Why do my chocolate pots de creme become solid in the fridge?

I tried them after they cooled, before chilling, and they had a lovely very slightly runny consistency. I put them in the fridge for 3 hours, left them on the counter for 20 minutes to come to room temperature, and they're completely solid. You can stick a spoon in them and it'll stay upright. The texture is nothing like a custard. It's more like some sort of dense fudge. What am I doing wrong?

  • Posted by: Kay52
  • April 6, 2013


Sandra D. February 1, 2019
I have just made the lemon pots de creme. The mixture was delicious but they all sank to half their height when I took them out of the oven. Cooling now but don't look very appetizing for tomorrow's dinner guests! What did I do wrong?
Kay52 April 8, 2013
Thanks for all the info.. I had salt in both my versions, loved the flavour enhancement it created.. I'm not using any sugar (other than what's already in the chocolate) which is probably another reason why it's so thick.. will be making version #3 next weekend - third time lucky? :) At the very least, hopefully it'll be a step in the right direction..
ChefOno April 8, 2013

Setting aside the taste difference, water will work just fine.

As you're working out your recipe, remember the temperature should be consistent from batch to batch. We've discussed the effects of reducing the amount of chocolate (by weight), the percentage of chocolate (e.g. 60% vs. 70% vs. milk) and the number of yolks. Increasing the amount of sugar will also thin a custard (molecularly sugar acts as a diluent). And a pinch of salt will help flavors come alive (yes in a sweet dish) as well as soften the results.

ChefOno April 7, 2013

Yes, it's all about proportions. We're all saying the same thing here, just from different perspectives. Do you want a chocolate custard or a CHOCOLATE custard? If the latter, don't reduce the chocolate. Simply increase the cream.

Chocolate composition is a complicated subject but in the simplest terms, all chocolate is composed of varying amounts of three things: cocoa, sugar and milk solids. The difference between a 70% bar and a 60% bar is less cocoa and more sugar. Milk chocolate contains substantially less cocoa, maybe a third or even less than a 70% configuration. In a dish that contains cocoa, sugar and cream, it really doesn't matter where the ingredients come from, sugar in the chocolate or sugar added separately for example, just as long at the proportions are correct. My advice is to find a brand you like the flavor of and work from there.

Julia Child's recipe for Pot du Crème au Chocolat calls for medium cream. Heavy cream contains a higher concentration of butterfat. And remember there's fat in the yolks and the chocolate. So, back to proportions and that it doesn't matter where an ingredient, in this case fat, comes from. Heavy cream + milk = lighter cream.

However, cream + water is not the same thing. This is easily demonstrated. Dilute some cream with increasing amounts of water and see if you ever get to something resembling milk.

boulangere April 7, 2013
As I use in my recipe, heavy cream and milk.
Kay52 April 7, 2013
Okay, so in my case I guess I'm constrained by two factors: 1) I only want to use cream, not milk; and 2) I only want to use 70% chocolate, not 60%. So, I thought I could just add another liquid, water, to dilute my cream to increase the runniness. But it sounds like you're saying that won't work? And I'm okay decreasing both the amount of chocolate (just not the %), and the amount of egg yolk (which would hopefully compensate for using cream instead of milk).
amysarah April 7, 2013
I also think the proportion of chocolate is the major factor here. Petitbleu's example of ganache is a good illustration - the higher chocolate/cream ratio, the more it solidifies in the fridge (also much harder than when simply cooled to room temp.)
Kay52 April 7, 2013
I guess what I'm still most confused about is that it came out of the oven fine, was perfect when it cooled, and then it completely solidified in the fridge.. wondering if there's any one factor that would specifically cause that.. seems like 2 people plus Cooks Illustrated think it's the chocolate (either percentage or amount), although one strongly disagrees..
boulangere April 7, 2013
I am certain that it is both the amount and % of your chocolate. If you melt 7 ounces of it, then set it in the refrigerator, it will chill to a solid form again. If you put that much in a relatively small amount of cream, the same will happen, though of course it won't be completely solid. High marks for persevering!
boulangere April 7, 2013
Here is a link to my recipe. I use half whole milk, half cream, and milk chocolate which tends to keep it nicely tender. http://thesolitarycook.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/sunday-dessert-spice-of-life-pot-de-creme/
ATG117 April 7, 2013
wondering why you don't work off of one recipe. Here are just two, though it sounds like you have many


