Orange-Chocolate Pot au Creme

2009 is limping towards its ineluctable exit and very few people, I’m guessing, are going to be sorry to see it go. As years go in the psyche of the human collective, this one has been rather truculent and petty. To put it plainly, it mostly blew for most people. But you know what? While it wasn’t the best, there were parts of it I liked. Like the fact that this country swore in its first African-American president, the same year that I get to be a permanent resident of it. The part where I took six architectural exams in six months was pretty cool, especially when I passed all of them. The fact that all of my  result letters have a stamp on a top corner that says “Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor” is spectacular. (I get my results from the Terminator y’all! Affirmative.)  Then there’s the part where Amey and I actually managed to stay on and benefit from a fitness regimen with results. That last bit while I did my favourite new thing this year, cooking all kinds of new stuff and starting this blog.

My little piece of the virtual world has been a fabulous place to be in. I’ve gotten to combine my love of writing with my love of cooking and experimentation. I’ve been able to enjoy new things and tackle some of the tougher ones and live to talk about it. It hasn’t been easy but the work has been its own reward. When I began, I thought that’s all it would be. But what’s been amazing is that I met some great new people and reconnected with some wonderful old friends. Combine this with the talented people I interact with on a daily basis in the real world, I’d say that I’m surrounded online and offline with some fabulous, fantastic people. Quite frankly, I can think of few things that are as exciting as doing something you love around people you like. I get to do this and share it with you. The readership to this blog has grown exponentially since I started in early 2009. For all the support and camaraderie, I am thankful to you, dear readers. At the close of the year, this calls for a celebration of some sort. With sweets for all. I wish there was a way I could send you real cake virtually. But they haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet. Also, I find myself without flour and sugar. Essential components to cake. Never fear though, in my home there are always options. I think you’ll find this one very welcome.

It’s a chocolate pot au crème. Don’t be fooled by the posh name. It’s nothing more than a kind of custard really, and one of the easiest desserts you can make in a pinch. If you have some eggs, milk, cream and chocolate, then you’re set really. Marie Antoinette might have been too, had she fed her subjects pot au crème, instead of babbling on about cake. They would have been on a heady high of its chocolate goodness while she made good her escape. Alas, it was not to be so for her. But I digress. This is an amazing melding of some simple ingredients. Rich, dark, creamy and intensely chocolate. Being in the throes of the holiday season as it were, you might be tempted to turn away from yet another sweet. That would be a mistake, especially if you are planning a New Years’ Eve party. The original recipe was for a Mexican Chocolate pot au crème. I couldn’t find any Mexican chocolate and didn’t have the patience to grind cinnamon sticks. So I winged it a fair amount, within reason. Lindt Intense Orange is filled with slivers of nuts and something a lot like nougat, all of which gets filtered away when you run the melted mixture through a sieve. This is a make-ahead dessert that takes very little time and effort on your part. The results are genius.

Orange-Chocolate Pot Au Crème
Inspired by Food & Wine (December 2009)
Makes 3-4 small servings or 2 large ones

Whole milk – 3/4 cups
Cream – 1/4 cup
Valrhona bittersweet chocolate – 3 oz, chopped
Lindt Intense Orange chocolate – 3 oz, chopped
Elderflower liqueur – 1 tbsp
Egg yolks – 3
Fleur de sel for sprinkling over

– Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan and heat to simmer over medium low heat.
– In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Then slowly beat in about a 1/4 cup of the heated milk to temper.
– Introduce the egg yolk-milk mixture into the saucepan, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens slightly. This should take a couple of minutes.
– Add the chopped chocolate into the saucepan and move the vessel off the heat. Stir to melt all the chocolate. Add the elderflower liqueur.
– Strain the mixture through a sieve with a fine mesh, then pour the mixture into bowls of your choice.
– Cover the bowls with plastic wrap when the mixture cools a bit, then refrigerate for a minimum of five hours (to overnight).

Sprinkle with some fleur de sel before serving.

