Why This Recipe Works: Classic pots de crème can be finicky and laborious, requiring a hot water bath that threatens to splash the custards every time the pan is moved. In addition, the individual custards don’t always cook at the same rate. We wanted a user-friendly recipe that delivered a decadent dessert with a satiny texture and intense chocolate flavor.
First we moved the dish out of the oven, concentrating on an unconventional approach in which the custard is cooked on the stovetop in a saucepan, then poured into ramekins. Our next challenge was developing the right amount of richness and body, which we did by choosing a combination of heavy cream and half-and-half, along with egg yolks only, for maximum richness. For intense chocolate flavor, we focused on bittersweet chocolate—and a lot of it. Our chocolate content was at least 50 percent more than in any other recipe we had encountered.
We prefer pots de crème made with 60 percent bittersweet chocolate (our favorite brands are Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate and Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate), but 70 percent bittersweet chocolate can also be used. If using a 70 percent bittersweet chocolate, reduce the amount of chocolate to 8 ounces. An instant-read thermometer is the most reliable way to judge when the custard has reached the proper temperature. However, you can also judge the progress of the custard by its thickness. Dip a wooden spoon into the custard and run your finger across the back. The custard is ready when it coats the spoon and a line drawn maintains neat edges. The pots de crème (minus the whipped cream garnish) can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Pots de Crème
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (see note)
5 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
11/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Whipped Cream and Garnish
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cocoa, for dusting (optional)
Chocolate shavings, for sprinkling (optional)
1. For the pots de crème: Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl; set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl and set aside.
2. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl until combined, then whisk in the heavy cream and half-and-half. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until it is thickened and silky and registers 175 to 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 8 to 12 minutes. (Do not let the custard overcook or simmer.)
3. Immediately pour the custard through the strainer over the chocolate. Let the mixture stand to melt the chocolate, about 5 minutes. Whisk gently until smooth, then whisk in the vanilla and dissolved espresso. Divide the mixture evenly among eight 5‑ounce ramekins. Gently tap the ramekins against the counter to remove any air bubbles.
4. Cool the pots de crème to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days. Before serving, let the pots de crème stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
5. For the whipped cream and garnish: Using an electric mixer, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip the mixture until it thickens and forms stiff peaks, about 1 minute. Dollop each pot de crème with about 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream and garnish with cocoa and/or chocolate shavings (if using). Serve.