February 7th, 2011

Hearts of Dark Chocolate


Because my mom’s birthday is one week before Valentine’s Day, I always like to make her a dessert that captures both Birthday and Valentine Spirit.

For her–and for me—this means Dark Chocolate.

Each year, I seek to create that perfect chocolate delivery system-
a divine dessert that has both depth in nuanced flavors–
and lightness,
a dreamy melt on the tongue that reveals its complexities in layers.

One time, I made her fluffy mousse in martini glasses and for her 80th, it was that Amazonian multi-chocolate layered cupcake.


This year, I decided to use these Le Creuset heart-shaped crocks, and make chocolate pots de cremes. I had some compelling contenders in my pantry—gifts from the holidays that included an 80% bittersweet bar from France, a lustrous Italian “Venchi” that makes a bright crack when you break off a piece, and some fine Ghiradelli Cocoa.


Working with chocolate, I have learned about its receptivity. That different varieties combine well, and flavor profiles can be pushed by introducing fruits, extracts, liqueurs, coffee, caramel, cream, pepper, spice, salt. Its enjoyment is enhanced by these many layers of possibility.

But, it all begins with good quality chocolate–hard and glossy bars that, depending on the where their cacao beans were harvested, fermented, roasted, and blended, will impart pure pleasure.

We are fortunate that there are so many available in the marketplace!


Pots de cremes are rich custards, oven-simmered in hot water baths.

Here’s what I know:
They are not difficult to make. The ingredient list is not long. Assembly time goes quickly. Baking time is under an hour. They improve as they cool, refrigerate, and therefore can be made up well in advance of serving.

For these pots de cremes, I laced the chocolate mixture with some strawberry preserves. Not a lot–just a couple of tablespoons to add a nice berry note. It seemed like the right red thing.

I also used brown sugar, sparingly, as a dark sweetener for the cocoa. Feel free to improvise here. Some espresso would be good. Or a glug of creme de cacao. Or some orange zest—citrus is sublime with chocolate.


If you don’t have these (dare I say darling!) heart-shaped crocks, don’t worry. You can use white ceramic ramekins, or small souffle cups instead. I will tell you that I was very pleased with these LeCreuset baking pieces–not just for the sweet shape, but also for their convenient lids.

The pots de cremes must be covered while they bake. Instead of fitting pieces of aluminum foil over each ramekin, I could simply use the heart-shaped cover.


When they emerge from the oven, you’ll notice a sheen, and a little surface cracking. They will be fairly firm–a little middle jiggle–but that will set up in cooling.

Before serving, whip up some heavy cream, scarcely sweetened with confectioners sugar, and garnish. Fresh strawberries would be pretty too–but since my dad hates fresh strawberries (they have “googies” but that’s another post–) I couldn’t use them here.


And, if these weren’t for my mom, I’d scoop up a spoonful and show you the deep creaminess of the custard. In a perfect chocolate world, this could be your heart’s desire.

Oh, my.



(and Happy Birthday, Mom!)


2 Cups Half-and-Half
6 oz Bittersweet Chocolate (can be a mixture of chocolates, like 4 oz of 70% bittersweet and 2 oz semi-sweet)
1 T. Cocoa
2 T. Brown Sugar, divided
2-3 T. Strawberry Preserves
2 t. Vanilla
pinch Salt
4 Egg Yolks

In a saucepan on medium heat, warm the half-and-half. Stir in the chocolates, cocoa, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar. Continue stirring until the chocolate is melted throughout, and the cocoa powder is incorporated into the mixture. Remove from heat and stir in strawberry preserves, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar. Slowly pour the cooled (as in tepid) chocolate mixture into the beaten yolks. Beat well. Pour this into your ramekins. This will fill 4 8 oz containers.

Cover the ramekins with foil and place into a bain marie (water bath)

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 50-55 minutes. The pots de cremes will be set up, with a little jiggle. Uncover and allow to completely cool before refrigerating.

