I have to admit, I've never actually cooked with real vanilla beans before. They're one of those gourmet Martha-like items. At market this weekend I tried to hide my "I'm actually taking these puppies home with me!" excitement with an "Oh, yes. I buy these all the time" vibe.
Don't let the fancy French name fool you; this is not a complicated dessert. Vanilla bean pots de creme is a delightful custard made up of only four ingredients. I found the recipe via the New York Times, but adjusted some of the cooking instructions a bit. Here's what you'll need to pick up if you want to give it a try:
1. Heat your oven to 320 degrees. Then split each vanilla bean down the center lengthwise.
2. Add cream to a saucepan and scrape seeds into the pan.
3. Add bean pods to the pan as well. Heat until steam rises from the cream and them remove from heat. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Remove pods from the pan.
4. Add 1/2 cup of sugar to 6 egg yolks. Beat until light. (I'd say this was around 3 minutes for me.)
5. Place 4 ramekins in a baking dish. Add water until the ramekins are half way covered.
6. Add one fourth of the cream mixture to eggs and sugar. Stir until combined.
7. Add egg mixture to the cream mixture and combine.
8. Pour into ramekins and cover with foil.
9. Bake 30-40 minutes until the center is just slightly jiggly. The baking time could vary depending on your oven. I'd say check it after 30 minutes. If the majority of custard still jiggles, keep it in 5 more minutes. (Let's see how many times I can use any form of the word jiggle in this post...jiggle. jiggly. jigglified. Too much?)
10. Chill for 2 hours and then serve. These store fine overnight as well, so you could easily make them a day ahead. You'll need to be very disciplined for them to make it that long without being consumed.
If you like creme brulee and vanilla bean ice cream, then you'll love these little "pots of cream". I added some organic mint and strawberries. You could pair them with almost anything but don't really need to. They put on quite the show without a supporting cast. Personally I think adding a little vegetation to my cream and sugar takes an edge off the guilt...