This is a recipe I adapted from something I found on Epicurious. I recently used this for a dinner party. It makes for a simple and elegant dessert that you can prepare in advance, and then garnish and serve, keeping you engaged with your guests and not belabored in the kitchen.
175g, or just over 6oz good quality chocolate (see notes)
2/3 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 pinches salt
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Frangelico (or hazelnut liqueur)
chocolate covered Espresso beans
Preheat your oven to 300F
Combine heavy cream, milk and one pinch of salt in heavy bottomed saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over cold dairy mixture and allow to bloom. In another bowl, whisk egg yolks together with sugar and the other pinch of salt. Finely chop your chocolate and set aside. When gelatin is bloomed, heat dairy mixture until it just begins to simmer, then remove from heat and slowly add chocolate, whisking it in until smooth.
In a slow stream, add chocolate mixture to the egg yolks, whisking gently. (Place a wet kitchen towel under the bowl to keep it from moving around while you whisk). Slowly incorporate all the chocolate into the egg yolks, then pour through a fine-meshed sieve into a large measuring cup (I have a 1qt Pyrex that worked perfectly). Allow to cool for about 15 minutes, occasionally using a rubber spatula to collapse any bubbles floating on the top of the custard.
Meanwhile, line an ovenproof baking dish with a clean kitchen towel and set a teakettle on to boil. Place ovenproof ceramic ramekins in baking dish, and measure a sheet of aluminum foil that will cover the dish, poking some holes in it with a skewer.
Pour the custard into the ramekins (6 X 4oz), pour boiling water from the kettle into the baking dish until it is 2/3 of the way up the side of the ramekins, and cover with the foil, placing as close to the geographic center of your oven as possible. Bake for 20 minutes, then check. Because ovens fluctuate in temperature, you'll need to keep an eye on things here. Mine were perfect at 27 minutes. They are done when they are tight around the edges of the ramekins, but jiggle somewhat at the center.
Remove from oven, and using tongs (or your restaurant-grade, heat-impervious fingers) remove from baking dish. Place on baking rack to cool for about an hour, then individually wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. These can easily last two days until your event.
For the Frangelico cream, combine sugar and half of the cream in the bottom of your mixer's bowl, and periodically stir with a spatula, letting sugar dissolve. This allows you to avoid using powdered sugar, which tastes starchy to me, but also lets you avoid the gritty texture that results in granulated sugar being added to cream as it whips. Add the rest of the cream and whip at high speed. As it begins to fluff, add the Frangelico, and whip cream until it reaches desired consistency.
For service, place whipped cream into pastry bag and pipe out a rosette atop the Pots de Crème, and garnish with a chocolate covered Espresso bean, or alternately a sprig of mint and a fresh berry.
The selection of chocolate can be the tricky part of this recipe. I have done it with some excellent quality 85% cocoa dark chocolate, but the sweetness was lower, and the finished dessert had a greater density in the mouth. It also had less propensity to form bubbles atop the custard, which resulted in a preferable texture in the finished product. I settled on a mixture of 75% cocoa dark chocolate and milk chocolate, in a 4:3 ratio, but bubbles on the surface were a greater concern. Be mindful of the sugar content of the chocolate; the 85% had about half the sugar of the 75%, even though they were cosmetically identical. This can be dealt with by adjusting the amount of sugar used, and personally I always prefer to err on the side of sweeter when it comes to desserts.
For an interesting variation on this dessert, melt some seedless raspberry jam (or the flavor of your choice) in a saucepan, and pour over fully chilled and set Pots de Crème, and allow to chill again. Garnish with fresh fruit and Chantilly cream.
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