With Valentine's Day around the corner, it's time to get in touch with your sweet side. And if you're anything like us, that means spending hours debating over which chocolate dessert to make. You could make a cake or tart, but if you're cooking just for yourself, there's a high risk of skipping the plate and going straight in with a fork—not the pretty picture you were envisioning. Whether you've got friends coming over or you're rolling solo, a portioned dessert is the way to go, and we've got the perfect one: pot de crème.
This thick, rich dessert is like a hybrid of a chocolate truffle and chocolate pudding. We add a little seasonal citrus to the mix by pairing it with blood orange and finishing it with whipped mascarpone and a candied blood orange wheel. It's an easy yet sophisticated dessert that will make you feel better than any Hallmark sentiments could.
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What's great about this recipe is that you'll end up with five little ramekins of individually portioned dessert. The custard saves well in the fridge or freezer, so it's golden for late-night snacking all week. If you're spending the holiday with friends, everyone can get their own personal ramekin—the perfect way to make them feel special. Couples need not apply. (Just kidding. This works for you, too! You'll just have to battle over the last ramekin standing.)
Don't let the French name fool you. This dessert is as easy as it is delicious. It's just ganache—melted chocolate mixed with dairy—made with créme anglaise—a light custard typically used as a sauce or base for ice cream. When you're cooking the custard, be aware that it isn't going to thicken to a pudding-like consistency; you're looking for a nappé thickness, which means just dense enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Once you've achieved that, you're good to go.
This is also a dessert you can, and should, make ahead of time. The worst thing you could do is serve a pot de crème that hasn't had enough time to set. Make life easy on yourself and prepare them the day before. That way, when you're scrambling to plate your first attempt at rib eye with risotto (don't stress, we believe in you), you can at least rest easy, knowing dessert is out of the way.
So crack out those heart-shaped ramekins and remember that the secret ingredient is heavy cream love.
Chocolate-Blood Orange Pots de Crème
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 5 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus cooling and chilling time
Cook Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes, plus cooling and chilling time
For the Candied Blood Orange:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 blood orange, sliced ⅛ inch thick
For the Pots de Crème:
1½ cups (10 ounces) bittersweet chocolate
1½ cups whole milk
1½ cups heavy cream
½ tablespoon blood orange zest
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 egg yolks
For the Whipped Mascarpone:
½ cup mascarpone
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1. Make the candied blood orange: Preheat the oven to 250° and line a sheet pan with a silicone baking mat. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add the blood orange slices and reduce to a simmer; cook until the slices are translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the slices in a single layer to the prepared sheet pan. Bake until dried and crisp, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool completely.
3. Make the pots de crème: Place the chocolate in a blender and set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, cream and orange zest to a simmer over medium heat.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt and egg yolks until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is light yellow and thick. Whisk about 1 cup of the simmering cream into the egg yolk mixture to temper, then add it all back into the pot. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard is lightly thickened so it coats the back of the spoon, 5 to 6 minutes.
5. Pour the custard over the chocolate in the blender and blend until smooth. Divide the mixture between five 8-ounce ramekins, smoothing the tops with an offset spatula, then refrigerate until chilled and set, 2 hours.
6. Meanwhile, make the whipped mascarpone: In a medium bowl, combine all the mascarpone ingredients. Whisk until the mixture holds a stiff peak.
7. To serve: Spoon a dollop of the whipped mascarpone over each pot de crème and stick a candied blood orange wheel about a third of the way into the surface, then serve.