Eastern European Rye Bread

Today is one of those days when spring seems just able to keep winter at bay; when a chill wind blows a cold rain into your face and drives you to the warmth of the kitchen. In other words: a perfect day for hearty pork goulash and chewy rye bread.

As one might imagine, there are hundreds of rye bread recipes on the Internet. Rather than following any one, I read several and set out to design my own. Intending a moderately heavy loaf, I chose a 60/40 ratio of rye to wheat flour and a hydration level of 68%. To make a 500 gram loaf I needed the following ingredients and baker’s percentages:

Rye flour

176 grams

60%

Bread flour

118 grams

40%

Water

200 grams

68%

Yeast

6 grams

2%

Salt

6 grams

2%

Had I the time I would have made an authentic rye starter, but I did not so I simply replaced half of the yeast with sourdough starter from the crock that lives on my kitchen counter, using the rule of thumb that 240 grams of starter is equivalent to 6 grams of yeast. Adjusting the quantities for the water and flour in the starter, I developed my ingredient list.

Note: I designed and tested the recipe using metric units. The customary units are approximate equivalents. Do not mix units.

Ingredients

 

100% hydration sourdough starter

120 grams

4 ounces

Warm water

140 grams

5 ounces

Active dry yeast

3 grams

½ envelope

Salt

6 grams

1 teaspoon

Rye flour

174 grams

6 ounces

Unbleached white bread flour

56 grams

2 ounces

Caraway seeds (optional)

8 grams

1 Tablespoon

Method

While I usually use my KitchenAid stand mixer to make bread, I find that it does not work very well with this small quantity of dough so I kneaded it by hand.

Weigh the ingredients into a bowl and mix with a spoon until combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and, with floured hands, knead for a few minutes. Put the dough into a floured proofing basket or an oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside to rise. Allow three or four hours for it to double in size.

If you have a pizza stone put it in the oven, otherwise put the loaf on a lightly oiled sheet pan. Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). (I use the convect pastry setting on my convection oven.) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The best way to determine doneness is with a thermometer; the center of the loaf should be between 200°F and 210°F (93°C and 99°C).

Review: River Bistro Easter Brunch

Easter Sunday brunch is an occasion to celebrate family and spring; not necessarily a gourmet feast. And that is a good thing if you went to the buffet at the River Bistro in the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Binghamton. Aside from the beautiful weather and pleasant company of in-laws the affair was pretty much a disaster.

We arrived at 1:50 for our 2 PM reservation and were made to wait in a hallway with a small herd of misbehaved children and a large Easter Bunny until 2:10 when we were ushered to our table which had not quite been set. I had to ask that cups and saucers be provided at half the places. The tables were not, as we had expected, in the pleasant bistro overlooking the Chenango River but in an adjacent windowless ballroom of bland decoration and indifferent lighting. The pastel paper balls hanging from the ceiling and branchy table pieces holding Easter eggs added to the general institutional ambiance. The tinny, teeny-boppy music only added to the din. The long rows of numbered tables reminded me of the many business luncheons I had endured during my career, including some in that very room.

The buffet was set up in the hallway running alongside the ballroom. On the one side was an omelet and waffle station, a salad bar, lunch-y entrees, and a carving station. Along the other was a typical hotel breakfast bar familiar to any frequent traveler. I started with a sampling from the latter—scrambled eggs, a rasher of bacon, a few home fries. I completed my plate with a piece of foccaia, cold roasted vegetables, and some greens from the salad bar. I have no idea what the salad dressing was because there were no labels on the bowls on offer. Everything was, in a word, lukewarm, as was the coffee served at the table. The only thing that stood out on this pass was the foccaia which was rather stale.

Undeterred I returned for a pass at the lunch items. I tried the roasted fingerling potatoes and the stuffed chicken passing on the salmon. Again, lukewarm. The potatoes were greasy and the chicken overcooked in the best tradition of rubber-chicken business meals.

