Petits Pots de Crème

Serves 9

These petits pots de crème are rich and smooth because of the number of egg yolks in the mixture. Unlike crème caramel which contains egg whites as well as yolks, the consistency is too soft for the crème to be turned out of the little pots successfully.

scant litre milk
1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
100g dark dessert chocolate, chopped
12 egg yolks
200g sugar
2 level teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water
9 individual mousse pots with lids, or 9 small ramekins

1. Scald the milk by bringing just to boiling point with the vanilla pod: cover and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes.

2. Melt the chocolate over gentle heat, stirring from time to time. Remove from the heat when just melted and allow to cool.

3. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light and slightly thickened. Stir in the hot milk and strain this custard mixture, reserving the vanilla pod for future use. Set the oven at 170ºC (325ºF) gas 3. Transfer the custard to a jug and pour about a third of it into three of the mousse pots or ramekins. Stir the dissolved coffee into the remaining custard in the jug and pour about half of it into three more mousse pots. Stir the cool but still melted chocolate into the remaining custard and pour into the three remaining mousse pots.
NOTE: although this last custard combines vanilla, coffee and chocolate, the chocolate flavour will be predominant. Skim off the bubbles.

4. Set the mousse pots in a water bath and cover with lids or foil. Bring almost to a simmer on top of the stove. Transfer them to the heated oven and cook for 35-40 minutes or until almost set and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
NOTE: do not let the water boil and do not overcook, or the crèmes will curdle. Take them from the water bath and allow to cool. They can be made up to 24 hours ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

It is traditional in France for these petits pots de crème to be made in the flavours given here. You can make all three at once or an entire recipe for all 9 pots might be made with just one flavour - vanilla, coffee or chocolate - if preferred.

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