Gjelina Butterscotch Pots de Creme

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Should you ever find yourself in Los Angeles with a couple hours on your hands, head straight for Gjelina. This restaurant is popular with celebrities and locals alike, and is nestled on the uber hip Abbot Kinney Boulevard. It is probably my favorite sit-down restaurant in LA and when I lived in the city I tried to find every excuse imaginable to go--birthdays, holidays, treat yoself days... Everything on the menu is superb, but make sure you save room for dessert because one of the most talked-about items on the menu is their butterscotch pots de creme. Smooth, rich, salty, and cool, these chilled little desserts are served in a teacup with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of salt. When the LA Times published the recipe a few years ago, I knew I had to try it (though I'll be honest, when I saw how many egg yolks they use, it took me a while to get the courage to go through with it....that's a lot of egg yolks!). If you are in the mood for an indulgent dessert or something to wow guests with these pots de creme will do the trick. Noah doesn't even like butterscotch and even he was a fan!

Pots de creme (makes 8-10)

  • 9 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

caramel sauce

  • 1/8th cup (30 ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 

buttermilk creme fraiche 

  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream 
  • maldon salt for sprinkling 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Start by separating egg yolks into a separate bowl and gently whisk to combine. Set aside.

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 Heat your butter, salt, and brown sugar in a large pot over medium heat (below).

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Cook over medium heat until the sugar begins to darken slightly and takes on a nutty, caramel fragrance, about 5 minutes without stirring (see below). Add seeds from vanilla bean and then turn down heat and whisk in the heavy cream slowly. The sugar will seize and harden when the cream is added. Keep whisking. Cook and continue whisking until all of the sugar is dissolved and the mixture just begins to boil. 

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Remove mixture from heat and very slowly add the hot sugar mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. Strain through a fine mesh to remove any cooked egg. Pour mixture into ramekins or jars.  

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Pour hot water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the outside of the ramekins, and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue to bake for 15 minutes more, or just until the custard has set and doesn’t jiggle with you shake the pan. Remove the pan from the oven, uncover, and, using tongs, carefully lift the custards from the water bath and set on a cooling rack. Allow them to chill in a fridge completely before adding creme fraiche and caramel. 

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To make the caramel sauce, combine water and sugar in a pot and stir under medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Once dissolved, turn up head to medium and stop stirring. Keep a close eye on it, and as soon as it turns an amber color remove it from heat and whisk in heavy cream in a slow, steady stream. It will bubble and hiss and be very angry but keep stirring. If you get sugar chunks from the caramel seizing return to the heat and whisk them until they dissolve. After cream has been added add butter, salt, and vanilla. Allow caramel to cool before drizzling. 

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For the creme fraiche, add buttermilk and cream to a medium mixing bowl and whisk until mixture has thickened. To test if it is done, see if you can shape into a quenelle with two spoons. This is a fun trick to make whipping cream and ice cream look fancy on presentation--there is a great video here.

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Add whipped cream quenelle to chilled pots de creme. Add caramel sauce on top, either by drizzling with a spoon or using a piping bag. Sprinkle maldon sea salt on top. Enjoy immediately! If you want to make this recipe a little easier, you could always use store bought caramel sauce and whipped cream. 

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Salted Caramels

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Recently I was perusing the Food52 store and I saw they were selling caramels rolled in chocolate chip cookie crumbs, and I thought it was the most brilliant thing in the world: sweet caramel combined with the salty crunch of chocolate chip cookies. However, they were 25 dollars for 2 small bags, and so I decided to make my own! This Miette caramel recipe is one I've used for years--we used to make bags of caramels for the neighbors for Christmas each year. 

Salted Caramels (Recipe from Miette) 

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons water

Additional ingredients: 

  • Fleur de sel 
  • 2 extra large chocolate chip cookies, either homemade or store bought My favorite recipe is posted here   
  • parchment paper
  • candy thermometer 
  • wax paper 

Instructions

Start by buttering a metal pan, preferably a square 9x9, but I used a loaf pan because I didn't have a square one. Cut a piece of parchment that overlaps on the side, and butter it as well. I know it seems like lots of butter, I know! but caramel sticking to your pan is the worst. 

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Next, combine all caramel ingredients into a large pot--make sure it's big enough that it can han handle a rolling boil for a long time. The pot I started with was too small and I had to switch it.  

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Whisk continuously under medium heat. It will look like dirty dishwater at first but soon the butter will melt and it will start to simmer. 

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Once butter has melted add candy thermometer (I recommend a digital one for its ease!) and keep whisking. You are trying to get it to 247 degrees F. It definitely takes a lot of patience. 

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Once the mixture reaches high 190s-200s, it will have a continuous rolling boil. Keep stirring! It will start to thicken at this point. The second it reaches 247 degrees F remove from heat immediately and pour into lined pan. 

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Let caramel cool completely. Try not to disturb it while cooling.

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When caramel is completely cool, lift up on the parchment to remove it from the pan. 

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Meanwhile, take 2 large cookies and break into pieces. If your cookies are freshly baked, make sure the chocolate chips are no longer gooey. You can put them in the freezer for 20 minutes to speed up the cooling. Put cookie pieces in a food processor and blend into crumbs. 

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Place cookie crumbs and salt in 2 separate bowls. Cut wax paper into 4 inch by 3 inch rectangles. 

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To package caramels, cut a strip of caramel from the block that is 1/2 inch wide. Cut into 1-inch pieces. It's okay if they aren't all perfectly the same size. 

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Sprinkle a couple pieces of fleur de sel  on each piece of caramel, pressing them in so they stick. Next, press the caramel square up against the side of the bowl with the cookie crumbs. The crumbs will form a layer on top of the caramel when pressed against the side as seen below. 

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Place each caramel in the center of a piece of wax paper. Roll up and twist sides. Enjoy! 

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