Dark Chocolate Pots de Crème

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These ultra-luxurious chocolate custards are simple to make, yet are so impressive in both taste and presentation.

Denser than a mousse and richer than a pudding, they taste like the filling of a chocolate truffle. The idea is to take a spoon to the bottom of the dish, bringing up the smooth dark chocolate along with the whipped cream topping.

The little desserts - and they are small because they're very dense and rich - are traditionally served in small containers or little "pots." I like to serve them in tiny coffee cups (demi-tasse), topping them to the brim with whipped cream and adding a few shavings of chocolate to decorate the top.

I can't imagine a grander finale to a Valentine's Day dinner.

1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream

2 large egg yolks

5 teaspoons granulated sugar

5 ounces (150 gm) chocolate from a large dark chocolate bar, such as Lindt or President's Choice (at least 65% cacao), coarsely chopped

Whipped cream for garnish

Chocolate shavings for garnish (optional)

In a small heavy saucepan, heat 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the cream until it is hot, but not simmering. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

In a metal bowl, using a wire whisk, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Whisk in the hot cream in a thin, slow, steady stream. (You want to slowly warm the egg yolks so they don't cook and curdle.) Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan. Cook it over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, just until it thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Do not let it come anywhere near a boil. Pour the custard into a bowl and set it aside at room temperature.

In a double boiler or a small metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring frequently. Slowly stir the melted chocolate into the custard until the mixture is smooth. Let the mixture cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, and using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup (125 ml) of cream until it holds stiff peaks. Stir a large spoonful of the whipped cream into the chocolate custard to lighten it. Then, using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining whipped cream until no trace of white remains.

Spoon the custard into 6 small ramekins, demi-tasse or wine glasses. Cover each container with plastic wrap and refrigerate the custards for at least 6 hours. (They will keep well in the refrigerator for at least a day.)

Just before serving, top up each of the pots de crème with a generous amount of whipped cream (I've found that real whipped cream in aerosol cans is most convenient and produces the neatest result). If desired, sprinkle on some chocolate shavings as a finishing touch.

6 servings.

If you have questions or comments about this column, or would like to submit one of your own recipes for publication, please contact Joan Over at 466-3155 or emailjoanover45@gmail.com.

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