Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pot de Crème au Chocolat à Grand Marnier

This classic French dessert, loved for its rich, dark and intense chocolate flavour, is surprisingly simple to make. Pot de Crème au Chocolat are tiny pots of rich chocolate custard, similar to chocolate mousse, only richer and smaller. The ingredients are also almost identical to mousse — eggs, chocolate and cream — but while mousse is light in texture, pots de crème are rich and dense. Also mousse is put directly into the refrigerator to chill, while pots de crème are baked in a bain marie, or water bath, before chilling. 

Although this marvelous dessert looks very sophisticated, don’t be fooled by the posh name. It’s nothing more than a custard really, and one of the easiest desserts you can make. Start with small, heatproof cups and good-quality European bittersweet chocolate such as Callebaut, Valrhona or Lindt. Then whisk eggs and sugar to warmed cream, melted chocolate, and Grand Marnier, and strain to get rid of any lumps. Baking the filled pots in a water bath provides the gentle, moist heat that the custards need to thicken properly. Luscious, creamy and intensely rich, this sexy chocolate baked custard makes the perfect little decadent dessert. Served in my mother's Royal Worcester Evesham pot de creme cups that she gave me a few years ago, they were the final elegant touch to classic French Pot de Crème au Chocolat.

Pot de Crème au Chocolat à Grand Marnier
Serves 6

3 egg yolks
2 tbsp extra fine fruit sugar
1 1/4 cup light cream
3 oz Lindt Intense Dark 85% Cacao chocolate, chopped
3 oz Lindt Intense Orange chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp Grand Marnier

Preheat oven to 325°F. Using a standing mixer, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla together until the yolks are pale and thick.

In a small saucepan, simmer the cream over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, whisking until melted and well blended.

Very slowly add the chocolate to the egg mixture, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Mix in the Grand Marnier. Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a large measuring cup with a spout — straining the liquid will remove any lumpy impurities. Blot foam from the top of the chocolate with a paper towel or skim with a spoon.

Place six pot de crème pots with lids or ramekins in a baking pan. Pour the chocolate mixture into the small cups, dividing it evenly, then add boiling water into the baking pan so the cups are half immersed. Cover the pots with their lids or the ramekins with a single sheet of aluminum foil. Bake until the custards are just set at the edges but still a little wobbly in the centre, about 15 to 20 minutes. They'll firm up as they chill.

Once they're cooked, remove the baking pan from the oven and place the cups on a wire rack, removing the lids or aluminum foil to let cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days before serving. Serve with whipped cream garnished with orange peel, shaved chocolate or simply sprinkled with some fleur de sel.