Cook’s notes:-
Make sure that you keep the heat on the entire operation quite low. A point right in between ‘Low’ and ‘Medium’ ought to do the trick. The egg yolks will curdle if the mixture is too hot. This is also why tempering them with some of the milk-cream mixture is important. This is possibly the only place where you could go wrong with this dessert. Everything else is pretty much foolproof. I’ve tried other chocolate cream pot recipes before. Some (like the one with soymilk listed in Everyday Greens) are easy and turn out quite good, but don’t hold up too well after the first day. This recipe had no such problems. I made it on Saturday and we shared the last bowl yesterday. It tasted every bit as soft and creamy as the first batch we tasted. The vegan Greens one I mention above had turned into a chocolate bar by day three. A huge let down when you are expecting to sink your spoon into your dessert.

There wasn’t any in the original recipe, but the alcohol I used here worked rather well. It was the first time I tried Elderflower liqueur. It’s wicked stuff, something you should definitely try if you haven’t before. It imparted some wonderful fruity notes to the crème. While we’re on that subject…I’m probably the only ignoramus around to find out so late, but shops that stock alcohol sell you little bottles or nips of liquor. Beats buying the entire bottle if like me, you don’t like to drink the stuff but love to use it in your cooking (most people don’t have this problem… just sayin’). Also it is a huge space saver, not to mention that those li’l bitty bottles are so darn cute (erm *cough, cough* sorry, didn’t mean to go uber-girly on you). I wouldn’t skip the straining step, especially if you are making this for company. It allows only the rich, cocoa unctuousness into the bowl. If you maintain the proportion to a fair degree, I’m sure you could try this with other dark chocolate-fruit flavours to get some delightful results. We sprinkled a bit of fleur de sel which brought out the chocolate flavours very well. It would be as delightful with whipped cream or vanilla gelato.

Hope you enjoy this dessert with our compliments. Thank you for all your wonderful emails and lovely comments, and for being part of our adventures and stories so far. Wishing you dear reader, a very happy and peaceful 2010!

8 comments

  1. 52 Hikes

    Some of us are happy to see 2009 and the whole decade behind us. 😉 But you’re right, there are many things to be thankful for this year and over the last decade.

    Congratulations on getting your permanent residency, getting through the tough architectural exams and for keeping up this excellent blog. All the best for 2010 and the rest of the next decade.

  2. Elizabeth

    Congrats on a year of many achievements and here’s hoping the next one will be just as good! I DO have milk, eggs, cream and chocolate at home. I am doing pot au creme tonight!

  3. Sharmila

    52 Hikes – Thanks very much. Have a lovely New Years’ first weekend!
    Elizabeth – Thank you! And awesome, please do tell me how it works out for ya!

  4. Raquelita

    You write, cook and photograph beautifully (though I am most partial to the way you word!) – I check your blog every day, hoping to find a new post to savo(u)r. Congratulations on the Green Card from a fellow “Resident Alien” and Commonwealth citizen. Enjoy New Year’s Eve and may it herald a wonderful year.

  5. Sharmila

    Rebecca- Thanks! It is worth that and so much more! :):):)
    Raquelita – Thank you! So sweet of you to say. That made my NYE afternoon!

  6. Fred

    Hi there, just stumbled on your blog from an entry looking for hotels. The web works in mysterious ways. I just wanted to tell you that the recipe you describe is Pot à la crème, or very often seen in restaurants as Petit pot au chocolat.
    I don’t understand when you mentioned that the name is posh.
    How does it always frighten people to speak French, or think it is always upper class. Relax, this is not going to bite you, but if you want to write the name in French do it correctly. Thanks a lot .
    Carry on the good work. The pictures want me to try it at once.
    Bon appetit .

  7. Sharmila

    Fred – Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I don’t believe anyone is frightened of speaking French. People do however sometimes tend to shy away from the recipe thinking it might be complicated. I was intending to convey that it wasn’t.
    I certainly lay no claim to knowing French beyond the rudimentary stuff I learned in high school. However on searching for the term, I found references to pot au creme as well as pot de creme. So I’m guessing both should work. Thanks for sharing the other names as well.