Annie's husband, Pierson, was out of town helping some friends of ours shoot a movie and Annie, being the kind of girl who requires a lot of attention, all but demanded that I hang out with her until his return. Friday, Annie, Mark, myself and out friend Laura headed down to Abbot Kinney in Venice where a friend of Laura's runs a fantastic little shop that specializes in clothing imported from the UK. For the store's one-year anniversary the proprieptress threw a party, complete with fashion show, to celebrate. Having consumed a bit too much white wine on a stomach that was for all intents and purposes, empty, Mark and I crashed at Annie's place.
The next day, Annie and I were going to get together and cook something, but due to my hangover, I couldn't possibly. Instead, we met up at Century City Mall to go see "Friends With Money." After we ate Greek food at the mall's gorgeous new food court, we killed time at the bookstore, where Annie ended up purchasing Martha's new baking handbook.
Sunday bright an early, Annie called me. "Let's cook something today!" she chirped through the phone. I sighed. I was sort of in the mood to bake a chicken. I had not made one all winter long, and with the days getting longer and warmer, the appeal of heating up the oven for hours was quickly dissipating. "Fine," I told her. "But we're going to roast a chicken." I suggested that she make the dessert, using her new handbook. Later, sitting in her dining room, we leafed through the book trying to find the perfect finish to Balthazar's roasted chicken with herbed butter. Everything looked elegant and delicious, but as the afternoon wore on, Annie and I began to question if making a chicken as well as an involved dessert was feasible. I looked through the Balthazar cookbook and found this recipe. "Why don't we make this?" I suggested showing her the picture. "It's basically just melting chocolate with cream, mixing it with some egg yolks and then baking it for an hour. It's easy! You don't even had to do a double broiler." She shrugged. "Fine with me." She and I headed over to Surfas to get some chocolate and when we returned, she made herself a rum and coke while I started on the dessert.
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces Valrhona semisweet chocolate, coursely chopped (I used 1/2 Valrhona and 1/2 Sharffen Berger 70% chocolate)
6 large egg yolks
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla. Whisk to combine and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Add the chopped chocolate and whisk until melted. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs yolks. In a slow steady stream, add the chocolate-cream mixture, whisking until smooth. Divide the mixture among 6 ramekins, small custard bowls, or espresso cups (about 6 ounces each) and place them in a large casserole or high-sided baking dish.
Make a bain-marie (or water bath), by pouring cold water into the casserole so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins or custard bowls. Cover tightly with foil and bake on the center rack for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The custards shouls jiggle slightly in the center when finished.
Let cool to room temperature then place in the regrigerator. Serve cool (although I sort of wanted to try one warm, while the smell of dark chocolate still permeated the air). We topped ours with fresh whipped cream, grated Sharffen Berger chocolate and a teensy sprig of mint. How cute is that?
And listen, they taste better than they look. Intensely chocolatey, not super sweet, and with a most interesting consistency - not as loose as a pudding - it's very dense, almost like a soft, cold chocolate truffle that you eat with a spoon. Very opulent. Keep in mind, however, that because these are so rich, they are probably better for two people to share or you could do like the recipe suggested and make them in tiny little espresso cups, which would probably be just the perfect amount for one person.