The Dessert That Wasn’t, Or How We Almost Ended Up Eating Oreos On Thanksgiving
November 29, 2008 6 Comments
All of the cooking shows on television give me a false sense of actually being able to cook. I have a habit of thinking that in my own kitchen I can try a recipe once and then can tinker with it and play around with ingredients and it will come out better than the test kitchen version. I do it all the time, to varying success, and it’s the few times that I actually like what I’ve created that keep me going.
This year’s Thanksgiving dessert was not one of those times. Several months ago, I tried for the first time a recipe from Nigella Lawson for a chocolate pot, or petits pots aux chocolats. It is a richer version of a chocolate mousse that is ridiculously easy and super delicious—creamy, a little spicy due to the allspice and dense in chocolate flavor, kind of like eating a bowl of the inside of a truffle. I only made it once, tucked the recipe away for future reference and quickly forgot about it. Enter Thanksgiving dessert. My standby pie is a pumpkin pie brulée—basically pumpkin pie with a caramelized sugar topping. Over the years it has given me enough trouble that I was ready to try something new. As I was shopping for ingredients, Nigella’s chocolate pots popped into my mind. Why not substitute the pumpkin for the chocolate? A pumpkin mousse would be the perfect way to finish off a heavy dinner, right?
I followed her recipe exactly, except I used the spices I would normally use for a pumpkin pie—cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice. I thought, fleetingly, that there may be something that solidified the chocolate version that may be lacking in the pureed pumpkin I was using, but my knowledge of these principles is so limited it’s basically non-existent. I whipped everything up in the blender, poured it into a serving bowl and put it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, the day before Thanksgiving, I take it out and it hasn’t set. It is still the liquid that I poured from the blender close to 15 hours earlier. At that point, I was not only screwed, I was really annoyed. I had no desire to actually make another pie—I still had stuffing to make—and for the love of all things good, how did I screw up a recipe for mousse that had six ingredients? So I did what any would-be chef would do: I pulled out four different cookbooks and combined recipes for custard, mousse, pastry cream and crème brulée. You see where this is going, right? I ended up adding two more egg yolks, flour, powdered sugar and corn starch to my liquid pumpkin in a saucepan and whipped it until it had thickened. In my mind, I would throw it into ramekins when it had cooled, caramelize the top and call it a crème brulée custard.
Yeah, not so much. The flavors were all there, it tasted like pumpkin pie filling, but two tiny tastes as I poured it into the ramekins hit my stomach like a quarter pounder with cheese. The flour and cornstarch had made it super heavy, exactly the wrong consistency for mousse, custard or crème brulée. I couldn’t ruin a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with this dessert. Lucky for me, my previous mishaps in the kitchen have taught me to always have a back up. In this case, the original chocolate pot. Not exactly the traditional holiday dessert, but better than Oreos.
Chocolate Pot Recipe from Nigella Bites
Ø 6 ounces best quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
Ø ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Ø 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
Ø ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Ø ½ teaspoon allspice
Ø 1 egg
Ø 8 ¼ cup pots or custard cuts
Crush the chocolate to smithereens in the food processor (or blender). Heat the cream and milk until just about boiling, add the vanilla and allspice and pour through the funnel over the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds. Process for 30 seconds, then crack the egg down the funnel and process for 45 seconds.
Pour into whatever little cups you’re serving in, and sit them in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Take them out about 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 2 cups, enough to fill 8 little pots of approximately ¼ cup capacity.