Sunday, March 8, 2009

Call It Pudding, But It's Really Pots De Creme

When life gives you lemons you make lemonade, right? Well, after making my Paper Doll Cupcakes, life gave me 6 egg yolks. What do I make? Custard? Lemon curd? How about Pots de Creme (pronounced poh duh krehm), or as my son just calls it, "pudding". Many flavors of this dessert came to mind and in the end, they circled back to chocolate. So chocolate it was, and I gave it a kick with cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Both subtly intermingle with the bittersweet chocolate. I prefer a harmonic balance of spices and flavors. Usually American desserts are screaming with sugar so that the purity and goodness of flavor are hiding behind its skirt. We are left not feeling satisfied with anything but sweetness. I had never made Pots de Creme, but have had it in Paris often. I played with proportions and was delighted with the outcome. It has a rich, creamy and fudge like texture with a waltz of spices dancing through. It is so easy to make with its custard base. It is baked in a water bath to keep the texture velvety smooth. I didn't have traditional lidded Pot de Creme cups, so I used one half cup ramekins and some small vintage diner bowls. After a little research about whether the diner bowls were oven safe, I learned to slowly heat them in the oven as it preheats. They didn't crack or break and looked great with the chocolate. I had fun and garnished them differently. Since it is rich, use containers no larger than for half cup servings. Less is more here. A little whipped cream dolloped on top goes great with the chocolate. I melted some cherry hard candy in the oven for just a few minutes on aluminum foil, to add a colorful translucent accent. Pure folly!

Chocolate Cinnamon Pots de Creme

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Chop the chocolate coarsely and put into a heatproof large bowl. Place a fine meshed strainer on top of the bowl. Whisk egg yolks until frothy and then add the heavy cream and milk. Continue beating while adding the sugars, cinnamon and vanilla, until fully mixed. Put this mixture into a heavy medium pot and heat on medium heat, stirring constantly. Do not allow it to boil. Heat until it just starts to thicken and then remove from heat and pour through strainer into the bowl of chopped chocolate. Add cayenne pepper. Stir to mix fully and then pour into 1/2 cup ramekins. Place ramekins, evenly spaced and not touching, in a 2 inch deep roasting pan. Place in preheated oven and fill the roasting pan 1/2 inch deep with boiling water. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 40 minutes. You want them to be cooked gently until they jiggle uniformly when shaken. Once done, remove from oven and let cool. Take out of pan and refrigerate covered until ready to serve. These are best served room temperature, or even just barely warm from the oven. Serve with freshly whipped cream with a dusting of unsweetened cocoa.
Makes 6 one half cup servings.

*For a pure chocolate flavor, do not add cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
*Add 2 teaspoons instant coffee to the hot cream mixture for a mocha flavor.
*Or add a tablespoon of your favorite liqueur to the hot cream mixture instead of the cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

Written and photographed by Diane.

Download recipe Chocolate Cinnamon Pots de Creme (pdf)

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