10 January 2010

Chocolate Mint Pots de Creme

When self-induced self-improvement’s constant hum turns into January’s roar of nicotine patches, head-hunter appointments and gym memberships, it’s time to take matters into my own hands.

New Year resolutions aren’t my thing. It’s not that I can’t do with a bit of self-improvement—Heaven knows that unfurled laundry list is longer than I am tall--it’s just that replacing a calendar doesn’t urge me into making life changes (large or small).

I support my friends when it makes sense, but when water bottle nutrient charts and power walking calculations to “burn off” a slice of unbuttered toast seep into life’s white noise, I get more than a little bored.

Maybe it’s because deep down, I expect this 3 January marriage to devolve to a mostly committed relationship by 15 February, casual brief encounters by 27 March and total strangers by 19 April.

Perhaps I’m simply tired of people linking happiness to denying some of life’s sweet, sticky and luscious pleasures. If anything that withholding simply strengthens cravings to the point that when the wannabe self improved weaken, they do so in a deeply sweet, dangerously sticky and oozingly luscious bliss.

If the actual goal is to take on a sensible diet, I think the best way is to learn how to include loved foods on a frequently infrequent basis and avoid abstinence. In my books, a sensible diet includes reasonable amounts of chocolate and cream and eggs. Which means a sensible diet includes reasonable amounts of chocolate pots or pots de crème au chocolat.

I developed this recipe for a close friend who stayed following some minor surgery. Limited to soft foods, I thought this pud would be easy enough for her to eat, chocolaty and minty enough to raise her spirits, and easy enough to prepare on a busy morning and leave in the fridge for the rest of the day.

As with any custard, preparing to mitigate the eggs’ curdling way is wise. To do so, fill your sink basin with several inches of cold water – icy cold, if you can manage it. If while heating the custard you feel it considering splitting, curdling or simply turning to scrambled eggs, immediately take the pot off the hob and plunge it into the cold water, while stirring vigorously.

I’m not going to kid you. This is a rich dessert and measured portions are the better way to go: this recipe produces about 800mls of custard, which will give you six generous portions or eightish reasonable portions. Mind you…if you are recovering from surgery, having a bad day or need to face the new year with the steely resolve of Boxing Day shoppers at an electronics shop this may just barely be enough for one serving.

Pot de Crème au Chocolat à la Menthe (Chocolate Mint Pots)
Serves 6-8, more or less

45g cocoa powder
20g butter
140g bittersweet chocolate (85 per cent cocoa, if possible), chopped
6 egg yolks
135g sugar (less if using a lesser cocoa percentage chocolate)
pinch of salt
a good splash of vanilla extract
300ml full fat milk
200ml heavy cream
a sprig of fresh mint (or a half tsp of mint extract)

Scald the milk and cream with the mint leaves. Take off the heat and let sit for about 20 minutes.

While the cream is cooling, slowly melt together the butter, cocoa and bittersweet chocolate until glossy but not oily. Set aside.

Whisk together the yolks, sugar, vanilla and salt. Slowly temper the egg mixture with the warmed chocolate, keeping care to not scramble the eggs. Then, equally slowly pour the cooled cream, complete with the mint) into the chocolate mixture, stirring well all the time.

Return to the hob and heat thoroughly—the intensity of heat decreasing as your timorousness increases. Continue stirring for several minutes until the custard thickens. If the eggs begin to get claggy, immediate take the pot off the heat and plunge it into a sink of cold water, as discussed above.

Sieve out the leaves (and any bits of egg that has scrambled) and decant into teacups, demitasses, small ramekins or small glasses. Let cool on the countertop and then cover with cling film and pop into the fridge for at least four hours—it will thicken as it cools.

To serve, dollop with a little whipped cream or fruit, or just serve as-is.

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Valérie said...

Amen to that! I'm not one for making resolutions either: the pressure to keep them in the beginning is too strong, and it's never worked out for me. Any major change I've ever made and stuck to(lose weight, quit smoking), I've made at some random time of the year, when it just happened to feel right.

And amen to enjoying wonderful treats such as this one from time to time! It looks divinely luscious, and I've always been a sucker for the mint-chocolate combination!

glamah16 said...

I confess , I didn't make a resolution but am committed to better health and some weight loss. But all within reason, because I know deprivation = failure as well.Pot au Cremes have been on mind all month. This is sign.

NKP said...

I am not one for resolutions or declarations of change. Maybe we leave that behind with our twenties. ;-) Now that we have learned that indulgence is good for the soul and boney people are terrible cuddlers anyway!
The pots de creme are lovely. What a wonderful gift.

Chats the Comfy Cook said...

Resolutions are not for me. I can decide to make changes at any time. A specific day is not the way to go.

Dharm said...

No resolutions from me either!! I'm all with you for ignoring abstinance. Where is the fun in that? These pots looks sinfulyl delicious. Send two over for me please! LOL

i am storm. said...

I resolve to try and make these chocolate pots at a date in the near future....to sit down with a good friend, spoons and plenty of time to relax and enjoy. I resolve to savour every tiny bit!

Thanks for the great recipe. Looks awesome and reminds me of the treasures my mom used to make when I was little.

Anonymous said...

amen to that! who could possibly consider giving up on these simple pleasures of life?!

Lauren said...

Oh yum. Those look heavenly! I love it =D.

jasmine said...

Hello all

Thanks for your commments--hopefully we can all make a little more time for creme de pots in 2010 :)


Unknown said...

Love your title! Trying the pot de creme!