Sunday, May 17, 2009

Saturday Dinner: Chocolate Pots de Creme

Simple Chocolate Pots de Creme recipe from Cannelle et Vanille

I'm on this new creative kick in the kitchen. Admittedly, cooking has been a serious hobby since I was an adolescent (I love reading 70s cookbooks and trying to recreate the saucy goodness), but for a long time after M was born, the opportunity (if not the impulse) lay fallow.

I've always appreciated delicious and, moreover, gorgeously presented food. It's just hard to get it up for intricate recipes with a toddler getting into things or a pre-schooler who really wants to "help". I'd like to tell you that I'm all mellow about my set up but, really, would that resonate?

In truth, and I can't believe I'm admitting this, as I work I like to pretend I'm on a cooking show, expounding to an audience while I whisk the eggs and sugar or make the roux. (Don't worry, I only do this with my inside voice). You can see how an enthusiastic tot asking when she can lick the bowl is vaguely at odds with the fantasy.

A number of factors have led to a resurgence in my culinary creativity. Most certainly, having an older kid who can watch and learn (and occasionally actually help), improves the experience tremendously. And, moreover, half the time she'd prefer to go on a play date or read or watch a movie - and then I get the kitchen all to myself for ultimate experimentation! I also love the plethora of terrific blogs and websites dedicated to beautiful food and masterful presentation. Amongst them, Epicurious and Cannelle et Vanille are top of the line. Furthermore, I love to read about the history of different dishes, and these days, there's so much info on the web to satisfy my craving for knowledge!

A baker at heart, this summer I've decided to master the art of custard: creme anglaise, brulee, simple egg sauce, flan, pastry cream and (bien sur) les pots de creme (yes, I know, the accents are missing). Sure, I've been making simple custards for 20 years, but I've never really understood the art. No doubt, they've all been pedestrian by the standards of a French pastry chef.

Last Saturday saw my second attempt - chocolate pots de creme (Aran's recipe with raspberries on top only, due to fussy palates - not M's!). It wasn't difficult, though I don't know if I'd call it simple. You need to be confident to try this recipe, though truly it's not tough. My friend Hilary visited, and M had a friend over, so I wanted to make something delicious and appealing for dessert. In short, it wasn't a complete success nor was it, by any stretch, a failure.

The custard set in the bain marie (though it seemed to take about 30 minutes longer than expected). I may have overcooked the mixture slightly, thereby screwing with the delicate eggs. For some reason I really must figure out, the custard was vaguely granular. Also, stupidly, though I used the finest ingredients - and this thing wasn't cheap (Madagascar vanilla bean scrapings, anyone?) - I discovered at the 11th hour that I was out of good chocolate altogether?!, so I had to use crap. Perhaps this is what impinged on the texture. One other potential issue I've identified is that I may not have boiled the cream mixture on the stove quite adequately to melt the crap chocolate, creating a texture challenge from the get-go.

My goal was to style some photos with raspberries on a gorgeous plate to knock your socks off (cuz it looked perfect), but - in my red wine haze - I completely forgot. So you'll have to see the befores, alas. I appear to be showing all my flaws lately! :-)


  1. Oh it sounds fun. I love baking and cooking and there are so many fabulous resources on the web. The granular texture may be the overcooking. But has been a long time since I have done custards or pots de creme. I am planning on getting back to all that stuff this year also.

    Your comment about red wine haze had me laughing as that is exactly what happened to my lemon meringue pie last week. I had made a few attempts, mostly to get the cookie crust perfect (with gluten free graham crumbs) and I intended to take a lovely picture, but in my party haze (white wine though), I forgot before I served and nothing remained but crumbs.

    Next time I'll take the pictures before everything starts to happen. After that is the goal of having company, yes, to get all the work done early and then relax with a nice glass of wine?

  2. OMG, I want some of that!!!


  3. It looks gorgeous. And the thought of making this with a child makes me deliriously happy.

  4. Oh it look so good and very tasty too.I want to try some.=) Thanks for sharing.Looking forward on your next post.=)

    A Writers Den
    The Brown Mestizo

  5. Aw,chocolate.Love it,you made me want to make some of it..;D Have a wonderful day.;D

    Travel and Living

  6. Eek! MrB and I are obsessed with pot de creme!

  7. Was there whipped cream too? I am literally salivating and jello is not going to satisfy after seeing your delicious concoctions.

  8. Mardel: My problem is that I start drinking as soon as I start cooking - it's part of my chef persona! I think that overcooking is the most likely reason it didn't work. I've got to try it again but my kid and husband aren't cream fanatics and it makes a lot. Maybe you should join us for dinner?

    Seeker: Then you come for dinner too!

    D.: Are you serious? :-) Have you baked with a kid before?

    Summer: Seems I should invite everyone for dinner!

    WendyB: It is the most elegant of desserts. Maybe I should make it next time with the Cadbury dairy milk??

    Bel: While I can eat an entire bowl of whipped cream by myself (I've done it, though I was kind of sick after), this was served with berries only. Now that I'm 39ish and I know of the 8 zillion calories in every little ramekin, I just can't add more cream on top. Call me a sell out.

  9. I have a total TV chef internal monologue when I'm cooking. She simply cannot be stopped. Its quite nice to know I'm not the only one.

  10. Lavender: No one else I know will admit to this quirk! Thank you for sharing :-)

  11. What, I missed a foodie post- no way! Way! lol

    I think you did a fantastic presentation, drinking and cooking sometimes go well- hand-in-hand = )