Modified from Bon Appetit (March 1996), via epicurious.com
Isn’t it some sort of rule that you must indulge in chocolate on Saint Valentine’s Day? If not, there should be! Indulge we did, in this rich, dark chocolate crème brûlée. Under the thin, crackly layer of caramelized sugar lies a dense but creamy chocolate-truffle-like pudding. Not the silky texture you normally associate with crème brûlée exactly, but I don’t think anyone in their right mind would make that complaint. This dessert isn’t overly sweet, but it is extremely rich and satisfying!
Use the best quality of chocolate you can find, since it is the star of the show. We topped our crème brûlée with fresh berries, but it also would be heavenly with a dollop of whipped cream.
Ingredients: (Makes 4 servings, approximately 3/4 cup)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup half and half
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70 % cacao), chopped
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 tablespoons organic, unbleached sugar or raw sugar (plus additional sugar sprinkled on top, to caramelize)
Preheat oven to 325F. [You will also need 4 custard cups and a heavy baking pan to make a waterbath (bain marie) for cooking the custards.]
In a large, heavy saucepan, bring the cream and half and half to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. Add chocolate and whisk briskly until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.
Whisk together egg yolks, vanilla and 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Using a small measuring cup, dip out some of the hot chocolate mixture and slowly drizzle it into the egg yolks while whisking. Repeat one or two times until the egg yolks have warmed up, taking care not to “cook” the yolks. (You want to avoid clumps of egg.) Then slowly whisk in the warm egg yolk mixture back into the hot chocolate mixture in the pan until well combined. Strain using a fine-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup.
Divide the custard equally among four 3/4-cup custard cups. Place the cups in the baking pan, and add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake in oven until custards are set, around 50 minutes. Remove from the water, and chill for at least 2 hours.
Sprinkle each custard with a thin layer of sugar. Use a blowtorch to slowly liquify the sugar on the surface of the custards – sugar will brown, bubble, then melt. Be careful not to burn the sugar. (Alternatively, custards can be placed under a broiler until sugar is golden brown and bubbling – watch carefully!) Chill the custards for at least 1 hour before serving.
Can’t believe we haven’t featured one of my favorite songwriters of all time here! Steve Earle said of the legendary Texan: “Townes van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Now, he might not be better than Dylan…but its dang close. First up, Live at The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas. If you’re new to Van Zandt, this is a good one to start. Townes always shined in live performance, and this has all this greatest songs on it- “Pancho & Lefty”, “If I Needed You” and “White Freightliner Blues”. Essential.
Once you’ve enjoyed that and you want to know more about this brilliant, yet tragic figure, watch Townes Van Zandt – Be Here to Love Me. One of the best “rock movies” you’ll see, full of Townes humor and pathos, and loads of his music. He was gone too soon.