I fell in love with chiles and the heat they bring to the kitchen and the table during my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. Chile peppers may have originated botanically in my particular portion of the world, but here in the American South, we never did take to them much in terms of everyday cooking. Exceptions abound, particularly in lusciously complex Louisiana, but here in North Carolina, it’s a kiss of paprika on deviled eggs and potato salad and that’s about it. But in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, in Mexico, in India and Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Senegal and Ghana and all around these lands, chiles are standard and everyday features in an abundance of dazzling dishes. I’m so glad that my friend and fellow cookbook author Judith Finlayson turned her attention and culinary and research chops to the task of researching these kitchen treasures and writing a whole big book, The Chile Pepper Bible, about them, with 250 recipes to help us all get acquainted.
Judith’s latest book shares much with all her other books: It’s comprehensive, compelling, and filled with knowledge and inspiration for cooks. Whether you already love chiles or are just beginning to heat things up in your cooking, it’s a treasure. It makes a fine reference book as well, with the #411 on chiles as an ingredient and on an array of traditional dishes as well as inspirations as she delved into her subject over time. To order a copy, check HERE, or HERE, or HERE, or HERE.
Since I already have a few chile-fueled savory dishes in my repertoire, I wanted to try one of Judith’s sweet recipes, and of course chocolate + chile caught my eye speedy-quick. This recipe for Chile-Chocolate Pots looked wonderful and simple, so I set up my mise-en-place and got cooking. With a few straightforward moves and a little time, I had chile-chocolate pots in my oven, divided into ramekins and elegant coffee cups, all cooking gently in a bain marie, which is a baking pan with hot water filling it halfway up the sides of the cookingl vessels. This lets them cook gently, a boon for delicate dishes like this custard.
Here are my chocolate pots, with a flourish of chile on top. This is because 1) I am an inventive culinary genius — actually more that I am resourceful and good at redirecting. I forgot to add the remaining chile to the chocolate pots just before putting them into the oven. So I added the chile to the whipped cream and sprinkled a little on top. “All going the same place!” as my father used to say when I got too fussy, and he was right — many kitchen surprises can be adapted or fixed, and here nothing was lost. I kind of love the look too! I also used a mixture of paprika (3/4) and cayenne (1/4) since I didn’t have Aleppo pepper. While I plan to find some and learn about it and enjoy it, I wanted to make this pronto, and I had everything on hand except cream.
I used a bittersweet chocolate bar (semisweet and bittersweet are interchangeable here in the USA). It was a 4 ounce bar, divided into big flat squares so it was easy to calculate 3 1/2 ounces even without a scale. I have one, but the batter died. Now it rides around in my car, waiting for me to remember to go the special battery store where they can open it up and install the special little flat round (think necco wafer) battery to get me back in to action. The recipe makes 4 generous servings, about 1/2 cup each, which may sound skimpy but for such a rich treat, is just right. You could easily get 5 good servings, with a little left over in a side container so you can taste test — just to be sure, don’t you know?
Here’s super close up of my chile chocolate pot which in fact is in a petite and lovely little fine china coffee cup. I love having a reason to use my little tiny silverplate spoons and my china, and this was the perfect one. This is SO delicious and luxurious, you will not believe how simple it is to make. For this reason, I recommend it as a holiday season dessert if you are looking for something fantastically tasty, rich, and completely make-ahead. Chocolate and chile love each other and I love them both together.
Check out Judith Finlayson’s Facebook Author page right here. And if you are on Instagram, do follow her @judith.finlayson . Her posts are lovely and amazing, both in her home kitchen and as she travels around with food and other delights on her mind.
- 31⁄2 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
- 3⁄4 cup heavy or whipping (35%) cream
- 3⁄4 cup whole milk
- 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper, divided (or ¾ tsp sweet paprika and ¼ teaspoon cayenne)
- 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- Sweetened whipped cream
- In a medium saucepan, combine chocolate and cream. Cook over low heat, stirring, until chocolate is melted. Add milk and sugar, whisking well to combine, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, egg yolk, cocoa powder, 1⁄2 tsp (2 mL) of the Aleppo pepper, vanilla and salt. Whisk in 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) of the chocolate mixture until well combined. Gradually whisk in remaining chocolate mixture until blended.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Place fine-mesh sieve over measuring cup and strain chocolate mixture into cup. Pour into ramekins and sprinkle remaining Aleppo pepper over top. Cover ramekins tightly with foil. Set in roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Place pan in preheated oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325°F (160°C). Bake just until the centers of the custards quiver, about 25 minutes.
- Remove ramekins from pan and let cool completely. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours. Serve each with a dollop of whipped cream.
- This makes four 1⁄2-cup (125 mL) servings. If you prefer, you can make 6 smaller servings, reducing the cooking time slightly.
- To make these chocolate pots in your slow cooker: You may need to play with cups or ramekins to find 6 that will fit comfortably in your slow cooker. Demitasse cups make a spectacular presentation. I also use taller French porcelain ramekins, which fit nicely in my largest (7-quart/7 L) slow cooker. Place them in the stoneware insert and pour in hot water to come halfway up the side of the cups. Cook on High for 1 hour, then cool and chill as directed. If your slow cooker will only accommodate 4 ramekins, they will obviously be fuller, so expect the cooking time to be closer to 2 hours.