Pots d’Amour

October 2010

My carpenter and I agree on many things:  Peep Show, Bob Dylan, antique trunks, Kapuściński, cortados, sunny Sundays at flea markets, desert landscapes, distant escapes and a four-legged, Australian-shepherd friend.  However, when it comes to agreeing on a place to eat dinner, we usually arrive at a standstill or worse, fisticuffs!  I admit it.  I am picky (and quite strong)!

For the majority of my life, I have been picky.  When I was little, I had an acute sense of aesthetics; I would only eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if cut on the diagonal.  Oranges were only edible when my sister peeled them, and milk had to come in a white cup.  When I hit high school and college, my “highly refined sense of selection” changed gears and focused on the health factors of all food options.  As my interests turned toward the political side of food and agriculture, I added sourcing as another make-it or break-it factor in food selection.  Meanwhile, the carpenter feels hunger, the carpenter eats.

The dinner time standstill was part of my motivation to begin working my way through an expensive edition of America’s Test Kitchen magazine, that and an impulsive splurge at grocery checkout.  As it turns out, the carpenter and I agree on the best dining option in Pittsburgh- my dining room!  I agree with all the food sourcing, and he agrees with how it tastes.  On top of that, there’s always a dessert made from the finest of ingredients, and sometimes dessert is even served with a little dash of romance!

Pots de Crème
Serves 2, 2 times

Custard Ingredients

5 ounces dark chocolate- “Chocolove” 70% chocolate
¾ cup organic heavy cream
½ cup organic half-and-half
3 large free-range eggs
3 Tablespoons pure cane sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder mixed with 1 Tablespoon water

Whipped Cream Ingredients

½ cup heavy cream, chilled
2 teaspoons organic pure cane sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Cocoa powder for dusting

For the Custard

Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl, set a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.

Whisk the heavy cream, half-and-half, yolks, sugar and salt together in a medium saucepan.  Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the saucepan with a wooden spoon, until thickened and the custard registers 175 to 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 8-12 minutes.  Do not let the custard overcook.

Immediately strain the custard into the bowl of chocolate.  Let the mixture sit to melt the chocolate, about 5 minutes.  Whisk gently until smooth, then whisk in the vanilla and espresso.

Divide the mixture evenly among 4 5-ounce ramekins.  Gently tap the ramekins against the counter to remove any air bubbles.

Cool the ramekins to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 72 hours.

Before serving, let stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

For the Whipped Cream

With a hand-held mixer, beat the cream, sugar and vanilla at medium-high speed in a large bowl until soft peaks form.

Spoon about 2 Tablespoons of the whipped cream onto each custard and garnish with the cocoa.  Serve!

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