Pots de creme are my go-to dessert. I call them the little black dress of sweets: Not only are they timelessly appealing (who can say no to a terrine of silky rich chocolate?), but they can be kept simple and understated for easy eating or dressed up with a splash of celebratory sparkle. In addition to their versatility, they can — and should — be prepared well in advance of serving, which bumps them to the top of the list for easy entertaining.
These chocolate custards get dressed up for the holidays with an infusion of hazelnuts and Frangelico. Frangelico is an Italian hazelnut (noisette) liqueur, originating from the Piedmont region. It’s a nutty and sweet digestif with notes of cocoa, coffee, herbs and vanilla. It’s delicious drizzled in coffee and over ice cream (or both in an affogato) and is naturally compatible with chocolate.
In addition to spiking the chocolate custard with a splash of Frangelico, this recipe ups the ante with Frangelico-laced whipped cream and shards of hazelnut praline. After all, it’s holiday time, and this little black dress of desserts deserves some bling.
This recipe makes six generous servings for chocoholics. For smaller servings and a sweet yet more understated after-dinner touch, divide the chocolate among smaller espresso cups. And, as always, use the best quality dark chocolate you can lay your hands on.
Chocolate Hazelnut Pots de Creme
Yield: Makes 6 (3/4-cup) ramekins or about 10 smaller espresso shots
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
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon Frangelico or hazelnut liqueur
Make the pots de creme:
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place ramekins in a baking dish.
2. Heat the cream and milk in a saucepan over medium heat just until the liquid begins to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until melted and smooth.
3. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light in color. Add the cream in a steady stream, whisking constantly to combine, then whisk in the Frangelico. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl or a large measuring glass and cool for 5 minutes.
4. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
5. Ladle or pour the custard into the ramekins. Fill the pan with the hot water halfway up the ramekins. Cover the ramekins with foil and transfer to the oven. Bake until the edges are set, but the center still wobbles a bit when jiggled, 30 to 35 minutes (or about 25 minutes for espresso cups).
6. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and remove the foil. Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Make the praline:
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. Heat the sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until it melts, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar turns amber in color. Add the nuts and sea salt, stirring quickly to combine.
3. Immediately pour the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread into a thin layer. (Do not touch with your fingers; it will be very hot.) Cool completely and then break into small shards.
Make the whipped cream:
1. Mix the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer on high speed until traces of the whisk appear. Add the sugar and Frangelico and continue to mix until peaks form.
2. Serve the pots de creme with a dollop of cream in the center. Top with praline shards.
Lynda Balslev is an award-winning food and wine writer, cookbook author and recipe developer. She also authors the blog TasteFood, a compilation of more than 600 original recipes, photos and stories.