous, but this French custard is tres chic, as well as deliciously decadent. Best of all? They are incredibly easy and best made ahead, making it the perfect dinner party dessert.

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How to Pronounce Pots de Crème

Pots de Crème are named such because of the traditional individually lidded ceramic pots in which these custards are baked. They may also be prepared in ramekins, small bowls, custard cups, or mini-mason jars. The name translates to “pots of cream.”  

I have heard this simple dessert pronounced every which way since Sunday.  I had a friend once describe a French accent as sounding as if you are speaking with your mouth full of crackers.

No crackers are needed here. Pots de Crème is pronounced:

  1. “Po” rhymes with go.
  2. “de “sounds like a shortened “duh” with a soft e)
  3. “Crème” is crem and rhymes with gym.

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Pots de Crème are a type of custard. Custards are cooked mixtures of milk or cream and eggs and are the cornerstone of many classic desserts. The primary categories of custard are baked and stirred.

Pots de Crème are baked custards, the most delicate of custards, and require careful attention during cooking as they can quickly go from loose and undercooked to hard and curdled.

The key to the success of baked custards is a bain marie or water bath. It creates a gentle, uniform heat around the food resulting in a firm, but delicate consistency and prevents the Pots de Crème from becoming a puddle of sweet scrambled eggs.

These Pots de Crème are flavored with rich chocolate, but they can be made in many different flavors including vanilla, citrus, coffee, spices, and even herbs.

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How is Chocolate Made – Bean to Bar

There are two types of dessert people: Those who like chocolate and those who like sweets prepared with anything but chocolate — think citrus, fruit, and spices. I am decidedly in the chocolate camp. I love chocolate and the darker and richer, the better. Let’s take a look at how chocolate is made.

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Chocolate starts off as cocoa pods growing in the tropics around the equator. Cacao pods are veritably Seussian, growing directly out of the trunk of the tree, and are fantastically brightly colored in shares of vivid orange, bright yellow,  rich burgundy, and deep red. These colorful pods are harvested by hand and then carefully broken open to release the cacao beans, which are embedded in a moist, fibrous, white pulp called mucilage.

The cacao beans are cleaned by hand, with the pulp left on to help develop and intensify flavor. The pulpy beans then fermented and during the process, the flavorful pulp dries up. (The word cacao for the pod and beans before they’re fermented. After fermentation, they call them cocoa beans.)


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Cacao Bean Fermentation

Once the cocoa beans have been fermented, they are laid out to dry in the open air for several days. Once dried, the beans are cleaned, then roasted at low temperatures to further develop flavor. Roasting prepares the beans for the removal of the shell to extract the nib. (The shell on the cocoa bean is not edible and has no chocolate flavor.) The taste of cacao nibs is nicely bittersweet with the crunchy, toasty flavor of roasted nuts and is about as close to eating pure cocoa as you can get!

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What is Chocolate Liquor?

The nibs are then ground and liquefied, resulting in a fluid yet pasty chocolate liquor (although no booze is involved.) Chocolate liquor is a mixture of cocoa solids and cocoa butter — chocolate in its purest form. Pure chocolate liquor is very dark and bitter. The cocoa solids give chocolate its characteristic dark, strong flavor, and the cocoa butter translates to a silky smooth mouthfeel.

Chocolate liquor may be hardened in molds to form baking chocolate, pressed to reduce the cocoa butter and then pulverized to make cocoa powder, or mixed with sugar and additional cocoa butter to make eating chocolate. (The addition of dried or concentrated milk to sweet eating chocolate produces milk chocolate.)

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What are Chocolate Percentages?

You will often see a percentage printed on the outside of a bar or bag of chocolate chips. (The handy chart above is from The percentage on a chocolate bar tells you how much of the bar is made from pure cocoa beans. It is the proportion of that product made from pure chocolate liquor and any added cocoa butter. Essentially, it’s what’s in the chocolate that isn’t sugar, dairy, vanilla extract, emulsifiers, or other flavorings. So, the higher the percentage, the more intense and less sweet the chocolate. (There are other contributing factors, but this is a good general rule for understanding the percent principal.) The handy chart above is from

I prefer cooking with bittersweet chocolate and suggest bittersweet chocolate for these rich and intense Pots de Crème. Look for chocolate with a percentage in the 70% cacao range. Bittersweet can be used interchangeably with semisweet, and both are best when chocolate is the star player in the recipe.

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How to Whip Cream

The final touch of these rich and indulgent Chocolate Pots de Creme is a dollop of whipped cream. fWhipping real cream is easy – it’s simply a matter of coagulating fat. (Yes, I know that sounds gross.) The key is that everything must be well chilled: the heavy cream in the refrigerator, and the mixer beaters and bowl in the freezer until cold to the touch. I often place a chilled bowl over a larger bowl of ice water to whip cream.

Whipping cream by hand is easy. All it takes is a bit of muscle. You can use a hand-held mixer, but be careful. If you overwhip cream, you get butter.

When gauging how much to whip remember that heavy cream doubles in size when it’s whipped: 1 cup of heavy cream makes about 2 cups of whipped cream. Some folks add sugar, but I prefer not to add sugar to the cream, as I think most desserts are quite often sweet enough, and sweetened whipped cream is overpowering. I like the contrast of silky, buttery whipped cream against the slightly bitter Chocolate Pots de Crème

Thanks so much for reading. Remember that a  Good and Good for You Life includes enjoying a rich and indulgent dessert on occasion.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis

PS: Need even more chocolate in your life? Try my Mexican Chocolate Pudding or my No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites.

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Chocolate Pots de Crème

Creamy rich and delicious chocolate pots de creme -- French pudding cups! 
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Servings: 6


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 cup whipped cream, for garnish


  • Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place six 6-ounce ramekins in a roasting pan.
  • In a saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and chocolate over medium heat. Bring almost to a simmer; remove from the heat. Set aside, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted.
  • In a large measuring cup, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. While whisking, add a little of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture to combine. (This technique is called tempering; it makes the temperatures of two mixtures—one containing raw egg—more similar, so the egg won’t curdle in the presence of heat.) Add the remaining milk mixture, and whisk to combine. Whisk in the vanilla and salt.
  • Pour approximately 1/2 cup of the egg mixture into each ramekin. Cover each ramekin tightly with aluminum foil to prevent a skin from forming. Fill the roasting pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custards are just set in the center, 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Remove the pots from the water, and place on a wire rack to cool, about 30 minutes. (I usually remove the pots with tongs and leave the roasting pan of water in the oven. Turn the oven off and let the water cool until it is safe to remove the pan.)
  • When the pots de crème have cooled completely, refrigerate to chill thoroughly, preferably overnight. Just before serving, top with a dollop of whipped cream.


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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained chef Virginia Willis has foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and executed the food styling for a Super Bowl commercial seen by over 160 million people. Virginia is a Beard award-winning cookbook author, chef, content creator, and motivational speaker. She has lost 65# and kept it off for more than 3 years. Because of her own health journey, she is a cheerleader for others seeking to make lifestyle changes to feel healthier and happier. Her experience inspired her to launch “Good and Good for You” a lifestyle brand rooted in culinary that shares health and wellness content through digital channels; public speaking; and print media. Fans love her approachable spirit and friendly down-to-earth style. For more information visit

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