Lemon Hemlock Pots de Crème

Pots de crème is a type of French custard. It literally translates to “pots of cream” and was named so because the dish was usually served in delicate porcelain cups in 17th century France.

Custards are very simple, yet very versatile. They can be used as a carrier for many flavors, which is great when you can’t use a straight-foward, alcohol-based extract. When I have a botanical flavor that I want to contribute to a dessert, the quickest way I do it is by infusing the botanical into the liquid of my recipe, like a tea. The hemlock is a very delicate flavor, and I found an infusion to be the best way to get the essential oils to come through the flavor profile.

Lemon Hemlock Pots de Creme | Arcadian Ash

 

Lemon Hemlock Pots de Creme | Arcadian Ash

And just to be clear, we are talking about the hemlock TREE, not the poisonous herbaceous plant of the same common name. I wish it had another common name, but alas, the botanists before us have dictated the literature, and now we are stuck with a confusion of species. Always learn a plant by the scientific name to make doubly sure of its identity….anyways, the hemlock TREE is a lovely edible tree with subtle hints of citrus and evergreen. To me, it tastes like how a pine tree smells, but in all the right ways – I’ve tasted raw pine sap before, and trust me, it doesn’t taste like how the pine smells. While Christmas trees and car fresheners smell wonderful, it’s hard to imagine such pungent flavors in a dessert, but I’ve found hemlock to impart all the pleasantries of these aromas without the harshness. Lemon is a great pairing for the hemlock because it brings out the citrus notes and dulls some of the vegetal taste.

Lemon Hemlock Pots de Creme | Arcadian Ash

 

Pots de crème is very easy to make, but be sure to give yourself a full day to make it – especially if serving to guests – because it needs time to chill and firm up. The end result is a smooth, creamy, sweet dessert with a novel flavor twist. I think it’s so much fun to take something so familiar, like the smell of a Christmas tree, and reinvent it for another sense. And any gourmand at your dinner table will appreciate being served something a little new and exciting for his/her palette.

Lemon Hemlock Pots de Creme | Arcadian Ash

Lemon Hemlock Pots de Crème

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup hemlock tree clippings, washed
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Zest of 4 large lemons
  • 8 large egg yolks

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, warm the cream and milk.
  3. Cut hemlock clippings into small pieces. Bruise with mortar and pestle.
  4. Add hemlock to warm cream mixture. Keep on a simmer, covered, for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. Allow to steep for 20 minutes.
  6. Strain hemlock from cream mixture and return the liquid back to the saucepan.
  7. Add sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer.
  8. Whisk together 8 egg yolks in a large bowl.
  9. Take the cream mixture and pour through sieve to remove hemlock and lemon zest.
  10. Temper the eggs with the hot cream mixture. Incorporate until full mixed.
  11. Divide among 6 ramekins (4 ounce)
  12. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking tray. Fill tray halfway with boiling water and cover with aluminum foil.
  13. Bake for 35 minutes. Look for set edges with a jiggly center.
  14. Leave to cool on counter. Cover and refrigerate until chilled and set - about 6-8 hours.
  15. Optional garnish:
  16. Chantilly cream
  17. Dessert caviar (pictured here: hemlock caviar)
  18. Hand-painted chocolate (pictured here: white chocolate discs with painted green branches)
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