I am back from the brink. Hallelujah and high-fives all around!
For the past two weeks I’ve been suffering from something I not-at-all melodramatically termed “the plague,” which also not-at-all resembles the actual plague, either in symptoms or severity.
It was gnarly.
My body is recovering, my drugs are doing their job, my husband is no longer forced to listen to me complain for hours at a time and then go to work and read emails with more complaining, and–most importantly–I am feeling like myself again!
Today really felt momentous. I had a full day of kitchen work planned, and instead of dragging my feet and moping around and taking breaks to photograph the progression of the plague for posterity, I was happy to be back at work. Singing to my ipod, dancing in my apron and kitchen clogs, doing endless dishes with nary a grumble.
Wait, that last part doesn’t seem like me at all. Must be the plague talking.
Honestly, how could I not be happy to be back cooking, when I had these adorable chocolate pot de cremes* to greet me? Pot de creme is like a baked custard–somewhat similar in concept to pudding, but with a smooth, firm texture that comes from being thickened with egg yolks instead of cornstarch or arrowroot.
*pots de creme? pot des creme? Probably not that last one
I’m not always a custard fan, but something about these little cups hit just the right note. Their petite size means their richness isn’t overwhelming, and they were barely sweetened, letting the chocolate flavor really shine through. In fact, my husband asked if there was caramel (!) or peanut butter (!!) mixed in, because they had a depth of flavor you wouldn’t expect from a simple chocolate custard.
Make it, bake it, love it. No plague required.
Chocolate Pot de Cremes
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 large egg
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a 9×13 pan with a layer of paper towels, then put eight 4-oz custard cups, ramekins, espresso or pot de creme cups in the pan. Fill a teakettle or saucepan with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.
Put the chopped chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl. Bring 1/2 cup of heavy cream to a boil. When the cream is just at a boil, pour it over the chocolate and wait for 1 minute to let the hot cream soften the chocolate. After a minute whisk the chocolate and cream together until the ganache is smooth and shiny; set aside.
Pour the remaining 1 cup cream and the milk together into a small saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat, and bring the milk to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large heat-safe bowl, whisk the egg, yolks, sugar and salt together until it starts to thicken. Once the milk is boiling, whisk the egg yolks and drizzle in a little of the hot liquid – this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking continuously, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. Finally, slowly whisk the egg mixture into the ganache, stirring gently to incorporate.
Divide the chocolate custard evenly among the cups. Pour enough hot water from the teakettle or saucepan into the 9×13 pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Cover the top of the pan tightly with foil, poke two holes in two opposite corners and carefully slide the pan in the oven.
Bake the custards for 35-40 minutes, or until the tops darken and the custards jiggle a little only in the center when tapped or lightly shaken. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a cooking rack. Allow the custards to rest in their warm bath for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and transfer the cups from the water to a cooling rack. Refrigerate them when they reach room temperature. When the pots de creme are cool, cover them tightly with plastic wrap.