March 05, 2010

Dishing It Out - Chocolate-Espresso Pots de Creme

There's a wonderful little cooking studio in my neighbour.  Called Dish, it's tucked away off the street, incongruously sharing a space with a dry cleaning shop.

Recently, a group of women gathered at Dish to cook, drink wine, meet new friends and, well, dish. The set-up was perfect: several cooking stations; teams of two, three or four working together; easy to prepare and delicious recipes and best of all, a chance to eat everything we made.

I was on Chocolate-Espresso Pots de Creme duty.  The ingredients are few, the process ridiculously easy and the results - divine.

Chocolate-Espresso Pots de Creme
serves six
courtesy of Dish Cooking Studio

1⅓ c. heavy cream
⅔ c. whole milk
1½ tsp. instant espresso powder
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 large egg yolks
2 tbsp. sugar
6 8-oz ramekins

1.  Pour yourself a generous glass of wine.  Sip.

2.  Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 300F°.

3.  Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Combine cream, milk, espresso powder and a pinch of salt in a small heavy saucepan and bring to barely a boil, stirring to dissolve espresso powder. 

4.  Add chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Keep warm.

5.  In another bowl, whisk together yolks, sugar and a pinch of salt.  Add the warm chocolate mixture in a stream sloooowly, whisking constantly.*

 6.  Pour chocolate custard through a fine mesh sieve into a one-litre glass measure.

7.  Line the bottom of a baking pan, large enough to hold the ramekins, with a folded kitchen towel and arrange ramekins in the pan.  Divide custard amongst the ramekins, and cover tightly with a large piece of foil into which several holes have been poked.

8.  Place the pan with the custards in a bain marie* and bake until custards are set around the edges but still slightly wobbly in the middle, about 30-35 minutes.

9.  Uncover ramekins and transfer to a rack to cool completely, about one hour.  Custards will set as they cool.  Chill, covered, until cold.  Can be made one day ahead.

- If you add the warm chocolate to the cool cream mixture too quickly, the cream and eggs will "cook" and instead of a smooth creamy custard, you'll have scrambled eggs.  Add the warm liquid very slowly.  When the bottom of the bowl is warm to the touch, the temperature has stabilized and you can add the remaining chocolate custard all at once.

- A bain marie is also known as a water bath, and is a method of heating and cooking delicate foods gently to prevent burning or scorching.