Chocolate & Orange Pots de Creme

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OMG! These are good! I was expecting them to be ‘nice’ but wow, these were divine! They look so unassuming, but believe me, they pack a taste punch! I simply adore Pots de Creme – they have a silkiness and depth of flavour to them that, in my humble opinion, take them well beyond mousse (which previously had always been my favourite dessert). So, naturally, I’ve been trying out various recipes (see my Espresso Pots de Creme and Butterscotch Pots de Creme) and I’m sure there’ll be more to come! This time I opted for a plain dark chocolate, but I wanted to pair it with a complementary flavour so went for the classic pairing of chocolate and orange.

I took a bit of a punt in terms of how much orange flavouring I used, adding a fair whack of orange zest, not to mention a good slug of orange liqueur. I’m really glad I did that, because the taste is both intensely chocolate and orange at the same time, as opposed to primarily chocolate with a vague whiff of orange. In New Zealand, we prize our iconic Jaffas (a small round lolly with a chocolate centre and hard orange candy on the outside, and famous for being rolled down cinema aisles!) and I can confidently say that these Pots de Creme are the sublimely silky dessert equivalent of those.

Oh, and just a quick word about the candied orange peel. This was a new experience for me and fun to boot. I made them purely for decorative purposes but, as it turns out, they offered a further complementary component to the dessert. Their intense, slightly bitter, taste was a really nice foil for the sweetness of the chocolate.


CHOCOLATE & ORANGE POTS DE CREME

Serves 6-8 (depending on ramekin size)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 8 ounces (225g) high-quality semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup caster sugar (depending on how bitter the chocolate is)

Candied Orange Peel:

  • 1 orange
  • 1 cup sugar (divided)
  • ¾ cup water

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F). Boil a jug of water to use for the bain marie.
  2. In a medium saucepan, add the heavy cream, milk and orange zest and bring to scalding (just prior to the boil) over medium heat. Remove pot from the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate. Stir until melted and well combined (you may need to put the pot back on low heat for a few minutes to melt the last of the chocolate). Add in the orange liqueur (if using) and stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the yolks, salt and sugar in a bowl until thick and pale (a couple of minutes). Add about 1/2 cup of the still warm chocolate milk mixture into the yolk mixture while whisking constantly (this tempers the yolks and ensures they don’t curdle). Pour the warmed yolk mixture back into the remainder of the milk mixture while whisking constantly until well combined. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a pourable bowl or jug to catch the orange zest. Now, it’s totally normal for there to be a froth on top of the mixture due to whisking the cream and chocolate together – it looks much like a fabulous hot chocolate in that regard (and boy, is it tempting to just drink it!). This froth, when baked, can become a little crusty, which isn’t a problem if you’re covering your custards with cream anyway. However, if you’d rather avoid the rustic look and have a silky smooth surface instead, you’ll need to spoon off this froth before you bake them, or simply let them sit for 10-15 minutes until it settles.
  4. Put six to eight ramekins (depending on size) or other oven proof dishes into a large, deep baking dish. It helps to put a folded tea-towel into the dish first to keep the dishes steady. Divide the chocolate mixture evenly between the dishes then carefully pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach about half to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the whole dish loosely with foil and carefully put onto the centre oven rack.
  5. Bake until set around the edges and a bit jello-like in the middle (around 45-55 minutes, depending on oven and size of ramekin) then very carefully take out of the water bath and let cool. Once completely cool, loosely cover with foil and chill for at least 4 hours before serving, or even better – overnight. I find they taste better if you take them out of fridge for about 10 minutes before serving. Top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and some of the candied orange peel.
  6. For the candied orange: Remove the peel from the orange in long strips. Cut the peel lengthwise into 1/8-inch-wide (about 3.5mm) strips, and trim off the excess white pith. Put a small saucepan of water (about 2 inches of water is sufficient) onto high heat until the water boils. Put the strips in and boil for one minute (this is to ensure the orange isn’t too bitter to eat). Then immediately remove and place in bowl filled with ice water and let stand 1 minute, then drain. Empty the water from the saucepan and now stir 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes, then add the orange peel and simmer for 15 minutes without stirring.
  7. Place remaining 1/4 cup sugar in small bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove peel from syrup and transfer to the bowl of sugar. Toss to coat, then cool. Cover bowl and let stand at room temperature overnight to dry out. Or, you can put them into a warm oven (90°C/200°F) for about an hour, checking every 20 minutes to ensure they’re not burning or cooking. Can be made ahead – any remainders should keep for weeks in a cool, dry place.

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Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting

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