Inspiration comes in many packages. These chocolate orange pots de creme are the result of a baking mistake. I set out to make them for a recent dinner party, however I forgot to cover the ramekins while they baked in the oven. Covering the ramekins allows the chocolate to set without a thicker top crust forming and detracting from a smooth and creamy consistency throughout the entire pudding. My pots de creme were smooth and creamy on the inside, all right, but the top had a firmer mottled texture. The taste was the same, but not the look. So, I decided to cover the surface with a granular topping which would provide a pleasing and distracting crunch while hiding my mistake. I rubbed the zest of an orange into a bowl of sugar. The sugar helped to separate the grains of zest and suspend them in granular animation, while the orange added a colorful tinge to the sugar. To serve, I garnished each ramekin with a dollop of whipped cream and showered the cream and chocolate with the orange sugar. To top it off I sprinkled a few grains of fleur de sel over each. It was delicious. The orange sugar added a confectionary crunch before dissolving in the mouth, leaving a lingering wisp of sea salt. I love it when mistakes like this happen.
Chocolate Orange Pots de Creme with Fleur de Sel
Begin 1-2 days before serving. Makes enough for 6 (3/4 cup) ramekins or 12 espresso cup servings.
For the pots de creme:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
6 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet dark chocolate, finely chopped
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Cointreau or Gran Marnier
For the whipped cream:
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons Gran Marnier or Cointreau (optional)
For the orange sugar:
Finely grated zest from one untreated navel orange
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Fleur de Sel (or flakes of another sea salt, such as Maldon)
Make the pots de creme:
Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Heat the cream and milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it reaches a simmer. Remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate until melted and smooth.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until blended. Add the cream in a steady stream, whisking to combine. Whisk in Cointreau. Strain through a fine meshed sieve into another bowl. Cool 5 minutes. Pour into ramekins or espresso cups. Place the ramekins in a baking pan. Fill the pan with boiling water half way up the ramekins. Cover ramekins with foil and transfer to oven. Bake until set, but still a little wobbly when jiggled, about 55 minutes for ramekins and 45 minutes for espresso cups. Remove from water bath and remove foil. Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Make the whipped cream:
Beat the cream in a bowl of an electric mixer until traces of the whisk appear. Add sugar and Gran Marnier. Continue to beat until peaks form.
Make the orange sugar:
Combine zest and sugar in a small bowl. Rub with fingers to evenly distribute the zest.
To serve, sprinkle each ramekin evely with the orange sugar. Spoon a dollop of cream over the center. Sprinkle with additional sugar and a few grains of fleur de sel.