When all you want is something absolutely packed with chocolate, this is the dessert to make.
Chocolate Pots de Crème have been a special treat in our family for many years, from seventh grade (above picture) to today. Within five minutes of serving them, my brother can devour two pots de crème, and even my typically dessert eschewing dad has been known to indulge in these from time to time.
To make these Chocolate Pots de Crème, which are essentially rich chocolate custards, ten ounces of high-quality, semi-sweet chocolate are gently melted into crème anglaise with a touch of espresso and vanilla. Crème anglaise is a traditional component of French pastry, made by whipping together egg yolks, cream, sugar, and half and half over the stove until thick and silky. If that sounds daunting, trust me when I say that it’s much easier than trying to bake custards in a roasting pan full of water in the oven, which is the traditional preparation for any pots de crème. I would much rather tempt fate with slowly cooked egg yolks on the stove than try to prevent a wave of water rushing into ramekins of custards when taking the pan out of the oven.
This crème anglaise method, developed by Cook’s Illustrated, allows the chocolate to melt straight into the hot custard and then set up in the refrigerator until the consistency is close to fudge. For such a complicated sounding recipe, it can be in the fridge and out of the way in 20 minutes.
Once the pots de crème have chilled for an agonizing four hours, remove them from the fridge and top with billows of barely sweetened whipped cream and a dusting of chocolate shavings. These individual custards are so intensely rich and chocolate-packed that even the best chocolate mousse will pale in comparison. One of my favorite contributions to a dessert party was when my dad and I made the pot de crème, then chilled the custard in small paper cups, so that everyone at the party could have a small portion (and go back for seconds). True chocolate lovers, however, can handle their own standard ramekin with no trouble at all.
If you ever doubted the powers of chocolate, refer to the below photograph—this dessert even defies the laws of gravity.
Chocolate Pots de Crème
Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated
Pots de Crème:
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (60% cacao solids)
5 egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups heavy cream
¾ cup half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ teaspoon espresso powder mixed with 1 tablespoon water
½ cup heavy cream, well chilled
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- Place the chopped chocolate in a large, heat-proof bowl and place a fine mesh strainer on top of the bowl. Set out 8, 6 oz. ramekins and place them next to the bowl with the chocolate.
- In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt together until the sugar dissolves and the yolks are pale yellow, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream and half and half, then pour the mixture into a medium saucepan. Turn the burner to medium heat and whisk constantly (don’t forget the corners of the pan!) for 8-12 minutes until the custard reaches 185F and is just under boiling. The custard will be smooth, silky, and slightly thickened, but do not let it boil. Pour the hot custard through the strainer into the bowl with the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk gently until the custard becomes a smooth mixture of chocolate. Gently whisk in the vanilla and espresso powder and water mixture. Evenly distribute the custard into the 8 ramekins, then place them in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
- To serve, let the pots de crème sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, using a whisk or a standing mixer, combine the ½ cup heavy cream and powdered sugar and whip for 2-3 minutes, until soft peaks of whipped cream have formed. Dollop the whipped cream on top of the custards, garnish with chocolate shavings and serve, then watch them disappear in mere minutes.