Updated: Nov 12, 2020
250 g dark chocolate such as Lindt 70% (see below for suggestions)
150 g whole milk
350 g heavy cream
60 g sugar
Optional: 1 teaspoon instant coffee, decaf or regular
Pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare the oven and bain marie. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Bring a kettle of water to a boil for a bain marie. Have ready 9 ramekins or small cups that can hold about 100 g (3.5 to 4 ounces) of liquid. Also have ready a larger roasting pan or cake pan with at least 2-inch-high sides that can hold the ramekins comfortably.
Break up the chocolate and put it in a bowl. In a separate bowl, place the salt, yolks and vanilla. Whisk and let stand.
In a saucepan, heat the milk, cream, sugar, and instant coffee (if using). Simmer until it is steaming, and whisk to blend all the ingredients. Pour about a quarter cup of the hot milk into the yolks and whisk. Pour the rest of the hot milk over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes so that the chocolate melts. Whisk to blend the melted chocolate, then whisk in the yolk mixture. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a container that will make it easy to pour, such as a large measuring cup with a spout.
Pour the chocolate mixture into ramekins, about 90 g by weight for each container depending on how large you want each portion. (The cups in the photo above hold about 100g of product. I don’t fill the them right to the top because there needs to be headspace for the lid.)
Cover the ramekins with parchment and foil if they don’t have lids. Place into a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with hot water that comes about halfway up the containers.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. They should be set around the edges but jiggly in the middle. Take out of the water bath and let cool. Eat warm or at room temperature. You can garnish with whipped cream if desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered. Over the course of a few days in the refrigerator, the consistency will get slightly grainy, but they are still delicious.
The French name for this dessert, pot de crème, may sound pretentious, but who cares? Once you try it, you won't want to go back to an inferior, boxed version, or those pre-packaged "pudding" cups from the supermarket aisle that taste like sweet chemicals.
Unlike a cornstarch-thickened stovetop pudding, pot de crème has creamier mouthfeel with none of the starchy undertones. That's because the thickening comes from the eggs and chocolate. It is reminiscent of ganache. It is a little fussier to prepare than stovetop pudding, owing to the fact that it's a two-step process: the mixture is assembled and portioned out, then cooked in a hot water bath called a bain marie. You can find good pot de crème recipes that don't require the bain marie, but I prefer to stick with the classic way of preparing it because the texture and flavor is perfect.
You can use ramekins. In the photo above, I used special cups with covers that are designed for this dessert.
The quality of ingredients is crucial. Use a good dark chocolate such as Lindt, Valrhona, or Scharffenberger. I prefer Lindt Excellence 70% because it has a sweetness level that works well with this recipe, and it is available at most supermarkets. You may need to adjust the amount of sugar, depending on the sweetness of the chocolate you use. Taste and make adjustments as necessary before you portion out the mixture.
The quality of the cream and milk is also important. Get the best you can find, preferably grass-fed, pasture raised, organic. There really is a taste difference.
The recipe yields nine pots de crème that have a net weight of about 90 g. Obviously, if you use ramekins and you fill them with more product, you'll get fewer individual portions. The instant coffee is optional, but if you adore mocha, it is a fantastic addition.