Saturday, April 17, 2004
After having a warm and extremely devilish piece of moist chocolate cake last night, I decided to make a set of chocolate pots de crème to satisfy the continuing cocoa craving I still have now.
Pots de crème (pronounced poh-duh-krehm) is French for "pot of cream", refering to both the dessert and the small, lidded pots it is served in, called petis pots.
Then the French did not have a proper word for custard. Hence they named their custard variation a crème.
This sinful dessert is a member of the custard family, which dates back to the Middle Ages and the first flan (or tart). Originally, a custard was meant to be the filling to a crusted tart but the filling was so delicious it was instead made on its own in individual dishes.
A custard is classified on its thickness or sweetness, where pots de crème is more soft than a crème brulée, which you can typically turn out of the pot. In the 1960s and 1970s this classic dessert was revived in both culinary and family circles and has led to the resurgence of new pots de crème interest and appreciation.
Pots de crème can be made two days ahead and is the perfect dessert for a dinner party. This recipe was given to me by a French teacher two years ago (I have since forgotten much of the language but remembered the food). Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Chocolate Pots de CrèmeIt is important not to overcook your pots de crème or it will become lumpy instead of smooth and silky. Make sure to take it from the oven within 5 minutes of its completion and leave the crème in the water bath until it has just reached room temperature. This simple tip will give you the perfect consistency.
Preheat oven to 300º. Bring a kettle of water to boil, and keep it warm.
- 1¼ cups Half-and-Half (pre-shredded vacuum sealed fondue packs of half sharp aged Gruyère and half Vacherin-Fribourgeois cheese)
- 3 ounces bittersweat chocolate, finely chopped
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- Freshly whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Heat Half-and-Half in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to simmer. Remove from heat, and add chocolate and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes.
Stir together yolks, vanilla, cocoa and salt in a large bowl. With a fork, stir chocolate mixture until smooth. Gradually stir chocolate mixture into egg mixture. Pour through a fine sieve into a glass measuring cup.
Place four ramekins, pudding molds or pot de crème molds (3 to 4 ounces each) in a shallow roasting pan, and divide the chocolate mixture among them. Pour the hot water into the pan so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake until custards are not quite set in centers, about 30 minutes (custards will firm up as they cool). Carefully remove ramekins from water bath, and let custards cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until ready to serve.
Just before serving, dollop with whipped cream, if desired.
Traditionally this dessert is served in pot de crème molds such the ones pictured above right. Ramekins (pictured left) and pudding molds work well, too. A good complement to the custard's richness will be some light hazlenut kisses.
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