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Rich and chocolaty pots de creme

Pots de Creme is a creamy, smooth, extra-rich baked custard. This recipe is from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts (New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $15). She notes that this is one of the most popular of all French chocolate desserts and is her favorite. It is quick and easy to prepare, but it is best made several hours before serving, or in the morning for that night. Chocolate Pots de Creme 2 Cups light cream 4 ounces semisweet chocolate 6 egg yolks, large or extra-large 2 tablespoons granulated sugar Pinch of salt 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup whipping cream, for topping

Adjust rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place 1 1/2 cups cream in small, heavy saucepan over low heat. Place remaining 1/2 cup cream and chocolate in top of a large double boiler over hot water on moderate heat. In a mixing bowl, stir yolks lightly just to mix -- do not beat until foamy.

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When cream is scalded (a light skin forms on top) stir in sugar and salt and remove from heat. Stir chocolate mixture with a small wire whisk until perfectly smooth. Off heat, add hot cream to chocolate very gradually, stirring constantly to keep smooth. Gradually stir chocolate mixture into yolks and stir in vanilla.

Return mixture to top of double boiler over hot water on low heat and cook, stirring constantly with rubber spatula for 3 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer into a pitcher.

Pour into individual pots de creme cups, but do not fill all the way. Place in a shallow baking pan and pour hot water half the depth of the cups. Cover the cups.

Bake for 22 minutes. A knife will not come out clean and custard will look soft, but it will become firmer as it chills.Cool on a wire rack with cover removed, then refrigerate a few hours. Serve with a spoonful of sweetened whipped cream on top. Gristmill Grahams 1 cup dark brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar 3/4 cup shortening 2 eggs 2 cups flour 1 cup graham flour 1 teaspoon soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon nutmeg 2 teaspoons vanilla 1 cup dates, finely chopped

Cream together white and brown sugars and shortening. Add eggs one at a time and beat well. Sift together the flours, soda, salt, and nutmeg. Stir these ingredients into the batter and beat well. Fold in dates and vanilla. Beat until blended.

This recipe may be dropped as cookies on a cookie sheet or put into a rectangular pan and baked as bar cookies. Whether drop or bar cookies, they should be baked at 375 degrees F. for 20 minutes. If baked as bars, they should be cut as soon as they are cooled slightly and rolled in sugar.

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