It couldn't have been more than a month into lockdown when I experienced a craving so intense that it rocked my homebound soul to its core. I needed pudding—and not the kind that comes powdered in a box or crammed inside a plastic cup. I wasn't willing to wait four hours for the homemade stuff to chill in the fridge either. So I did what any self-respecting thirty-something would do and turned to the internet for answers.
It didn't take long before I was virtually scouring the aisles of the nearest grocery store that offered two-hour delivery. There, in the refrigerated section, I found a promising solution. "Organic French pudding," I said to my husband, zooming in on the label. "Sounds fancy." With more than 400 rave reviews, I figured Petit Pot was worth a shot and tossed the dark chocolate and vanilla bean varieties in my online shopping cart before checking out.
A few hours later, my spoon was clawing at the bottom of the reusable glass jar the brand is packaged in. If I could have licked it clean, I would have. To put it plainly: I was hooked. The dark chocolate flavor is decadently rich and velvety without being obnoxiously sweet—it's what Jell-O pudding aspires to be. Vanilla bean is reminiscent of crème brûlée custard, with flecks of real vanilla visible to the naked eye. There's no weird artificial aftertaste because the stuff is made with familiar ingredients: milk, cream, sugared egg yolks and pectin (a natural starch that acts as a setting agent).
But perhaps most importantly, Petit Pot isn't really pudding per se—it's pot de crème, a French staple and posh step-sister of the American dessert our palates are used to. The brand's founder, Maxime Pouvreau, is a classically trained chef who relocated to San Francisco from the South of France more than a decade ago. The expat was devastated to learn that American grocery stores didn't stock pot de crème and eventually took matters into his own hands.
With help from family and friends and a lot of trial and error in his home kitchen, Pouvreau developed a recipe he was proud of. Fast-forward to 2021, and he's grown the dessert startup to include flavors like salted caramel, lemon curd and pumpkin spice; there are even several plant-based options in the Petit Pot portfolio, including mango-passion fruit riz au lait (rice pudding). These days, Pouvreau doesn't have too much trouble finding his favorite French treat when he needs a fix: More than 5,000 stores across the country carry the brand.
It's welcome news for une femme Américaine like me, too. Lockdown may have robbed me of fancy restaurant desserts, but my fridge is always stocked with pots de crème for when the mood strikes, which is more often than not these days.
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