Jan 20, 2008

Creme Brulee vs Pots de Creme : Chocolate vs Chocolate

Setting the record straight on little cold chocolate desserts --- the difference between creme brulee and pots de creme -- and easy recipes for both.
A pot de creme is essentially a rich custard made with heavy cream..a more refined version of pudding, often but not always baked. Creme brulee is a rich always-baked custard, topped with a thin, brittle layer of caramelized sugar accomplished by sprinkling with sugar and zapping with a small kitchen torch or running briefly under the broiler, and then chilling again.
Creme Brulee is French for "burnt cream" so no matter what the restaurant may label it, if it doesn't have that wonderfully brittle sugary top to crack with your spoon, it isn't brulee.
Neither takes long to make, after all they are just custards with fancy names, so I'm going to give you three recipes...two 'real' recipes and a knockoff that is superb. It's a five minute Rachael Ray whirlwind version of a pot de creme, but needs to 'ripen' or more accurately, "richen" overnight.
The first is Pot de Creme au Chocolat from The Plantation House restaurant on Maui. :
4 oz. chopped dark chocolate
3/4 C. heavy cream
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
dash of salt
Heat chocolate in double boiler, whisking until melted. Stir in sugar and heavy cream,
whisking until smooth. Beat a small amount of chocolate mixture into bowl of beaten
egg yolks. Gradually add the egg-chocolate mixture back into double boiler pan. (This
step should keep egg yolks from curdling when mixed into the main chocolate mixture.)
Whisk and cook for several minutes over medium heat. Stir in vanilla and dash of salt.
Strain through small sieve to remove any possible cooked egg "lumps." Pour into
demitasse cups or small ramekins. Chill until firm. Garnish with whipped cream.
Note: a regular saucepan can also be used in place of a double boiler, if care is
taken to make sure chocolate does not burn.
The second is for a deliriously delicious Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee, which I found in 1996 in a Bon Appetit magazine, courtesy of the Enchantment Resort in Sedona AZ: ( shown above left)
Preheat oven to 300. Bring 3 c. whipping cream and 2 c. half-and-half cream to boil in a heavy large saucepan, then reduce heat to low. Add 8 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I have used mini chocolate chips) and whisk continuosly until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk 8 large egg yolks with 1/3 c. sugar in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in hot chocolate mixture. Pour through wire strainer.
Divide among 8 custard cups, place all the cups in a large baking dish. Add enough hot water to the dish to come halfway up the sides. Carefully put into oven and bake until set, about 30 minutes. Remove from water and chill at least 2 hours.
Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, preheat the broiler, then sprinkle each custard with 1 TB sugar. Broil until the sugar turns golden, watching closely to avoid burning, about 3 minutes. Refrigerate until set, 1-2 hours or longer.
Version #3 is an unbaked pot de creme called
Chocolate Cups with Whipped Cream    Rachael Ray showed Oprah how to prepare this 5-minute  decadent dessert: Heat 2/3 c. whole milk (that's important!) in a small pan over moderate heat til it comes to a boil. In a blender or food processor, combine 1 egg, 2 TB sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 c. semisweet chocolate chips, and 2 TB liqueur (hazelnut or kahlua) or some dark rum. Process on slow while pouring in the hot milk in a small stream. The milk will melt the chocolate and cook the egg. Process for 1 minute. Spoon into 4 demitasse cups or small custard cups, or 2 teacups. Chill and serve with sweetened whipped cream.
When I made this, I eagerly tasted it immediately, and thought...ho-hum, what's so great about this? Disappointing, since Oprah had practically spiraled through the studio ceiling when tastng it. Later in the day, when it had chilled, it tasted better, and by the next day my own ceiling had a large hole in it.
This is VERY rich, so you really can get 4 servings from it