In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, it’s time for me to admit that I have had an ongoing, wondrous, and sometimes tumultuous relationship with chocolate. In Paris, I’ve been able to indulge this great love in ways I never thought possible. For instance, just when I thought chocolate mousse was destined to be my great love, I was introduced to the darkly seductive Crème au Chocolat. Baked and served in delightful little pots, each morsel of this custard-like concoction melted in my mouth, and before long I realized I was truly in love.
I also learned, with great delight, that it didn’t take a great pastry chef to make these at home, so I’m going to share with you the recipe that was handed to me by a dear friend — my Valentine’s Day gift to you.
It’s best to use really good quality French, Belgian, or Swiss chocolate. I prefer Valrhona, but Lindt or Callebaut will do in a pinch. While the French use covered pots de crème, I use ramekins. And you can get a little creative by adding things like orange extract or mint to add different flavors to your treat.
This recipe makes six servings … enough to share the love with others.
Preheat an oven to 325°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready.
In a saucepan, warm the cream over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edges. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it has completely melted and blended into the cream. Let cool slightly.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar. Use a whisk to beat the mixture for approximately five minutes, until it’s thick enough to fall from the whisk in a lazy ribbon. Slowly stir in the warm chocolate cream and add the vanilla extract.
Place your six 1/4-cup pot de crème pots or ramekins in a baking pan. Pour the chocolate mixture through a fine-mesh sieve (to remove any lumps) into the pots or ramekins, making sure to proportion it evenly. Then pour an inch deep of the boiling water into the baking pan. Cover the pots with their lids or the place a single sheet of aluminum foil over the ramekins. Bake until the crème au chocolate is just set at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove the baking pan from the oven and place the pots or ramekins on a wire rack. Remove the lids or the foil and let the pots cool to room temperature. When they have cooled, cover the again and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or for up to 2 days before serving.