I chose this recipe for our inaugural post because in some ways, this was the recipe that started me down the path of cooking. This is not to say that I didn’t cook at all before I saw this recipe, but since I was 16 at the time, most of the cooking I had done up to this point involved helping my mom in the kitchen.
I do credit my parents for exposing me to basic cooking skills. In the summer, and on weekends when it was clear I was not doing homework, they’d rope me into the kitchen to chop veggies or clean dishes. Nothing complex or glamorous, but enough to start gaining familiarity with what it took to make a home cooked meal for a family of four. Then one summer they took it up a notch and started assigning responsibility for one dinner a week to both my sister and me. I think they were just looking to get out of making dinner two days a week. And to make matters worse, they explicitly stated that calling Domino’s didn’t count. Regardless, that was probably my first solo cooking, but it wasn’t really by choice.
Then one day this recipe shows up on our doorstep on the cover of Gourmet magazine. It looked awesomely decadent. I asked my mom off-handedly when she was going to make it, and after glancing at the ingredient list of egg yolks and heavy cream, she just laughed. But me, with all the grizzled angst of a teenager denied a dessert, defiantly roared “WELL THEN MAYBE I’LL MAKE IT!” (well, roaring may be a bit of an exaggeration…but there was insolence for sure).
So a few days later, when I had some time off of work, I set about making this recipe. Once you read it, you’ll see it’s pretty straightforward, but at the time, I had no idea what a water bath was, although I was pretty sure I didn’t have to take them to the shower. So I called my mom for clarification (I should mention that my parents were out of town, and THIS is what I decided to do with the house to myself… clearly I was a hell raiser)…and once that was settled, I popped these in the oven. They were shockingly successful.
Because the recipe makes eight serving, even for a voracious teenage boy, I had some leftover by the time my parents came home. Now, in our house, we had a standing rule that the chef of whatever dish was entitled to the last portion of it, and after coming home from a long day lifeguarding, I was really looking forward to a nice cool dessert. But what happened when I open the fridge? Not a trace to be found. So I asked my parents, who responded with, “Oh. Well, they were just so good we finished them. We didn’t think you’d mind.” And that’s the story behind why I murdered them.
…Or maybe it’s a story that I still needle them over. Either way, this was the recipe that got me try cooking on my own, and since then, I have really come to enjoy trying new things and learning new techniques. I hope that you find some recipes on our site that you enjoy. Happy eating!
Adapted from Gourmet.
- 6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
- 1⅓ cups heavy cream
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- 1½ to 2 teaspoons instant-espresso powder
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 300°F.
- Chop the chocolate as finely as possible. This will allow the chocolate to melt faster and more evenly, resulting in a smoother custard. In all honesty, there have been times that I have used regular chocolate chips for this, but it’s better with finely chopped chocolate.
- Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring cream, milk, espresso powder (to taste), and a pinch of salt just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until espresso powder is dissolved, then pour over chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
- Whisk together yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt in another bowl, then add warm chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-quart glass measure and cool completely, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. This would be a good time to start bringing some water to a boil for the water bath.
- Line bottom of a baking pan (large enough to hold ramekins) with a folded kitchen towel and arrange ramekins on towel. Poke several holes in a large sheet of foil with a skewer. Divide custard among 8 ramekins, then carefully add the hot water to the pan until the water comes ½ to ⅔ of the way up the ramekins.
- Bake custards in a hot water bath, pan covered tightly with foil, until custards are set around edges but still slightly wobbly in centers, 30 to 35 minutes. I typically check around 15 minutes, just because every oven is a little different.
- Transfer ramekins to a rack to cool completely, uncovered, about 1 hour. (Custards will set as they cool.) Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours.
2. A hot water bath means that you will put the ramekins in a larger cooking vessel (like a roasting pan), add hot water to the larger vessel, and then bake the whole thing in the oven. The water will help regulate the temperature to make for more even cooking.
3. Removing the ramekins can be tricky. Canning lifters work really well, but if you don’t have them, you can use regular tongs. Just be careful, because the ramekins can get slippery.
Original recipe from Gourmet February 2004