2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup maple syrup, grade b
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
6 egg yolks, large
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
mascarpone cheese, or crème fraiche (optional)
nutmeg, freshly ground (optional)
maple sugar, (optional)
cinnamon sugar, optional
shortbread fingers, (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325˚F and place a teapot filled with water on the stove to boil. Place your ramekins in a high-sided ovenproof baking dish like a 9x13-inch Pyrex or ceramic casserole dish. I also place a thin dishcloth beneath my ramekins to prevent shifting and clinking as they go into the oven.
Whisk the cream, maple syrup, and nutmeg together in a 1-quart high-sided saucepan and place over medium-low heat. If using a whole vanilla bean, add both the scraped seeds and the pod to the milk; if using paste or extract, just whisk that in. Heat to a bare simmer, just until you see bubbles around the edge of the pan.
While the cream heats and the water comes to a boil, place the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl.
When the cream comes to a simmer, discard the vanilla bean pod, if using, and whisk the hot cream slowly and evenly into the eggs until fully blended. Whisk in the salt.
Divide the custard between the ramekins and gently place on the center oven rack. Carefully pour hot water from the teapot around the ramekins, making sure not to splash water onto the custard, until the water comes halfway up the sides of the pan.
Bake for 20-40 minutes until the pots de crème are still slightly jiggly in the center but nearly firm; timing will vary based on the size and shape of your ramekins, so watch carefully so you don't overbake them.
Carefully remove the dish from the oven and lift the pots de crème out of the water bath onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
Cover each ramekin with its lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours until completely chilled.
Serve cold with your desired toppings: I love to place a dollop of crème fraiche or mascarpone cheese sprinkled with nutmeg or maple sugar on top of each pot de crème, and add a few shortbread fingers on the side for crunching or dunking.