It seems no matter how one feels about Valentine’s Day (love it, despise it, just another day), similar feelings run deep about chocolate (love it, despise it, just another food). Chocolate has been linked with Valentine’s Day for a while. As YourTango.com says:
“We all know chocolate is an aphrodisiac. It contains an endorphin called phenylethylamine, levels of which in the brain have been linked to falling in love. Chocolate has been used as a gift since the days of the Aztecs, who believed it to be a source of spiritual wisdom, energy and higher sexual prowess. It was used as a nuptial aid and served at wedding ceremonies. How could the Aztecs be wrong?”
I do like chocolate. A lot. Especially dark chocolate with a higher cacao percentage (I’ve been known to chow down on a certain 99% cacao chocolate bar from a little chocolatier in Santa Barbara). So for Valentine’s Day, and many other “special” occasions, I bring out that Betty Crocker’s Pot de Creme au Chocolat (poh-de-krem-o-cho-ko-la) recipe that I’ve been using since I was in High School.
The French came up with this “pot of creme” dessert in the 17th century, but don’t go with the water bath version. It won’t have the silky mouthfeel that this technique has. It’s so simple with its classic technique, why go anywhere else? My only variations are using a dark, high cacao chocolate (instead of sweet chocolate) and adding a lavender infusion.
Lavender Pot de Creme au Chocolat
For two 4-ounce servings or four 2-ounce servings (It’s rich! I find smaller is better!):
In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup heavy cream almost to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons lavender buds. Remove from heat and cover. Allow to steep for 30 minutes. (This infusion also makes a killer base for ice cream).
Set aside 2 egg yolks, whisked. Chop 4 ounces dark chocolate (I use 72% cacoa). After the 30 minutes steeping, strain the lavender buds from the cream. Pour the cream back into the small saucepan, adding the chopped chocolate and 2 tablespoons sugar (I use organic evaporated cane sugar). Heat the mixture and stir constantly until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Remove saucepan from heat and gradually whisk while pouring half the heated cream, sugar, and chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Then whisk this tempered mixture into the remainder of the heated cream, sugar, and chocolate mixture, whisking thoroughly. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Pour into either two 4-ounce or four 2-ounce ramekins. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Mixture will thicken as they cool. Serve garnished with heavy cream whipped with a splash of vanilla and berries of your choice or lavender fronds, if available.