Sunday, February 21, 2010

Survival Chocolate Pots de Crème

I had a whole post written out about the Snowpocalypse and SNOMG! and Snowverkill and every other cutesy term coined this February as a result of more than two feet of snow here in the metro DC area that descended upon us the week before Valentine's Day, and I hunkered down for a weekend of great baking. On my list: Fran Bigelow's Chocolate Pots de Crème.

Unfortunately, I didn't have as much time to blog and bake as expected since my employer didn't consider metro closures, week-long school closures, an unprecedented four-day closure of the federal government, and absolutely treacherous roads to be reason enough to close the office.

But the title of this post isn't extremely bitter chocolate pots de crème. :) Fortunately, I looked forward to making these beauties all week. Even a 3.5-hour one-way commute on Friday couldn't stop me from the excitement of this dessert. Score another perfect 10 for Fran!

Any time I make a dessert that is time-sensitive or that requires a lot of equipment or care, I make sure everything is ready well before I turn on the burner. For this, I recommend you have the eggs separated and ready to go, a teapot on the boil (it can simmer until you're ready for it), the ingredients measured, chocolate chopped, and the strainer, baking dish, and ramekins ready. It is not, however, a difficult recipe. Promise.

Trust me when I say that you'll want to save this one for a special occasion—but sometimes just surviving the week is reason enough.

Survival Chocolate Pots de Crème
1 whole egg
5 egg yolks
2 T. plus 1 t. sugar
pinch of salt
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
8 oz. semisweet chocolate (60% preferred), finely chopped

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Set a tea kettle filled with water on the stovetop to boil. Have ready six 5-ounce pot de crème cups or ramekins.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and egg yolks with 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth and the sugar begins to dissolve. Set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the cream, milk, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar until it comes to just a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Gently stir until the chocolate is completely melted (be patient!) and smooth (you'll thank me later).

Pour about a third (just eyeball it) of the chocolate mixture into the eggs and immediately stir to combine. Then add the remaining chocolate mixture, gently stirring until smooth without incorporating too much air or too many bubbles. (This will help the texture later.)

Using a rubber spatula to help, strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup. You should have about 24 fluid ounces.

Pour about 4 ounces into each pot de crème cup or ramekin until 1/2 inch from the top. Tap the base of each cup on the counter to remove any bubbles.

If using pot de crème cups, place their hats (lids... whatever) on them—or individually and tightly cover each ramekin with plastic wrap to prevent a skin. With the tip of a sharp knife, punch a small slit in the surface of the plastic wrap so that steam can escape during cooking.

When your tea kettle comes to a boil, arrange the custard cups in a rimmed baking dish or roasting pan and place in the oven. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan around the custard cups to a depth of about an inch to create a bain-marie (a fancy term for a water bath, which ensures even, gentle cooking). If using ramekins, loosely cover the pan with foil.

Bake for 35 minutes (perfect amount of time for my oven), or until the custard is set. If the center moves independently when gently shaken, continue baking.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any portion not devoured.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Other inkpadchocolate V-day recommendations:
Chocolate Soufflés
Aunt Louise's Famous Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate Pavé
Flourless Chocolate Torte

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