Pot de Crème (poh-duh-krehm) is like a pudding for grownups. Not surprisingly the name means Pot of Cream. Smooth and creamy, it is a delightful end to your meal. You will linger over your dessert to savor every bite. You want to serve this when you’ve had a lighter meal. The richness will give your guests the sense that all is right in the world. Depending on the type of chocolate you are working with, it can require a little or a lot of pressure with your knife to chop it. Milk and white chocolate are soft and easy to cut; bittersweet and unsweetened are harder. When you are working with a block of chocolate, work toward the center from the corners. Angling your knife across the corner with the point away from you, cut off a piece of chocolate. Keep going until you no longer have a point to work from. Then turn the chocolate so that you have a point again in front of you and keep cutting. If you have some larger pieces, chop them separately so they match everything else.
These puddings cook in a water bath which gently cooks the sauce without scrambling the eggs. You use this technique with crème brulee and cheesecake too. You want to make sure you don’t get any water in the cups so pour the water in very carefully after the cups are settled in your baking dish. It should come about halfway up the sides of the cups or ramekins. If you are going to make this or similar dishes a lot, Amazon has a great piece of equipment that will make your life so much easier! It is a crème brulee kit that has a metal insert that holds the ramekins in place.
Because the chocolate is so intense in this dessert, I like to serve it with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream. You can shave chocolate over the top for a professional look and really impress your guests. One of the best things about this dessert is that you have to make it ahead so it has time to set up. This frees you up to focus more on your guests and the rest of dinner.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Shaving chocolate is one of those things that tips the balance from something looking homemade to professional plating. Using a regular vegetable peeler, drag it along an edge of a bar of chocolate. The longer the edge, the thicker the curls. If this seems daunting to you, you can also grate the chocolate over the top. Use a slightly thicker grater for larger pieces. Either way, your dessert will suddenly become something very special. Garnish with a sprig of mint too for a little color.
A sieve can be used to sift flour and dry ingredients together or to remove lumps from any egg-based dish such as custards, sauces, gravies, or puddings. No matter how carefully you temper your egg mixture there may be tiny lumps when you’re done. Pouring it through a sieve eliminates this and gives you a creamy, smooth product.
Chocolate Pot de Crème
Adapted from a Dean & Deluca recipe
Yield: 4 servings
3/4 cup heavy cream
3-1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
Whipped cream, shaved chocolate, and mint sprigs for garnish, optional
In a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, heat 1/4-cup cream and the chocolate until chocolate melts. Stir until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat remaining 1/2-cup cream with the milk, sugar and salt over moderate heat until mixture is hot and sugar dissolves. Stir often.
In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks to blend, then gradually whisk in hot milk mixture. Whisk in melted chocolate until mixture is smooth and satiny. Strain mixture through a sieve into another bowl, and then cover and chill overnight in refrigerator.
Cover each cup with plastic wrap. Transfer to a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Carefully add warm water to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake until custards are barely set, about 30 to 40 minutes. They will still look soft in the center but will firm as they cool. The center should jiggle, but theedges should be solid.
Remove carefully from water bath. Uncover and cool custards, then refrigerate until cold, at least 6 hours. Serve chilled and garnish as desired.