Absolutely Chocolate: Irresistible Excuses to Indulge from the editors of Fine Cooking, includes recipes like Chocolate Pots De Crème; Fast and Easy Nibby Fudge; and Mexican-style Pecan-Chocolate Squares.
Pots de crème are all about creamy texture, intense flavor, and contented silence. Even a table of chatty diners suddenly goes quiet while spooning bites of this heavenly dessert. Pots de crème are also convenient, since you can (and should) make them the day before you plan to serve them. If you're doing a lot of baking, save the leftover egg whites for another recipe calling for just whites, such as the Chocolate Soufflé Cookies on page 26 of the book or the Chocolate Pavlova with Tangerine Whipped Cream on page 182.
Put a large pot of water on to boil for the water bath. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Put eight 6-ounce ramekins in a large roasting pan or baking dish with high sides.
Make the chocolate cream: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the cream, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the vanilla seeds and pod (if you're using vanilla extract, don't add it yet) until just below boiling. In a bowl, mix the chocolate and cocoa. Slowly add the hot cream, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan.
In a clean bowl, combine the egg yolks with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar; beat until smooth. Gently whisk a ladleful of the hot chocolate cream into the yolks and then whisk the yolk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the chocolate cream. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, 3 to 4 minutes. Strain immediately through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. If you're using vanilla extract, stir it in now.
Bake the pots de crème: Portion the mixture evenly among the ramekins in the roasting pan. Pull out the oven shelf, put the roasting pan on it (be sure it's stable), and pour enough boiling water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the ramekins with a sheet of foil (simply lay the sheet on top, don't crimp the edges) and bake for 25 to 45 minutes—start checking early as how fast they cook will depend in large part on the ramekins. The custards are best when set about 1/4 inch in from the sides, the centers respond with a firm jiggle (not a wavelike motion) when you nudge the ramekins, and the centers of the custards register 150 degrees F to 155 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer (the hole left by the thermometer will close up as the custards firm). Let the custards cool to room temperature in their water bath.
Remove the custards from the bath, cover them with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days before serving.
This dessert is all about luscious texture. If the pot de crème is undercooked, it will be tasty but runny, but overcooking can make it grainy, so a double doneness test is key.
Whisk thoroughly but gently. Vigorous whisking can aerate the custard and result in a foamy, perforated-looking surface instead of a smooth one.
Cook the custard slowly to 170 degrees F on the stovetop. Some recipes cook the custards only in the oven, but this method calls for a few minutes of gentle cooking on the stove. The temperature rises quickly, so as the thermometer approaches 170 degrees F, pull the pot off the heat.
Use very hot water for the water bath. This keeps the custard at a consistent but gentle heat as it goes from the stove to the oven.
To test for doneness, jiggle—and use a thermometer as a backup. When you nudge the ramekin, the custard will be firm about 1/4 inch of the way in from the sides but the center will respond with a jiggle. If you see a wavelike motion, that means it's still too liquid. To confirm, use an instant-read thermometer, which should register 150 degrees F to 155 degrees F (the hole left by the thermometer will close as the custard firms).
If in doubt, take the custards out of the oven on the early side, since they firm as they chill.
This page created November 2009
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