Pots de Courge (a dairy-free Pots de Creme)
Somehow I made it to 40 years of age before I ever tried Pots de Crème, a rich chocolate custard served in adorable demitasse cups.
That’s probably a good thing, because I would most certainly weigh about 20 pounds heavier, if so.
But with this recipe for a Faux Pots de Crème, you don’t have to worry (as much) about your waistline. You can thank my husband’s dairy sensitivity for that.
Pots de Crème is especially challenging to recreate in a dairy-free manner. Rice milk is too watery. Coconut milk, though containing plenty of fat to mimic the heavy cream used in the traditional recipe, is… well, too coconutty.
So here’s a new dairy substitute to add to your repertoire: hubbard squash. I suppose any mild winter squash, like acorn or tromboncino, would do, but hubbards have quickly become my favorite (this comes to a shock to you, I know). I’ve grown over 20 different cultivars of winter squash over the past five years, and the hubbard squash shines as my favorite for its beauty, smooth flesh, and long storage life (I kept one for over a year with no diminishment in quality). More importantly, it has a very mild flavor with a hint of chestnut that makes it a great base for most recipes.
And do you know how many calories are in a cup of winter squash? Around 40 calories. A cup of heavy cream, which is the amount that goes into most Pots de Crème recipes? 821 calories! Those figures alone should prompt you to give this substitution a whirl.
It won’t take long, especially if you keep stocks of baked winter squash in your freezer. Simply drain excess water from thawed squash, add to this quick recipe, and you’re set. And since Pots de Crème is best chilled overnight, it is perfect as a make-ahead dessert for dinner parties.
I challenge you to find anyone that can detect the winter squash substitution in this rich, creamy dessert. I’ve served it to many dinner guests, and its fun to challenge them to identify the ingredients… everyone assumes that milk is the primary ingredient.
And that is the hallmark of a great substitution.
- 1½ cups baked and drained winter squash (hubbard squash preferred)
- 4 oz bar of semi-sweet baking chocolate
- 1 tsp instant coffee (Taster’s Choice is gluten free) or freshly-ground espresso
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar (optional)
- 6 egg yolks
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Chop chocolate and melt over low heat; allow to cool.
- Puree warm winter squash in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
- Pour mixture into demitasse cups or custard cups. Place cups in a heavy pan, and pour hot water into pan to create a water bath that covers the lower half of the cups. Bake 30 minutes for demitasse cups, or 45 minutes for custard cups. Chill at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Top with powdered cocoa, powdered sugar, or berry preserves before serving.