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Choc Star

Sucré's Tariq Hanna has chocolate pot de crème down to a science
Tariq Hanna's Pot de Creme
Video: Dave Katz/Tasting Table 

For chef Tariq Hanna, desserts come down to some basic formulas. Chocolate is made of three ingredients—cocoa solids, cocoa fat and sugar—and should ideally be 72 percent cocoa. Most sweets succeed or fail based on five different reactions: moisture evaporating, fat and sugar melting, eggs and flour hardening.

And, he swears, you should keep this simple equation in mind, too: A ramekin of his chocolate pot de crème (see the recipe) plus the guest of your choosing will equal his or her undying devotion for you.

Hanna was born and raised near natural cocoa-processing plants in Nigeria and jokes that chocolate is in his blood. "Literally—I have a tattoo of the molecular structure of the cocoa bean on my arm!" Though he moved to the U.S. in 1986 to pursue a career in architecture, Hanna quickly realized that his passion lay elsewhere, first studying savory cooking then taking the principles he'd learned and experimenting with pastry on his own.

"Where I am today is simply years and years of trial—not a lot of error, because whatever the result was, I owned it, and it became mine," Hanna says. "It was perseverance, my sheer arrogance and my wanton desire to learn more that got me here."

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The "here" in question is Hanna's New Orleans-based Sucré Sweet Boutiques and Confection Studio, which has become a bucket list destination for sweet-toothed travelers and online obsession for macaron, bonbon and marshmallow fetishists, and Salon by Sucré, where he serves the aforementioned triple-chocolate no-bake pot de crème.

"It's probably the easiest thing I have on the menu, and it's actually a crémeux, because I don't have a lot of patience, and I don't want to sit there and wait for it to bake in the oven," Hanna says.

His stovetop method starts by tempering egg yolks with cream, sugar and fresh vanilla. He cooks and whisks the mixture until the eggs have been pasteurized and the cream starts to thicken. Then he removes the silken mixture from the heat and stirs in chocolate until it's smooth and cool.

While that's chilling for a few hours in individual ramekins, Hanna crafts a simple ganache from even more chocolate and heavy cream. "You want to create a beautiful suspension of where the fat and liquid molecules have this nice harmonious bond and everyone gets along really well," he says.

It's a perfect blank canvas for additional flavors, Hanna notes—a shot of amaro, Grand Marnier, rose water, orange zest. (Two shots of coffee make it a glossy, spreadable glaze for a cake.)

The coup de grâce comes in the form of a sprinkling of cocoa nibs that add an intriguing texture. "They're broken, roasted bean interiors, and it's pure and unadulterated," Hanna explains—not unlike the bliss chocolate lovers will feel when they slide a spoon of the finished dish into their mouths.

"This dessert is about deep sensual passion, and it's such an easy thing to do that if you make this for anyone, you will be loved forever."

Make it tonight and you, too, will choc this recipe up as a formula for sweet success.

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