Showing posts with label French cuisine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French cuisine. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Classic French Dessert: Chocolate Pots de Crème from Cleo Coyle

For many American kids, pudding is something premade in a plastic cup. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have it homemade for you from a cardboard Jell-O pudding box. This was my experience growing up. Sure, I enjoyed plenty of homemade Italian foods (my mom was born in Italy), but pudding was an American thing; and American things were found in boxes and cans, or wrapped in plastic. 

Cleo Coyle, searching for
new things to cover with
chocolate while writing
her next Coffeehouse
When I finally discovered pots de crème, the clouds parted. The sun appeared. I’d found pudding nirvana!

This classic dessert, which translates from French to English as "pots of cream," is not your grade school cafeteria’s chocolate custard. It’s a rich, smooth, sinfully chocolaty experience. It’s also very easy to make. No special culinary skills needed.

BTW, on the subject of pots of chocolate, my fellow crime-writing cook, Mary Jane Maffini, recently gave us a wonderfully easy, no-bake chocolate mousse recipe. If you missed it, you can check it out by clicking here.

My version of this classic French recipe makes approximately six 6-oz servings. This is a generous portion size for the typical pots de crème, but let’s be real. In America, the home cooks’ main concern is: Did you have enough? Would you like seconds? Which is one reason "palate fatigue" is (happily) a non-starter in most American homes.

If you’d like to learn more about the modern gourmet philosophy of palate fatigue, read my sixth Coffeehouse Mystery: French Pressed. You’ll see I have a strong opinion about it!

Cleo Coyle’s
Chocolate Pots de Crème

To download this recipe in a free PDF that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Servings: This recipe will produce 4 cups of liquid to divide among your ramekins, custard cups, or ovenproof coffee cups. Consequently, depending on the size of your containers, this recipe will give you 6 to 8 servings.


12 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate chopped (or chips)
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
6 egg yolks (extra large or jumbo size)
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Step 1: Melt the chocolate - Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put your chopped chocolate (or chips) in a metal or glass bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and milk until it’s just about to boil, but not yet boiling. Pour this hot liquid over your chocolate and let it sit for about a minute until the chocolate is softened. Then stir this mixture until it’s smooth. The stirring will take one to two minutes.

Step 2: Beat the eggs - Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs well, for about 1 minute. Gradually mix in sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and salt. Now gradually beat the chocolate mixture you made (in Step 1) into these egg yolks.

Step 3: Strain and pour into containers - Strain this custard through a fine-meshed sieve (I use a small metal colander). Pour the strained liquid into a container with a spout. This will make it easier to evenly divide the mixture among containers.

Step 4: Prepare for Baking - Place the cups in a shallow baking pan. Carefully fill the pan with boiling water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the custard cups (or ramekins or ovenproof coffee cups).

Step 5: Cover and Bake - Cover pan with foil, seal ends, and pierce in several places so that steam can escape. Bake for about 25 - 35 minutes in the center of your 300 degree F. oven until the tops of the pots de crème look solid, but the custard still jiggles slightly when you shake it. Don’t worry; the custard will firm up as it cools.

Note on Cooking Time: The smaller your cups, the quicker your custard will set. The deeper your cups, however, the longer your custard will take to set. If your custard still has a liquid top after 35 minutes, then turn up the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. and bake another 10 minutes. (If you use cool or room temperature water, rather than boiling water for the water bath, the cooking process may take longer, as well.)

Step 6: Chill, baby! - Now carefully remove the hot pots from the oven and the hot pan and let them cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge. After they come to room temperature, make sure to cover these with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. The custards should be chilled at least 3 hours before serving.


Because this is a classic French dessert, many versions exist in cookbooks and on the Internet. For variations on this basic recipe, reduce the vanilla to 2 teaspoons and add 2 tablespoons Kahlúa (or try dark rum, Grand Marnier, or coffee syrup).

Coffee syrup can be bought pre-made. It can also be made from scratch. My recipe can be found by clicking here or turning to the back of the fifth Coffeehouse Mystery Decaffeinated Corpse.

For many more ideas on variations
for French pots de crème,
click here and have fun! There are some wonderful ideas there.

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes, win free coffee,
or find out more about my books, visit me
 at my *virtual* coffeehouse:

Click on the book covers above
to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.


A final, quick note for our mystery reading fans.
The latest Mystery Readers Journal with the theme Hobbies, Crafts, and Special Interests is now available.

The issue, edited by Mystery Fanfare's Janet Rudolph, includes many mystery authors who have guest posted for us over the past year. You can check out the contents by clicking here, which will also give you info on how to purchase a copy (hard or electronic) for yourself.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Joyeux Noel

Contest Update...

Before I get started, I'd like to remind everyone that we will be announcing the newest winner in our Williams-Sonoma gift card contest very soon. Carol won the first week, and Rebecca won the second week. Who will be our lucky reader this week? Stay tuned to find out! ;-) And don't forget to leave a comment below (or via e-mail if the comment-leaving doesn't work) to be entered into this week's drawing for a $25 Williams-Sonoma Gift Card!

Best of luck!

In a bit of a departure from the norm here, rather than share a recipe with you, I'd like to share an experience and ask for your help.

The "headline" for this post is

Joyeux Noel

As you know, this is French for Merry Christmas. No, I'm not starting my cookie baking early ;-) But I am celebrating.

After being married for ::ahem:: years, gift-giving becomes difficult. What do you give your spouse during traditional celebrations that you haven't already given a hundred times? My husband put it succinctly when he told me: "You're so hard to buy for because you're not much of a flower or jewelry girl. You're a food girl." He's totally right. Take me out for a stellar dinner, and I'm in heaven. I love going out. And although the food is a major consideration, it's all about the experience.

So, for Christmas 2008 we decided to forgo the same-old, same-old, and decided that our gift to one another would be to try out a *new* restaurant every month. We have our favorites, of course (stories for another time), but we intended to stretch ourselves and seek out places we never knew existed. We alternate months and my husband picked his six choices right at the start. I decided to choose my six one at a time. This has been loads of fun! Every month we find ourselves at a brand new restaurant, clinking our glasses together and wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

This past Saturday, August 15th, was my month and after seeing Julie and Julia during the week, I was inspired to seek out French cuisine.

Marche restaurant is on Randolph Street in an area of Chicago known as the West Loop. Back when I was going to college in Chicago, I would have taken great pains to avoid this area but now I can't wait to get back there to try out some of the other nifty places I spotted. The neighborhood is vibrant, exciting, and up-and-coming, helped in no small part, I'm sure, by the presence of Oprah's Harpo studios, just a few steps away.

This is the view looking east on Randolph.

The restaurant is spacious and airy. Upside-down umbrellas (parapluie) dot the tall ceiling, while masks, mirrors, and Harlequin characters decorate the walls. The tables are on several different levels and the service is cheerful and attentive. But wow - the food. We split two appetizers: their "beautiful soup of the day," a tomato-gorgonzola-olive oil-basil-chive concoction which took my breath away; and a Voul-au-vent des Champignons - a puff pastry with mushrooms. "What is that flavor?" I kept asking my husband. We tried to decide which of the two we liked better, but could not. This was *exquisite* food.

Next came the entrees. Having just seen Julie and Julia, I'd intended to order Boeuf Borguignone, but alas it wasn't on the menu. I opted for Coq au Vin. The chicken was very good (maybe a tad dry), but my husband's Braised pork shoulder over cabbage was beyond description. I wish I would have ordered that. Maybe next time ;-)

For dessert we shared a chocolate trio (flourless chocolate cake, orange ice cream in a crispy chocolate shell, and chocolate-raspberry mousse) and decided that -- clearly -- of the 8 restaurants we've visited so far this year, Marche is our new favorite.

That's me after dinner, taking my leftover Coq au Vin home. There was nothing left of anything else ;-)

See that contented look on my face? It masks the determination I'm now experiencing in my desire to recreate the tomato bisque and the mushroom appetizers at home.

Here's where I need your help.

I'll bet many of you out there have made one or both of these appetizers. If you have, and if you know of similar recipes, please, please share! I can tell from all the great comments and e-mails we receive that we have an amazing group of foodies out there and I hope to draw on this vast collection of knowledge.

Sure I can call the restaurant and ask. But isn't this way more fun?

I plan to start experimenting soon -- any and all help will be appreciated. If you like, leave a comment below to direct me to a link (this will enter you in our contest, natch), or just e-mail me directly at JulieHyzy (at) AOL (dot) com or via my website

Thanks so much!!


Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mystery series features State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, and Eggsecutive Orders (coming in January). All from Berkley Prime Crime.

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