First of all, I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine’s Day!
My husband, Brandon, and I decided, once again, to forgo the restaurant scene and make dinner together for the holiday. Knowing Brandon would probably be working the official night of V-Day, we chose to celebrate the evening before.
Celebrating over the weekend provided me with the extra time needed to prepare a special, indulgent dessert. With our dinner menu consisting of duck breast with orange gastrique, duck fat potatoes, and roasted broccolini, I wanted to whip up a French-inspired, chocolate dessert (what could be more romantic?). My first thought was chocolate mousse. I’ve made it before and enjoyed it thoroughly, but it requires melting chocolate and whipping eggs in several different bowls, and I just wasn’t in the mood for such a heroic clean-up effort.
What I did like about the idea of mousse is that it requires being made ahead of time and that it is rich and chocolaty. I wanted to make something that didn’t require any effort at dinnertime and could just be pulled out of the refrigerator and served (with complimentary results).
Needing some guidance, I pulled down one of my favorite cookbooks: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. This book is one of my favorite resources for breads, cakes, and other desserts. In 2007, the book won a James Beard Award. If you happen to have a copy, try the recipe for the Pecan Honey Sticky Buns. You won’t be sorry. Dorie is also the author of Baking with Julia (yes, THAT Julia).
Paging through the “Spoon Desserts” chapter, I came across a recipe for chocolate pots de crème—chocolate pots of cream. Ms. Greenspan writes, “Chocolate pudding and chocolate pots de crème are often thought of as culinary siblings when they’re really more like cousins from opposite sides of the family . . . And, although the crèmes seem lighter than pudding, they are actually considerably richer.” Perfect. It was the rich, chocolate dessert I was looking for. I could make it ahead. I had the few ingredients on hand. And, it wasn’t going to require an entire afternoon of washing dishes.
I only made a few minor changes to the original recipe. First, my ramekins are larger than those listed in the recipe. Being a good American, I just decided to increase my portion sizes. I cut Ms. Greenspan’s servings from 8 to 4. Also, the original recipe suggests using plastic wrap instead of foil. Apparently, plastic wrap can withstand the low baking temperature this recipe requires. Unfortunately, my plastic wrap would not stick to my roasting pan, so I improvised using aluminum foil. You could use either one.
If you enjoy chocolate mousse, you will love this recipe. While it may not be light and airy, it is densely chocolaty, and it is a delicious treat to share with someone you love. At least, that is what I did.
Chocolate Pots de Crème
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 4 servings
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300F. Line a large roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels, then put four 8-ounce custard cups, ramekins, espresso or pot de crème cups in the pan. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils turn off the heat.
Put the chopped chocolate in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or a large heatproof bowl. Bring 1/2 cup of the heavy cream to a boil. When the cream is just at a boil, pour it over the chocolate and wait for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula and starting in the center of the bowl, gently stir the cream and chocolate until the ganache is smooth; set aside.
Stir the remaining one cup cream and the milk together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk the egg, yolks, sugar and salt together until pale and slightly thickened.
Still whisking, drizzle in a little of the hot liquid – this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. Finally, slowly whisk the egg mixture into the ganache, stirring gently to incorporate.
With a spoon, skim the foam off the top of the custard, then pour the custard into the cups. Pour enough hot water from the teakettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Cover the top of the pan snugly with aluminum foil, poke two holes in opposite corners and very carefully and steadily slide the setup into the oven.
Bake the custards for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the tops darken and the custards jiggle a little only in the center when tapped or lightly shaken.
Gingerly remove the roasting pan from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Allow the custards to rest in their warm bath for 10 minutes, then remove the aluminum foil and transfer the cups from the water to the cooling rack. Refrigerate when they reach room temperature. When the pots de creme and cool, cover them tightly with plastic wrap or their little lids.
Serve chilled with a dollop of lightly-sweetened whipped cream.