I think desserts should be impressive. I tend to like simpler, fuss-less food: good ingredients don't require a lot of mucking around, especially in the summer. But I like to make desserts that impress and confound with silkily complex flavours.
I wanted to make my brother something festive and chocolate for his birthday a few weeks ago but the heat this summer is oppressive and my apartment is without air conditioning so a cake or pie was out of the question. I decided on these wonderful little chilled custards. I had just bought new Duralex glasses and was looking for an excuse to show them off.
My Dad, always the original, wanted his with strawberries while everyone else opted for raspberries.
They were really easy to do. The hardest part was fashioning my bain marie (my springform was the perfect size and shape but leaked, so after trying every pan in the kitchen I realized I could line it with parchment paper to stop it from leaking in my oven). Go light on the espresso. Like, really light. It's nice, and worth adding, but the flavour comes through a little strong.
The texture is perfect. Creamy and cool but not too soft. I think the flavour was lacking a little. I wanted it to either be sweet and milky like milk chocolate or sharp and bitter like dark, but it was too mild to be either. This is the perfect kind of recipe to start messing around with, though. Vanilla and almond? Lemon and raspberry? Fresh mint, even. I always thought I could use more custard in my life.
Chocolate Espresso Pots de Crème
6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons instant-espresso powder*
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
Special equipment: 8 (4- to 5-oz) ramekins or pot de crème cups (Who in the world has a "pot de creme cup"? I used juice glasses but a stemless wine glass or tea cup would work just as well)
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 300°F.
Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring cream, milk, espresso powder (to taste), and a pinch of salt just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until espresso powder is dissolved, then pour over chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Whisk together yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt in another bowl, then add warm chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-quart glass measure and cool completely, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Line bottom of a baking pan (large enough to hold ramekins) with a folded kitchen towel and arrange ramekins on towel. Poke several holes in a large sheet of foil with a skewer. Divide custard among ramekins, then bake custards in a hot water bath , pan covered tightly with foil, until custards are set around edges but still slightly wobbly in centers, 30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer ramekins to a rack to cool completely, uncovered, about 1 hour. (Custards will set as they cool.) Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours.