In the living room a baby cries out; while slightly less angry, but surely just as passionate, pots of velvety chocolate smush demand to be noticed at the table. A first lingering bite befuddle the barometers of taste; they are left to grasp mixed messages fluttering across their allegedly cultivated tongues.
“Did I just…?”
Another question is asked.
It seems each pot has realized the best response to indulgent sin is not always confession, but more sin. The sin of omission. So I will say nothing as well and let them all wonder.
“Isn’t that always the way?”, I think, but this time to myself.
Light itself looks sarcastic when caught falling onto the frothy mix of milky sweet puffery and chocolate bits which obfuscate the copious chocolate cauldron below it. A lip smacks provoking an awkward moment where we are left to ponder just what, if anything, is animating us.
Perhaps it is not a libidinous palate but simply a tumescent hunger over-thinking the situation? Was that a wink?
Heat? Sweet? Or was it something else entirely?
If only tongues, men in love, and food bloggers had better vocabularies we could have it all described for us in pulchritudinous prose. Nouns and adjectives can fight amongst themselves to be the subjects. They can explain for us what it all means when a secret is revealed and a mystery is replaced with fact.
“Of course!” But will it change anything? Yes and no, certainly. It always does, sometimes.
Initial desire is sated and gentility can restored again. N ow e ven the baby giggles and spoons once again can sink gently into their rich creamy vessels; lifting payloads northward to signal the tongues that they are ready to play once again. Over and over.
Coffee begs to be served.
While the rest of you have been busy salting your food with varying grain coarseness and flakiness for some added topical relevance, I have been having a field day with the other shaker on the table, black pepper . Last fall I unexpectedly tossed some crushed black pepper into a cherry crisp and it rocked my culinary world. I didn’t add a ton mind you, but just enough to create a mild and somewhat mysterious heat to kick in. My goal was to create interest without being obnoxious. A trait I would wish for both salt and potential suitors to strive for these days.
Nevertheless, this decadent and rich chocolate dessert has been begging for equal treatment ever since that fateful day. And as it turns out, what better time to add a little heat to chocolate than at Valentine’s Day? Think about it: if chocolate is to equal love, then what is love without a little heat to keep you warm?
And, as if these pots aren’t perfect enough for entertaining on love’s special day you should also know that you can make them the night before. Or two.
Peppery Chocolate Pot de Crème
This is what you will need:
- 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, 70%, finely chopped
- 1½ cups heavy cream, divided
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons crushed black peppercorns
- 1 large egg
- 4 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- one scant dash of cayenne pepper
This is how you make it:
- Preheat the oven to 300° F and line a large roasting pan with two layers of paper towels.
- Put pots de crème pots in the pan and remove lids.
- Bring a medium saucepan of water for a ban marie to a boil.
- Once the water comes to a boil, remove from the heat and cover.
- Place the chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl.
- Bring ½ cup of the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan.
- Once the cream reaches a boil, pour it over the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute.
- Stir with a rubber spatula, starting in the center of the bowl and working outward in a circular motion, until the ganache is smooth; set aside.
- Combine the remaining heavy cream and the whole milk in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add peppercorns, remove from heat, and let steep for 15 minutes.
- Strain through a fine sieve into another saucepan and bring back to a boil.
- Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, sugar, and salt until slightly thickened and pale yellow in color.
- Drizzle in a small amount of the hot cream-milk mixture, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Pour in the remainder of the hot liquid, still whisking constantly, until completely incorporated. Finally, gently whisk the egg mixture back into the ganache until incorporated.
- Spoon any skin that has formed off the top of the custard and divide evenly between the prepared cups.
- Pour some of the previously set aside hot water into the baking dish around the custard cups so that it reaches about halfway up the sides of the cups.
- Put Pot de Creme lids on the little pots. If you are using ramekins or other pots you can cover the top of the pan tightly with foil or plastic wrap, poking two holes in opposite corners. Very carefully slide the pan into the oven.
- Bake 35-40 minutes, or until the custard jiggles only a bit in the center when tapped or lightly shaken.
- Carefully remove the pan from the oven and transfer it to a cooling rack.
- Allow the custards to rest in their warm water bath for 10 minutes, then remove the lids, foil, or wrap and very carefully transfer the cups from the water to the cooling rack.
- Once they come to room temperature, return the lids or cover individually with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Serve with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings.