What won’t kids do for the sake of sweets?! Children who won’t go brush their teeth because it’s too dark, will run into the darkness on Halloween night, unshaken by spooky ghosts and creepy creatures, for a mere bag of candy. That is the power of sweets, a power best expressed, in my opinion, in James Stevenson’s thriller What’s Under My bed? In this story, Grandpa recounts to his two grandchildren a story about his own childhood, when he was scared at bedtime. And there is only one thing that can make them feel safe again. If you haven’t read this book, please do, or watch here. Whatever your age, I promise you will enjoy it!
So, to ease tomorrow night’s horror, I was considering making a dessert – though I have to admit, thinking about the hundreds candies soon to be circulating in and out of our house on Halloween night made me doubtful. So, how about a nutritious dessert? Sounds like a contradiction? Perhaps, but a chocolate pot de crème topped with whipped cream is my way of getting rid of the ghost in my house.
Pot de crème is a simple, elegant, and delicious French dessert. It’s basically a custard made with egg yolks, cream, milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt. You can flavor it with vanilla, spices, herbs (lavender, mint), toasted nuts (almond, pistachio), chocolate, etc… Whatever you favor as a flavor, use the best ingredients you can afford, and especially don’t compromise on chocolate – it’s unforgiving.
There are two ways to make pot de crème. You can start on the stove and finish in the oven, or you can make the entire thing on the stove. The second method may seem more appealing, but it requires precision, and you can easily end up with a runny custard or, worse, something like scrambled eggs. In both versions, you will need to leave the pot de crème refrigerated for a minimum of 3 hours – it’s preferable to make the dessert a day or two in advance.
In Morocco, I don’t have an oven for baking desserts, so I use the stove-top method. There I like to make pot de crème with spices and citruses easily available.
This is how the stove-top method works. The milk and cream are heated until you just start to see the first bubbles indicating a boil. Then, with the heat turned off, add your flavor and let the cream mixture sit for a few minutes.
During this time, in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they turn pale yellow. Strain the still-warm cream mixture and discard the spices. Add a spoonful of the cream to the egg mixture, and whisk until fully incorporated. Then slowly stir in the remaining cream mixture.
At this point, return the mixture to the pot and whisk constantly over medium heat (170°F) until it thickens. Then pour the mixture into cups or little pots. When the mixture reaches room temperature, cover each pot with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
Now, here is my recipe for chocolate pot de crème made with the oven method. As in the stove-top method, warm the milk and cream until it just starts to boil, then, away from the heat, add chocolate and salt (instead of spices). Let the mixture sit for a minute, then stir to combine all ingredients together. Next, add to the egg yolks and sugar (which you whisked together while the chocolate was melting) following the method above, then pour into individual serving pots.
Here is where the oven method takes another route. Place the little pots in a tray or a baking dish large enough to hold all the pots. Cover the pots with 1 sheet of aluminum foil, then position the baking tray in the middle of the oven. Pour water carefully in the tray until the bottom 1/3 of the pots are immersed. Bake for 30 minutes at 325°F. Remove the pots from the baking tray and, once cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- 4 oz. good bittersweet chocolate (I use 70% dark), chopped into small pieces
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 6 egg yolks
- 4 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the whipped cream, you will need an electric whisk and a large chilled bowl. Whisk all ingredients (heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla) until peaks form. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.