Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chocolate pots de creme

I've had The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet since 2010 (it gave me this banana cream pie, by the way). Somewhere between then and now I bookmarked this recipe with a ripped post-it. It was the photo that had caught my attention, I'm sure: a dense pool of milk and dark chocolate, a messy island of whipped cream, and two long chocolate curls, all contained by a clear glass ramekin. Personal pan pudding!

I loved the idea. It would be an adventure, as I'd never made pudding before, and at the end of the day I could curl up like these women and enjoy my sumptuous treat.

These things take time, though. Other recipes come up. Recipes that are more pragmatic and less obscenely indulgent. But amid the acrimony of January, chocolate pots de creme suddenly become sensible.

Why of course, one thinks. My skin is dry and my fingers ice cold, and any body hair I've got, I'm holding on to. Now is the time to be doused with chocolate and beset by cream.

Cream, people. It's all over this thing.

It's heated with milk and sugar, then poured over milk chocolate to create the custard base. Later, semisweet chocolate melts in a hot bath of it until the two are whisked together into a dark ganache. One final batch of it is touched with vanilla and sugar, then whipped for ages until soft pillows form.

You want some cream, don't you?

But wait. We must give credit where it's due. Chocolate and cream do not magically become custard in the oven. It's the egg yolks that give the liquid structure as it heats up. I was aware of this before now, but never as impressed as I should have been.

Fine mesh sieve required. We want the egg proteins, but the rest must go. 
Also noteworthy: custards made with whole eggs are leaner and have more structure; those made with only egg yolks are softer and more luscious. Pots de creme fall in the middle, with both whole eggs and egg yolks.

The chocolate quotient in this dessert is a lot to reckon with, even in just one individual dish. I eat chocolate daily, and I think it's swell. But I'm not a "there's-no-such-thing-as-too-much-chocolate" devotee. As it happened, I only prepared three pots in the middle of the afternoon so there would still be enough natural light to take photos. But the three of us present only dipped our spoons into a single pot, knowing dinner was close, and this would be rich. Even then we couldn't make a clean job of it.

I love eating dessert alone. Sitting at the table, curled up on the couch, hunched over the cooling rack in the kitchen...whatever. And this dessert looks perfect for a solo lady with a solo spoon on a solo evening. But if I had my way, I'd do it a little different.

If I had my way, I'd make a slew of little pots de creme. I'd spend the day in the kitchen, heating chocolate and cream, separating eggs, whisking, baking, and whipping cream. Then I'd serve them to a long table of friends, fresh from a healthy dinner and looking to mess it all up with something rich and sweet. I'd watch them fall silent during their first bites. I'd imagine all that cream and chocolate forming a protective layer over their cold winter bones and tired dry skin.

Later I'd listen to the frantic tapping of spoons on ceramic - the sounds of a loving attempt to get every last bit.

No comments:

Post a Comment