Monday, September 27, 2010

Chocolate Pot de Crème

Regular readers of my blog probably know by now that my favorite desserts are fruit desserts. But that doesn't mean I am not fond of chocolate. It's just that if I'm going to eat chocolate, most of the time I want to have the pure chocolate experience without a lot of embellishment.

I taught chocolate pot de crème last week. For those who aren't familiar with it, pot de crème is a French, egg yolk-rich, heavy cream-based custard that is baked in a small ramekin or petit pot (pronounced pō). 

The pots are petite because the custard is very rich—you really only need a small amount.  You could even use espresso cups.  Pot de crème can be any flavor, but most often it is vanilla bean-infused or intensely chocolate. 

I don't think there is anything particularly unique about the quantities of yolks, cream, chocolate and sugar in my recipe, but I do think the mixing method is a bit different. I adopted it from the chocolate pot de crème recipe in The Balthazar Cookbook. Most custards combine at least a portion of the sugar with the egg yolks before adding the hot liquids. I believe this is to provide some measure of protection for the yolks so that they will be less likely to scramble when the hot liquid is added. This recipe adds all of the sugar to the pan with the milk and cream to be heated with them. Since the chocolate is then added to this mixture before it is added to the yolks, the chocolate cools the liquid down enough that scrambling isn't an issue. The benefit of this method is that the sugar is fully dissolved in the hot milk/cream mixture and the resulting custard seems to me to be much silkier.

After my classes I usually sit down with the class assistants to relax with them and also to eat a little of the food that I have prepared. This week I was chatting away when I took a bite of the chocolate pot de crème and interrupted myself to say "Oh my!"

It was sooooo good. And that is the kind of chocolate dessert that I want to eat—so chocolate-y and so suave that it stops you in your tracks and demands your undivided attention. Something that would cause you to say with Homer-like focus "Mmmmm Chocolate..."

I only had a little taste that evening and they have been on my mind ever since. Fortunately, I have found a good reason to make another batch. As it turns out, the very day that I was teaching that class was the 50th birthday of a good friend....and it completely slipped my mind. I usually have no trouble remembering birthdays, so I'm not sure how I managed to forget his birthday. But I will be working with my friend this week and thought I would take a batch of chocolate pots de crème in with me as a belated birthday treat. I do hope that he enjoys them....I'm certain they will make me happy.

Chocolate Pot de Crème

3/4 c. whole milk
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. sugar
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (something around 60%), finely chopped
4 large egg yolks
1/2 t. vanilla extract

Line a baking pan with a couple layers of paper towels or a kitchen towel. Place the ramekins or custard cups in the pan. The pan should be just large enough to hold them comfortably without touching.

Place the milk, cream and sugar in a small saucepan and bring just to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let sit for a moment or two to allow the heat to fully penetrate the chocolate; whisk until smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Then, in a slow, steady stream, add in the chocolate-cream mixture, stirring until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.  If time permits, allow the custard to sit for a few moments so that any bubbles that have formed during the whisking will rise to the surface and can be skimmed off.  If you take the time to do this, the surface of the finished custards will be perfectly smooth.

Divide the cream among the ramekins. Pour enough hot water (just off the boil) into the pan to reach about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Cover the pan loosely with foil (this will prevent a skin from forming on the cream). Place the pan in the center of a 300° oven and bake until the cream is just set at the edges but still trembling in the center, about 25 to 35 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully remove the ramekin from the water. Let the custard cool to room temperature and then refrigerate, loosely covered, for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled with whipped cream, if desired.

Makes 8 small (3-oz. ramekins), 6 medium (4-oz. ramekins), or 4 large (6-oz. ramekins)


Paige said...

Hi Chris,

I have some 6 ounce ramekins that are about 1 1/2 inches deep and this recipe does fine in them. I don't know how shallow yours are, but as long as you bake them in a water bath you should be fine. I might check them at 20 minutes, but other than that, everything should be the same.

Gloria - The Ginger Snap Girl said...

Wow. Your Chocolate Pot de Cremes look so luscious and amazing. You've made it sound approachable. I'm a chocolate girl and I think I need to give these a try.

Unknown said...

I laughed when I saw your post tonight. I had made these earlier this evening, and I was puzzled by something that happened, and then when I opened your blog, there was a post about pot de creme. What perfect timing! My pot de cremes (pots de creme? What's the plural for these?) tasted divine. Rich and intensely wonderful...but they were not as smooth as I remember yours from a class I took last year. They were a tiny bit grainy is the best way to describe them, although the grains were soft. I assume I did something wrong with the eggs, but I don't know what. Can you make a long-distance diagnosis? I want to try again, but I'm not sure what to do to get a smoother texture. While I wait for your answer, I'll be eating my mistake. Even grainier than it should be, this is one spectacular treat.

Paige said...

I would guess that the grains were tiny bits of unmelted chocolate. Depending on the chocolate you used, and how long you allowed the chocolate to sit in the hot milk/cream, it might not have melted completely. If you look carefully at this mixture, you might see some flecks of chocolate if this is the case. I noticed in a Maida Heatter recipe that she melts her chocolate before she adds it to the hot liquid--this would insure there were not tiny chocolate chips in the final custard. You might try this, or just let the chocolate sit in the hot liquid longer before beginning to whisk.

If you whisked the eggs up to smooth them out and added the choc/cream mixture in a thin stream while whisking the yolks, I don't think the eggs would have scrambled.

But you're right, even if not perfectly smooth, it is a spectacular treat! Thanks for commenting!

Katrina said...

Oh, when Ellen and I had this in your class last year (has it really been a year?), we both took bites, just like you mentioned, rolling our eyes and exclaiming how divine it was! I've have thought about it a number of times and have wanted to make it. It was SO good!
No, really, do you ship? My birthday is....jk

Unknown said...

These look divine!!! Totally bookmarked :D

Unknown said...

I couldn't resist. Made them, lovedd them :D

TJ Everett said...

I was trying to think of something new to make for dessert and I remembered these from a class of yours several years ago. They were a delight then and they're a delight now. Thank you for your wonderful recipe and for your instruction.

Paige said...

I'm so glad you liked them so much that you remembered them...that you made them again...and that you took the time to let me know. Thank you!!