Chocolate Pots de Crème (Cayenne-Chocolate)

I have found my new obsession.  Perfect, creamy, fun, little pots de crème.  They’re adorable, sophisticated, and utterly divine.  I eat them tiny spoon-scrape by tiny spoon-scrape because I absolutely don’t want the taste to end.  These chocolate delights are unbelievably decadent and rich.  The texture is the perfect blend of smooth yet solid, something dense but something that will melt like satin on your tongue.  This is the kind of dessert that turns heads, the kind that will leave your friends dumbfounded and wanting more.  The best part is that it’s so versatile.  This recipe can be added onto, tweaked, and modified almost endlessly.  That’s why it never gets old and always stays fun.

I’ve included the recipe for my absolute favorite version: cayenne-chocolate pots de crème.  It’s got a sweet spice that pricks the tongue gently before rolling into a slow, sensuous warmth.  The combination of cayenne and cinnamon is classic, but combined with the silky richness of the chocolate, it creates a unique and irresistible taste.  Eating these little pots de crème is truly an experience.

CAYENNE-CHOCOLATE POTS DE CRÈME:

Ingredients:

  • 1.3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 oz. sweetened chocolate
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 2 sprinkles cinnamon
  • 1-2 dashes of cayenne
  • 1 pinches of salt
  • 2/3 c heavy cream
  • 1/6 c half n half
  • 2 tsp bourbon

Directions:

  1. Finely chop (or grate) your chocolate into a medium-sized, heatproof bowl.  Set a sieve or a strainer over the top (make sure it’s not too fine, otherwise your creme anglaise may not pass through easily)
  2. Whisk your egg yolks and powdered sugar together in a small saucepan. Then, whisk in your heavy cream, half ‘n half, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt (it’s a good idea to taste the mix now, to see if it has enough cinnamon/cayenne.  Remember that the point of this is the spicy kick of cayenne; the cinnamon is only there for additional warmth and a subtle touch of aromatic spice).
  3. Heat  this mix (your crème anglaise) over medium-low flame until thickened (8-12 minutes), stirring constantly (really, constantly.  Get lazy and you end up with lumpy bits of cooked egg not a smooth crème anglaise).
  4. Pour immediately through strainer onto your chocolate and let stand for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Whisk together mixture, adding in your bourbon as you go.  You should also taste your mixture again and add more cayenne, if needed; the rich chocolate taste may cut out some of the cayenne’s punch.
  6. Pour into ramekins and let stand to cool.  Then cover and store in refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours.

Tips:

Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir your crème anglais.  Heat it slowly, building up the consistancy, and keep it lively (treat it like a good romance).  You want every part of your crème anglaise in equal movement at all times (just don’t get splashy and rambunctious).

Add in a splash of alcohol (rum is always a good, complimentary option) to help keep your chocolate pots de crème nice and smooth.  Just don’t add too much or you’ll cut out the chocolate flavor.

If you’re one of those rare people who don’t taste cayenne as spicy (like me), it’s best to have a guinea pig standing by to taste your creation as you go and make sure it’s edible for everyone (unlike my first batch).

*Other variations I like are espresso+vanilla (mix up about 1 tsp strong espresso and 2 tsp vanilla, add in after the chocolate has melted), ginger+anise (mince some fresh ginger and toss it in your crème anglaise with 3/4 tsp anise seeds; you can add in some powdered ginger, too, once your chocolate has melted), and orange liqueur (grate some orange zest and add into your crème anglaise; stir in some vermouth or orange liqueur once your chocolate has melted)

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Ginger Pear Poundcake w/ Salted Caramel Frosting

Courtesy of Google images

My parents hate poundcake.  Or, at least, they thought they did until they tried this cake.

I made this several weeks ago, after a bad knee sprain had me off my feet and out of the gym.  I was managing my frustration by cramming as much sugar and butter into my system as I possibly could, when I came across “pound cakes”.  I figured any cake that originated from a recipe calling for a pound of butter, a pound of eggs, and a pound of sugar couldn’t be anything short of bliss.  While this recipe calls for less than a cup of butter, it was everything I had imagined and more.

(the original recipe made cupcakes, I adapted it for a 9″ round cake and made a few minor adjustments)

GINGER PEAR POUNDCAKE (base):

Ingredients:

  • 3/4  cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 cup cake flour (I used all-purpose and it turned out wonderfully)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger (if you like a stronger ginger taste)
  • 1 large ripe bartlett pear, chopped into 1/4 inch cubes

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. In a medium-large bowl, cream butter and sugar together.
  3. One at a time, beat in your eggs.
  4. Alternate beating in flour and milk in 2-3 additions.
  5. Add your vanilla and your fresh ginger to the mix.
  6. Beat on medium-high to high speed for two minutes.
  7. Then, fold in your pears.
  8. Pour the batter into a 9″ cake pan (if not non-stick, make sure to grease prior to this step).
  9. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the cake is a rich gold, the top is springy, and a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool slightly before taking it out of the pan.  Let it cool completely on a baking rack before frosting.
  11. When the cake is completely cool, carefully cut it in half so that you can spread frosting in between the halves as filling.

Meanwhile, while your cake is cooling…

Courtesy of Google images

SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 candied ginger (optional, I used some in the filling)

Directions:

  1. Pour your granulated sugar into a small saucepan and gently shake it to even out the sugar (uneven sugar will cook unevenly and burn).  Wait until the mixture begins to turn liquid and brown, do not stir.  If you so desire, turn off heat before all the sugar is completely dissolved so that some crunchy sugar chunks remain, or you can wait until everything is completely melted (just make sure not to burn it).  Now, you can stir.
  2. Remove the caramel from the heat and slowly add in your cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth (it will fizzle and spit and look very scary while you do this).
  3. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes (or you can speed it up by sticking it in the fridge).
  4. Beat your butter and salt in a medium bowl at a medium-high speed until it becomes light in color and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
  5. Reduce the speed to low, add in your powdered sugar (you may not need all of it, remember you’ll be adding in caramel as well), and mix until completely incorporated and the mixture has the consistency/sweetness/saltiness you desire.
  6. Turn your mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add in your caramel. Beat the frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed (about 2 minutes).
  7. Cover and refrigerate until firm, but not too stiff (about 10-20 minutes) before frosting.
  8. Spread a little less than half the frosting in-between the two halves of your cake (you can sprinkle your chopped candied ginger inside the filling here), use the rest of the frosting to cover the top and sides of your cake.  The recipe makes just enough, so if you like more frosting/filling, make sure to increase the recipe.
  9. You can use more candied ginger as a garnish on top of the cake, or leave it plain, the frosting looks gorgeous on its own!

Review:

This cake was a total hit.  Everybody who tasted it had seconds (if not thirds, and, in my case, fourths).  Best of all, it was so easy to make.  The poundcake was incredibly moist and thick, without being soggy.  It was dense, like a typical poundcake, but not over-rich and it had a wonderful, smooth fullness to the texture.  The amount of sugar was absolutely perfect.  It gave the cake a soft quality and didn’t overwhelm the gentle, sweet flavor of the pear.  The ginger was essential; it gave a fantastically exotic and mesmerizing spice to the cake.  The salted caramel frosting was the perfect complement to the ginger and pear base.  This was what really got people hooked; everyone agreed the combination of rich, smoky sweetness with softly pricking saltiness was absolutely addictive.  Its raw intensity was happily balanced with the mellow spice of the cake base.  All in all, this was a beautifully done recipe with an exotic and wonderfully complex product.