Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Valentine's Dessert, Part 2

Since I am still pretty enamored with the fact that I finally have my own kitchen, I opted to cook for Valentine's Day, rather than have my husband take me out for dinner. Which, considering the plethora of good restaurants in our town, is no easy decision!

Our menu:
Steamed Mussels
Truffle-Butter Pasta
Broiled Asparagus
Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme

I think we made a good choice.

My inspiration from the dessert came from a Food & Wine magazine a few months ago. Now, Food & Wine recipes usually have two problems: 1) They have an ingredient list a mile long, half of which is not in my cupboard, and 2) They are skimpy on instructions (or simply haven't test their recipes enough!), making them difficult for even seasoned cooks to follow.

This recipe caught my eye because it didn't fall under the first category: it was a short ingredient list, and all the ingredients were in my cupboard. Including Mexican chocolate--a favorite!

However, I was soon to find out, it definitely fell under the second category. The cooking time suggested in the article was way off, and gave no good indication of when the custard was thick enough. Never having eaten Pots de Creme before, I was unsure how much the custard would set after I made it. The answer was: too much!  The finished product tasted great, but was a little, shall we say... solid.

Thankfully, the trusty Cook's Illustrated website came to my rescue. Cook's Illustrated always tests their recipes multiple times, and provides plenty of instructions. In this case, the key instruction I needed was a temperature: 180 degrees. With this information, my next attempt came out beautifully, and just in time for Valentine's Day!

Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme

2 egg yolks
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably Ghiradhelli's 60% cocoa)
2 ounces Mexican chocolate (look for Ibarra brand)
pinch salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup half-and-half

1) Chop chocolate into small pieces (if you use chocolate chips, you don't need to chop them), and place in a heat-proof bowl.
2) Whisk yolks, sugar, and salt in sauce pan until combined. Add heavy cream and half-and-half, stir well to combine.
3) Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom (A silicone spatula is perfect for this), until the mixture reaches 175 - 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (8-12 minutes, the mixture will thinly coat a spoon when it is done.)
4) Pour mixture over chocolate, and let sit for a few minutes. When the chocolate has melted, stir to combine. If your custard has developed any lumps during the cooking process, you can pour it through a strainer and then onto your chocolate.
5) Pour mixture into ramekins. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least four hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings :).

Use all bittersweet chocolate, and stir:

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder mixed with 1 teaspoon water

into the mixture immediately before pouring it into your ramekins.

1) If you don't have one already, buy an instant-read (digital) thermometer. They are inexpensive, and you won't regret it, I promise!
2) Mexican chocolate is very easy to find in Oregon, but not so easy to find in New Hampshire. I was about to have Mom send me more when I finally stumbled upon some in a speciality grocery store. A Whole Foods or a Wegmans would probably carry it. You can also buy it pretty cheaply on Amazon, if you are  really dedicated. If not, opt for the espresso version-- it gives them a mild espresso taste and really brings out the chocolate flavor.

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