Chocolate. Pastries. Wine. Art. Cheese. Paris. The Artist and I had talked about visiting Europe for years and it always seemed something that would remain an item on our bucket list. But with a lot of scrimping and saving, and an invitation from friends who live in France, the dream became a reality last fall. But it almost didn’t happen …
I had spent months gathering information, coordinating a complex itinerary, making copious reservations, getting the paperwork in order, all the things needed for an extended trip abroad. The Artist had never been to Europe and it had been twenty years since my last visit. We were excited and getting ready for the trip of a lifetime.
Then the Air France pilots decided to go on strike.
With fingers crossed and stomachs churning we monitored the airline schedule daily. Our French friends assured us that this happens all the time and the strikes are settled quickly. Except this one wasn’t. Finally, the day before our flight, the pilots agreed to a settlement, but we weren’t sure when it would take effect. So with some trepidation we headed to the airport. Luckily, the flight did take off and we were finally on our way. By the next morning we would be in France!
Sometimes when you dream of something for so long it doesn’t live up to your expectations. France is everything we dreamed of and more! Walking the streets, seeing structures that have been there longer than our country has been in existence is exhilarating. Hearing the beautiful cadence of people speaking, the pace of city life, watching everyday lifestyles so different from our own and yet somehow familiar.
Paris is a remarkable city, each neighborhood unique and special. You could stay in any of the arrondissements and have everything you need within easy walking distance. We were delighted with the markets and bistros, each peddling their specialties and delicacies. For someone in love with food it was nearly overwhelming. Bright colors, incredibly fresh foods and baked goods, wafting aromas drawing us to every corner of the city.
And from everywhere you can see the Eiffel Tower. You grow up seeing images and paintings of it. It is as iconic as our Golden Gate Bridge and just as beautiful. This is the view from our hotel room – now aren’t you envious! 🙂
We visited the Musee d’Orsay, marveling at the architecture of the converted train station. Photos aren’t allowed but we were able to sneak a few with our phones without attracting too much attention. As we walked through the galleries absorbing the beauty, it was almost incomprehensible that these were the original works of the world’s greatest Impressionist painters. Each was more dazzling than the last. Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Pissarro, Cassatt, Sisley, Manet, Morisot, Matisse, Rodin and many more that were new to me. The Artist was better than the docents for hire, giving me an art history lesson with each corner we turned. It will always be my favorite period of art.
But almost better was walking back to our hotel after visiting the museum and knowing we were standing on the same bridges, looking at the same vistas that the Impressionists we had just seen – trying to imagine how they were able to interpret the light and colors, and transferring it to canvases. It is unbelievable that many of them lived in poverty, unable to sell their work because it was breaking away from the traditional way of painting.
A few blocks down from the museum we went into a store that has been there for hundreds of years and where the Impressionists purchased their art supplies. For The Artist, visiting Sennelier was like going to church. I followed him through the narrow aisles, up the winding staircase and into the various rooms, filled floor to ceiling with supplies that make creatives drool. It was wonderful to watch The Artist gently touch the tools and supplies of his passion. He was living his dream!
For me the best thing was that while in Europe I wasn’t gluten-intolerant. I could eat anything I wanted! I had a few weeks of pure freedom; nothing made me sick! If I had any doubts before about the harm that GMO wheat is doing to our bodies, I don’t anymore. We didn’t evolve with the wheat we are being fed now and our bodies cannot process it. No wonder we are all getting sick.
One of the classic French desserts is Pot de Crème (poh-deu-crehm) or baked cream. When The Artist suggested that we do an all French themed New Year’s Eve dinner in honor of our visit, I knew immediately what I would make for dessert to share with you. The chocolate version is deep and rich, a small portion fully satisfying even the most ardent chocoholics.
As you’ve heard me say before, when you have such a short ingredient list, each one takes on more importance. This is the time to buy a higher quality chocolate and let it shine!
Whipping your own cream makes all the difference in flavor and texture. You will never go back to the tub of whipped “stuff” again. A little sugar and vanilla and you have just the right combination to lighten and balance the chocolate.
When you are chopping the chocolate for the recipe, chop a little extra and set it aside. When the puddings are chilling, go back and chop the reserved chocolate very finely. Use this as the decoration on the top of the cream and bring your desserts to new heights. 😉
It was the perfect ending to our tribute dinner and a lovely way to bring in the New Year!
We had two visits to Paris on this trip. Three days when we arrived, and another three days just before we headed home. It wasn’t nearly enough. It is a city that you fall in love with. The people are gracious and proud. They want to share their beauty with the world. And just like everyone else, we fell under the spell of its enchantment.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Use the best quality ingredients you can afford because each one is a primary player in this recipe. If you like a sweeter dessert, you can substitute milk chocolate for the semisweet without compromising the flavor.
As long as there has been no cross-contamination, these desserts are naturally gluten-free!
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 1 oz (3 tbsp) finely chopped semisweet chocolate
- 1/2 oz (2 tbsp) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 5 large egg yolks
- Make the Custard: Put a large pot of water with at least 5 cups of water on to boil for the water bath. Reduce heat to medium-low to keep hot.
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Place four (6-oz) ramekins in a 9x13-inch baking pan or roasting pan and set aside. Set a wire sieve over a bowl.
- Make the chocolate cream:In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, heat the cream with 2 tbsp of the sugar, stirring to dissolve, until just below boiling.
- In a heatproof mixing bowl, combine the chocolate and cocoa, stirring to mix together. Slowly add the hot cream, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. If needed, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water to make sure all the chocolate pieces have melted. Return the mixture to the saucepan; reduce the heat to low.
- In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 3 tbsp sugar until smooth. Slowly add about 1/4 cup of the hot chocolate cream, briskly whisking, warming the eggs. Slowly add the yolk mixture to the rest of the chocolate cream, whisking vigorously. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 min. Pour immediately through the sieve into the bowl beneath it. (This removes any solid pieces of chocolate or egg.) Whisk in vanilla.
- Bake the custards: Evenly divide the mixture among the ramekins in the roasting pan. Pull out the oven shelf, put the roasting pan with the ramekins on it and carefully pour enough boiling water into the center of the pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Try not to splash any into the custards. Gently lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the ramekins and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the custards are 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° to 155°F on an instant-read thermometer (the hole left by the thermometer will close up as the custards firm).
- Remove the pan from the oven and let the custards cool to room temperature in their water bath. Gently lift the ramekins from the bath, set them on a wire rack to finish cooling, cover them with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to two days before serving. Garnish with whipped cream if you like.
- Yield: 4 servings
- Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream (or a rosette from a pastry bag). Or try a sprig of mint or chocolate shavings.
Create a New Tradition Today!
Let’s connect! If you love The Heritage Cook, you can follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. If you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, need to alter a recipe for gluten-free, or want recipe suggestions, don’t hesitate to email me. Thanks for joining the Heritage Cook Family!
Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material from The Heritage Cook without prior approval is prohibited. This includes copying and reprinting content and photographs. If you have any questions or would like permission, I can be contacted via email. Feel free to quote me, just give credit where credit is due, link to the recipe, and please send people to my website, www.theheritagecook.com. Please see the Disclaimers page for additional details.
This site is not intended to provide medical advice. The suggestions here are not intended as dietary advice or as a substitute for consulting a dietician, physician, or other medical professional. It is the reader’s sole responsibility to determine which foods are appropriate and safe for their family to consume. Always consult your doctor. The author makes no claims regarding the presence of food allergens and disclaims all liability in connection with the use of this site.