Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Treat: Pot de Crème au Chocolat

Nothing says romance quite like chocolate on Valentine's Day. A classic French dessert, 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 — eggs, chocolate and cream — but while mousse is light and fluffy in texture, Pot de Crème are rich, dense and intensely chocolatey. Also, while mousse is put directly into the refrigerator to chill, Pot de Crème are baked in a bain marie, or water bath, before chilling. Although it looks very sophisticated, don’t be fooled by the posh name, Pot de Crème au Chocolat is 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. Next, eggs and sugar are whisked into warmed cream, melted chocolate and Grand Marnier, then strained to get rid of any lumps. Finally, the pots are filled and baked in a water bath, which provides a gentle, moist heat that the custards need to thicken properly. Luscious, creamy and intensely rich, this sexy little dessert makes the perfect Valentine's treat. 

Pot de Crème au Chocolat with 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.

"L'Amour et Psyche, enfants" by William-Adolphe Bouguereau - 1890

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