Serve with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.


Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes

22 Responses to “Hearts of Dark Chocolate”
  1. FOODESSA Says:

    A practical gal…loving daughter and a great baker that knows her chocolate! You’re my kind of foodie.
    Ohhh…and how I envy those stunning heart containers…too adorable.
    I’ll want to make these soon and maybe add some Kahlua to the mix ;o)

    Nancy…your photos sing in this post…just darling!

    Flavourful and loving wishes,

  2. Juliana Says:

    Oh! The heart shaped pots are so cute…and love the combination of chocolate and strawberries…perfect for valentine’s day :-)

  3. Nancy Says:

    I don’t think it gets any better than this! Such a nice touch to add the strawberry preserves. Happy birthday to your mom :)

  4. Kath Says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, both the desserts and the pots.

  5. Michele Napoli Says:

    What a lovely gift for your mother. These dark and creamy chocolate treats in their sweet pots must have made her very happy.

  6. Barbara Says:

    Hi Nance,
    These look wonderful! Forgive my ignorance, but how long do they stay in the water bath prior to going in the oven? I would not want to make any mistakes in preparing these little jewels! I might want to borrow those cute heart ramekins.

  7. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Barbara- sorry I did not make this clear! You place them in the water bath, and put the whole shebang right into the oven.
    Joanie has the little hearts right now (I have the lids)—but I am sure they will be empty of their chocolate goodness very soon.

  8. Wendy Says:

    Happy Birthday, Joannie. Beautiful birthday goodies from a thoughtful daughter.Joseph’s little heart ramekins are perfect.

  9. Fluffy Says:

    what a sweet story
    I would love such dark chocolate hearts for Valentines Day
    or any day

  10. Faith Says:

    Oh yes, dark chocolate is the perfect choice for both birthdays and Valentine’s! These look delicious and I love those sweet little heart ramekins! Happy Birthday to your mom!

  11. Anna Johnston Says:

    Beautiful little heart shaped ramekins Nancy, they are just lovely. I love your dark chocolate dessert, beautiful ingredients & beautiful presentation. Happy Birthday to your Mom too :)

  12. veggietestkitchen Says:

    those little heart pots are the cutest! i’m amazed at the range of le creuset out there. i have yet to make my first purchase. it looks so tempting =)

  13. Madeleine Says:

    Yay for Joanie’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, and special chocolate goodness from the cooking goddess. My kitchen is missing the appropriate cookware for this venture, but my eyes will now be peeled for ramekins or the like… I must make this!

  14. goodfoodmatters Says:

    those little ramekins are easy to find—but you can make the pots-de-cremes in objects that you might already have in your kitchen, such as ceramic coffee cups!

  15. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day Nancy! Those ramekins are so so so cute! And this pots de creme dessert has me swooning! I like the addition of the preserves, this is the first time I am seeing such added in a pots de creme recipe.

  16. Karen Says:

    Oh my, indeed! These are gorgeous, Nancy. Your little heart shaped pots are too cute, and the lid is so much easier than using foil. I’ll have to surprise my husband with your recipe…he loves anything with dark chocolate. Hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

  17. Barbara Says:

    I adore your little heart ramekins, Nancy! And as for the recipe? Oh My is right!! Belated Happy Valentines Day!

  18. Pandora Says:

    I look forward to making these.

  19. Candy Says:

    these look divine–and easy to make. can’t wait!

  20. Joyti Says:

    O my, so pretty! Your ramekins are adorable, and your little cakes look incredibly delicious.

  21. Sruthi @ Exercise, Food & Beyond Says:

    These look so cute, I will definitely make them.

  22. Good Food Matters » Blog Archive » Some of Dad’s Favorites Says:

    [...] his chocolatey treat, before formulating the rest of the menu. Sometimes I make mousse; sometimes, pots de cremes. Last year, I made chocolate [...]

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