November 12, 2010

Chocolate Pots de Creme with Cardamom and a Hint of Cinnamon

Chocolate Pots de Creme is actually quite an easy and fast dessert to make! What's also very cool about it is that you can flavor it in a multitude of ways... I am very fond of cardamom, so here is a variation that I enjoy!

Chocolate Pots de Creme with Cardamom and Just a Hint of Cinnamon
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup sugar
6-7 ounces 60% bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 egg yolks

In a sauce pan over medium to medium to low heat, heat the cream with the cinnamon stick. Do not boil, keep the heat low enough to scald, but not boil. It is alright if a film forms on top of the cream. Allow the cinnamon stick to permeate the cream for about 10-15 minutes at this moderate heat. Stir in the sugar and the cardamom. Allow the sugar to dissolve, stirring as necessary. A whisk or a wooden spoon will be fine.

Chop the chocolate coarsely, I prefer to use Ghirardelli chocolate, I find that it's pretty widely available and it is leaps and bounds better than lower priced products. Ghirardelli makes good chocolate bar products for baking and also very good unsweetened cocoa powder. Place the chocolate in a metal or glass bowl, that is large enough to fit on top of the sauce pan you are currently using to heat the cream. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow the hot cream to melt the chocolate for a minute or two. In the meantime, place a few inches of water in the sauce pan and bring to a simmer, this is going to be your makeshift double boiler in a minute.

The eggs you use should be close to room temperature. Extract the yolks only and discard the shells and whites (or reserve the egg whites for another use if you like). Beat the egg yolks together with a fork or a whisk. This next step is the only technically challenging step of making this dessert, but once you understand it, there are many applications for it, the most exciting perhaps being Gelato! The basic idea behind both this custard, because that's essentially what this is, and Gelato, is that you can't heat the eggs suddenly when you combine them with the cream. Heating them too quickly will cause them to solidify like scrambled eggs. What you want to do instead is gradually add the beaten egg yolks to the hot cream and chocolate mixture, whisking the hot cream constantly, in order to a) incorporate the eggs evenly and b) prevent 'scrambled egg action.' I have had that happen when making Gelato before- you can tell visually that something is wrong, your custard will be lumpy and the texture won't be smooth. So don't worry that you won't know how to tell if you're eggs heated too quickly, you will certainly know. So after your hot cream has melted the chocolate, stir or whisk well until smooth. Remove the cinnamon stick, trying to scrape as much excess chocolate cream off as possible. Now, using either the bowl that the eggs or in, or if you find it easier, you can transfer the egg yolks to a measuring cup with a spout, pour the egg yolks in a very slow and slender stream into the hot chocolate cream, whisking constantly. Don't pour the egg yolks in continuously, pause after each addition. I would estimate to get all the egg yolks added, it might take me two minutes or so. Congratulations! You now know how to 'Temper' eggs (the technical term). It only applies usually to yolks, egg whites have another wonderful purpose on their own, volume!

Now, take the bowl containing the hot chocolate cream and egg yolks and place over the simmering water in the saucepan. (By the way, you've created a makeshift double boiler. You don't need to buy a double boiler, although we have a lovely hammered copper one that was on our wedding registry. I use it occasionally, but this is just as good.) Whisk constantly for 7-10 minutes, I use medium heat for this. You may notice a slight thickening, which is great, and you might notice that the cream on the sides of the bowl may darken slightly. That is fine, too. Now, you will need 6-8 small ramekins or whatever cup you would like to use to serve this. We use little white ramekins, but you can be creative and serve this is many different things, like tea cups or saucer champagne glasses. Pour the chocolate cream into your ramekins or cups and allow to cool. Allowing them to cool for a little while before putting them in the refrigerator might seem unnecessary, but here is why it is important. If you don't wait for the custard to cool and you place plastic wrap over it and put it in the fridge, the condensation that forms on the plastic wrap will drip onto the top of your custard and leave unattractive marks. Part of the appeal of this dessert is its smooth creamy top, so that's why it's important to let them cool. You want to let them get down to close to the refrigerator temperature so the chocolate will re-solidify and the custard will be the right consistency before serving. You can make this several days ahead of your party!

I am confident that you'll find this not only quick and easy, but also incredibly delicious and rich. Enjoy!

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