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Less is more

Very different treats can be whipped up using the same few ingredients. Both should be enjoyed in moderation, though

 

Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee

 

I find it fascinating that the same ingredients can yield very different results depending on how they are prepared. In this case, we're using cream, milk, chocolate, sugar and egg yolks to make one dessert that's dense and decadently chocolate-y; and an ice cream that's delicious on its own, or can be used as a base for other creations.

 

Chocolate pots de crème (pictured)
This is a very sophisticated, very rich dessert that needs to be served in small portions.

Many recipes for pots de crème call for the mixture to be poured straight into ramekins or - for a prettier presentation - demitasse cups, then baked in a water bath. I find it easier to whisk the ingredients over a double boiler, then pour the mixture into the cups - it cooks more evenly, you don't need to move baking trays filled with hot water (which sloshes out) in and out of the oven, and you can take it from the heat as soon as it's done - which is when it reaches 65 degrees Celsius. You need to use an instant-read, probe-type thermometer.

 

125 grams good quality bittersweet chocolate with about 75 per cent cacao solids, finely chopped
125ml cream
125ml whole milk
40 grams sugar, or to taste
¼ tsp fine sea salt
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
40ml liquor of choice, such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau, brandy or cognac
Whipped cream, fresh fruit and/or chocolate shavings, optional

 

Put the chopped chocolate into a heat-proof bowl. Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan, place it over a medium flame and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Pour this mixture over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Add the sugar and salt and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Pour a ladleful of the cream/milk/chocolate into the bowl with the egg yolks and whisk immediately. Repeat this three times (this heats the egg yolks slowly; if you add the hot liquid all at once, they will scramble), then pour the remaining chocolate mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks and whisk to combine. Set a fine strainer over the bowl that held the chocolate mixture. Pour the custard mixture through the strainer into the bowl.

Get a double boiler and pour simmering water into the bottom. Place the bowl over the double boiler (the bottom should not touch the water), set over a very low flame. Whisk the mixture constantly, using the probe thermometer to check the temperature. When it reaches 65 degrees, remove the bowl from the double boiler then whisk in the liquor. Wipe the bottom of the bowl, then carefully pour the mixture into four to six demitasse cups or small ramekins. Put a piece of paper towel over each cup or ramekin (but not touching the surface of the chocolate) then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least six hours. (The paper towel absorbs the condensation so it doesn't drip into the dessert.) When it's time to serve, unwrap the cups and set them on their saucers. If you like, garnish the dessert with whipped cream and fresh fruit or chocolate shavings.

 

Chocolate ice cream
This is a recipe that I've been working on and tweaking through the years, trying different chocolates (although I keep going back to Valrhona) and types of cream (I used to use double cream but find it makes the ice cream too dense). I also change the liquor depending on what I'm serving the ice cream with. For rum-raisin ice cream, soak raisins in rum for several hours, then drain the fruit and fold it into the ice cream after it's been churned. For brandied cherry ice cream, prepare the cherries well in advance (I have some that are several years old): put pitted cherries in a jar, cover with brandy and leave for at least a week; drain the fruit and chop it into small pieces, then fold it into the churned ice cream.

 

300ml milk, divided
200 grams bittersweet chocolate with a cacao content of about 75 per cent, finely chopped
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
80 grams granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
200ml cream
20ml liquor of choice, such as rum, cognac, brandy, Grand Marnier or Cointreau

 

Put the chocolate in a bowl. Heat 100ml of milk until simmering then pour it over the chocolate and whisk until smooth.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until dissolved. Heat the remaining milk until simmering, then remove it from the flame. Add a ladleful of the milk to the egg yolk mixture and whisk immediately. Repeat this twice. Pour the yolk mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk and set it over a very low flame. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, stirring in a back-and-forth motion to scrape the entire bottom of the pan. Watch it carefully - the mixture is thick enough when it leaves a track mark when you draw your finger through it on the wooden spoon.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into the bowl holding the chocolate. Whisk the ingredients, then stir in the cream and the liquor. Strain through a fine sieve. Cool to room temperature, whisking often, then cover with cling film and refrigerate until very cold. Churn it in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Pack the ice cream into an air-tight container and freeze for several hours.

 

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