Kay52 April 7, 2013
Thanks.. the epicurious is one of the ones I'm working off.. I saw the Martha and didn't like the the cocoa powder and half and half.. i like coming up with my own recipes, especially when there isn't one that's exactly how I would like it to be.. I like the idea of just using cream for example, and a lot of them use milk or half and half.. although I'm starting to see there's a reason for that, even though Julia Child's original recipe only called for cream..
Kay52 April 7, 2013
Also, what I'd really like to do is use 70% dark chocolate, and it seems like most recipes are developed for 60% max.. so it looks like I have to tweak the other variables like perhaps water down my cream and use fewer egg yolks.. or at least I hope that will work..
ChefOno April 7, 2013

You're playing with a number of factors here: If you reduce the eggs, the dish will lose richness and if you reduce the chocolate… you don't really want to do that do you? All other factors being the same, substituting 60% for 70% is doing just that. Let me tell you from experience, you're nowhere near the top end of how much chocolate you can incorporate.

Heat: You don't say if you're using the traditional oven method or cooking over a burner. An oven introduces an uncertainty factor (several of them actually) making consistent results difficult. You'll have the better control on a cooktop but, either way, use a digital thermometer to determine a safe and consistent finishing temperature. Undercooking is dangerous and unnecessary.

You can thin the custard's texture by adding more liquid. When I was developing my recipe, I found using all heavy cream was a little too much with respect to the amount of chocolate (another variable you can experiment with).

Kay52 April 7, 2013
Thanks for the info.. The first time I did it on the stove top, used 8oz 70% chocolate (oops previously I said 7 but I checked and it was 8oz), 1.25 cups heavy cream and 1/4 cup water (basically diluting my cream a little), and 6 yolks...

This time I baked it in a water bath in the oven.. 5 oz 70% chocolate, 5 large egg yolks and 2 cups heavy cream..

I'd prefer to use 70% chocolate over 60%.. but am not liking my results. I like the richness, so maybe I should leave 5 yolks in.. and you're right i'm playing with a lot of factors - too many for my liking..
petitbleu April 6, 2013
I agree with clementine--sounds like the ratio of chocolate is too high for the results you want (although just the image in my head of the spoon standing up in the chocolate is making my mouth water).
I always think of ganache as a great example of what chocolate can do to desserts like this--more chocolate and the consistency of the ganache is thicker and fudgier, less and it's runnier, more spreadable.
I would try decreasing the amount of chocolate and go from there. The good news is...it's chocolate! How bad can the results be?
Kay52 April 6, 2013
Oh don't worry, I have no problems eating it ;) It's just that this is my second attempt. Last time I used 7 oz of chocolate. This time it's a little better, but still not good enough. I just read this in Cooks Illustrated (http://www.cooksillustrated.com/tastetests/overview.asp?docid=11873): they compared 60% chocolate to 70% and found that "in the case of the pots de crème, a thicker, stiffer consistency".

So I'm thinking I should maybe try less chocolate, or try 60% chocolate. Also thinking that maybe I should use one less egg yolk to see if that helps?
minibakersupreme April 6, 2013
It sounds like you're following a recipe, but the amount of chocolate in the recipe may be too high. I've heard about 4 oz. chocolate per quart liquid. The percentage of the chocolate may affect it as well. I've had this problem before. They are supposed to set up under refrigeration and be served cool, not cold, as the flavors are better when not frigid.
Kay52 April 6, 2013
Thanks for your response. I'm loosely following a few different recipes. I used 2 cups heavy cream, 5 large egg yolks and 5 oz chocolate (70%).

I loved the consistency before I put them in the fridge, and wish they had stayed exactly that way. I'm wondering if I should've undercooked them a little so that there's room for them to firm up?
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