Chocolate Hazelnut Pots de Creme with Praline

chocolate praline

 ~ Chocolate Hazelnut Pots de Creme with Praline ~

These little vessels of silky rich dark chocolate custard get dressed up with nutty, fragrant hazelnuts. Frangelico liqueur is the secret ingredient, an Italian noisette (hazelnut) flavored liqueur that tastes great straight up or laced in coffee or over ice cream. It’s also a great addition to an affogato. This recipe will make 6 generous servings for diehard chocoholics. If the portions are too intense, divide among espresso cups for the perfect sweet after dinner touch of chocolate. For best results, use high quality dark (70%) chocolate. And if you can’t find frangelico but still feel nutty, then substitute amaretto.

chocolate hazelnut tastefood

Chocolate Hazelnut Pots de Creme with Praline

Begin this recipe 1 to 2 days in advance of serving. Makes 6 (3/4-cup) ramekins or 12 espresso cups.

Pots de Creme:
1  3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
6 ounces high quality dark chocolate (70 to 72%), finely chopped
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Frangelico or hazelnut liqueur

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Frangelico or hazelnut liqueur

Praline:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned, coarsely chopped (or almonds, lightly toasted, coarsely chopped)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

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 and whisk in the 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 Frangelico. Strain through a fine meshed sieve into another bowl and cool for 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 on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Make the whipped cream:
Beat the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer until traces of the whisk appear. Add sugar and Frangelico. Continue to beat until peaks form.

Make the praline:
Heat the sugar in a heavy small saucepen over medium heat until sugar melts, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until sugar turns amber in color. Add the nuts and sea salt and stir quickly to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and spread into a thin layer.. Do not touch with your fingers. Cool completely. Break into small pieces.

To serve, spoon a dollop of cream over the center of each ramekin. Top with chards or finely chopped praline.

Chocolate Orange Pots de Creme with Fleur de Sel

Chocolate Orange Pots de Creme with Fleur de Sel

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.

Chocolate Rum Raisin Bread Pudding with Spiced Rum Sauce

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Ten years ago, before we moved to Denmark, we lived in England. We moved there from Geneva with our children, a toddler and infant at the time. It was an exciting move, because we were leaving the francophone environment of Suisse Romande and immersing ourselves in the relief of all-things-English. While I’ve written about that experience on previous posts, this post is specifically about my discovery of English bread pudding.

After a brief rental experience outside of London, we moved to the West Sussex countryside where we bought a feng-shui challenged barn conversion on a long country lane with distant views to the Isle of Wight. Our nearest neighbors lived a half mile away. Goodness knows what we were thinking when we bought this lovely but incredibly remote property. It would have been an extremely isolating experience save for our nearest neighbors who kindly took us under their wing. We became good friends over many meals which we took turns preparing on our AGAs. (No self-respecting provincial UK home would be complete without an AGA.)

One of the first meals our neighbors prepared for us ended with a chocolate bread pudding. Never a fan, I was dubious at first, but with one bite I was hooked. Crunchy on top, squidgy in the middle and blanketed with double cream, this was dense, rich and fudgy – nothing like what I expected. Since then I have dabbled with iterations of this dessert, taking inspiration from my neighbor and Delia Smith (Britain’s Ina Garten), while tweaking with raisins, rum and cinnamon to suit my taste.

Chocolate Rum Raisin Bread Pudding with Spiced Rum Sauce
Serves 6

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dark rum, divided
1 – 10″ loaf French-style bread, crusts removed, sliced 1/2″ thick
6 oz. (180 g.) dark (70-72%) chocolate, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs

For the rum sauce:
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark rum
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine raisins and 2 tablespoons rum in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes. Lightly butter a 9″ square baking pan. Slice bread slices in half on the diagonal. Set aside.

Combine all the remaining pudding ingredients, except the eggs, in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water.) Stir until the chocolate and butter melt and the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and gently stir to combine well.

Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add the chocolate to the eggs, mixing to combine well. Pour enough chocolate into the baking pan to leave a 1/4″coating on the bottom of the pan. SPrinkle half the raisins over the chocolate. Arrange half the bread slices over the raisins, lightly overlapping the slices in a scalloped pattern. Pour half the remaining chocolate over the bread. Sprinkle remaining raisins over chocolate. Top with remaining bread slices, overlapping. Pour remaining chocolate chocolate over the top of the pudding, thoroughly covering bread. Gently press bread down into chocolate. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours.

Remove pudding from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. PReheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Bake until the top is crunchy and the inside is very soft, 40-45 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve with Spiced Rum Sauce.

Spiced Rum Sauce
Makes about 2 cups.

2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark rum
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Stir cornstarch and water together in a small bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cornstarch to cream, whisking constantly, and simmer until cream begins to thicken. Stir in sugar, rum and cinnamon. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.