Pot de Creme for Valentine’s Day

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
chocolate pot de creme

We love the big heart-shaped box of chocolates from Walgreens as much as anyone, but, not every Valentine’s.  Some years it’s just plain time to put out by presenting your Valentine with your own cool dessert.  Pot de Creme puts out.

“Chocolate pudding” in French is served in a small cup and winds up a great meal with one or all of your Valentines.  Aside from finding good little serving cups, the chocolate is the only issue.

Have you shopped for chocolate lately?  Slick sleeves arranged by global latitude, cacao percentage, all decked out with cool logo stylishness.  Is Ghiradelli 60% cacao bittersweet so much better than regular old chocolate chips?  Just when we gave ourselves permission to drink wine without a guidebook, now chocolate has a terroir.  What’s up with that?

Essentially, the cacao butter percentage only measures the sweetness of chocolate, not the quality.  Semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate is in 60 to 70% range, milk chocolate at 30 to 40%, and unsweetened up there near 100%.  It’s akin to sheet thread count and spirit proof. Inexpensive 600 thread-count sheets sound fancy but are of inferior quality cotton.  Pricier 230 thread-count sheets are better, thread count notwithstanding.

Take Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.  “Eighty proof” is only saying that the whiskey is 40% alcohol and is no measure of the art of the master distiller, the quality of the Lynchburg cave spring water, or the effects of being aged in charred French oak barrels.

In a cacao nutshell, all the world’s few cacao tree varietals grow near the equator, enjoying the hot, humid climate of the tropical forest.  Like grapes and coffee, the fruit’s characteristics are the result of the soil and the weather conditions of its region. The restaurant chocolate name-drop started in the early 1990s with the French Valrhona brand.  “Valrhona” on a menu really meant “pastry chef.”  Valrhona calls itself the leader in “rare origin chocolate” and offers a Grand Cru De Terroir collection created with beans from specific geographical regions with a specific cacao percentage like Alpaco 66% from Equador, Nyangbo 68% from Ghana, and Tainori 64% from the Dominican Republic.

You get what you pay for, so sure splurge on a variety of chocolates and do your own blind tasting.  In addition to the growing supermarket selection, Valrhona and other premium brands can be had at Whole Foods.

Here’s our simple Cheater Chef Pot de Crème that works with any chocolate.  You pick your terroir, cacao level, feel, aroma, and finish.

NOTE: Kraft says that good old Baker’s bittersweet chocolate contains 67% cacao.  Baker’s chocolate makes a fine cheater chef pot de crème, no kidding.  Serve this spectacular jewel in tiny demitasse or espresso cups.


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