By the time I was ready to sample the carving station, the roast beef was gone. The rolls were, like the foccaia, quite stale. The lamb, however, was the highpoint of the meal. The carver served me a generous portion of crispy outside meat—lukewarm, of course, but very good none the less. The accompanying pesto and thyme butter were more a distraction than anything else.

Finally, inside the cavernous ballroom was a dessert buffet featuring Doubletree’s signature macadamia-chocolate chip cookies, ice cream with various topping, and selection of cakes and brownies. I treated myself to one of the latter, which was not bad.

The one bright spot of the afternoon was the service. A small army of black-clad waiters scurried about ninja-like cheerfully serving coffee (lukewarm) and carrying away empty plates.We were there near the end of what must have been a long day, yet everyone of them was chipper and alert. Well done.

So, all in all, it was nice to see my in-laws recently returned from their winter sojourn in Florida and to enjoy the lovely spring weather. But I would certainly give the River Bistro Easter Brunch a miss next time. And I hope that no one becomes ill from the improperly held food.

Pane Rustica

pane rusticaRecently the King Arthur Flour Company introduced White Whole Wheat Flour to the supermarket. Because it is milled from soft white winter wheat rather than the more familiar hard red spring wheat it is significantly lighter. As it happens, white winter wheat is one of two varieties traditionally grown in Italy—the other being durum used to make pasta—so it seemed logical to try white whole wheat flour in a simple rustic Italian bread. (I tried a loaf using only that flour and found it rather dense, so I reduced it to about a third of the total flour content.)

Rustic breads typically have high water to flour ratios, i.e. high hydration percentage. That yields a loaf with large holes but also makes the dough very sticky and hard to handle. Not kneading the dough at all, or only very little, gets around that problem. For this bread I chose hydration of 72% and added a good dose of olive oil to give it an Italian flair. I decided on a loaf of around 750 grams (26 ounce) which gave me a starting recipe of:

Ingredient

Weight

Baker’s Percentage

Flour

436 grams

100%

Water

313 grams

72%

Yeast

9 grams

2%

Sugar

17 grams

4%

Salt

9 grams

2%

Olive oil

22 grams

5%

 

For a bit more authenticity I decided to replace about half the yeast with sourdough starter. Using a rule of thumb that 40 grams of sourdough is equivalent to a gram of yeast and adjusting the flour and water to compensate for what is in the starter, I came up with the following recipe.

Note: I designed and tested the recipe using metric units. The customary units are approximate equivalents. Do not mix units.

Ingredients

 

100% hydration sourdough starter

160 grams

¾ cup

Warm water

233 grams

1 cup plus 2 teaspoons

Sugar

17 grams

1½ Tablespoons

Salt

9 grams

1¾ teaspoons

Yeast

5 grams

1 envelope

Olive oil

22 grams

2 Tablespoon

White whole-wheat flour

156 grams

1¼ cup

Unbleached white bread flour

200 grams

1⅔ cup

Method

Combine the sourdough starter, water, sugar, and salt in a large bowl then add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Mix in the olive oil. Weigh the flour out into a separate bowl. Slowly add the flour to the liquid, stirring with a wooden spoon to form a thick, sticky dough. Flour your hands and form the dough into a ball. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap directly on the dough. Set aside to proof until doubled in size. At the end of proofing, punch down the dough and turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Using floured hands shape it into a loaf and cut four diagonal slashed across it with a sharp knife or with a razor blade.

The best way to bake this bread is on a pizza stone. If you do not have one, bake it on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Traditionally the loaf would have been put into the oven using a peel dusted with corn meal. Since the dough is so sticky, I prefer to use a piece of parchment paper. In either case, place the formed loaf onto the parchment paper, spritz lightly with water, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to double in size.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 205°C (400°F). If using a stone, be sure to allow at least 30 minutes for it to get hot. Bake the bread for 40 to 45 minutes. The best way to determine when it is done is with a thermometer; the center of the loaf should be between 200°F and 210°F (93°C and 99°C).

Egg and Cream Sourdough Bread

This bread is rich and golden—perfect for breakfast toast and utterly decadent as French toast. For readers who were interested by recent posts on baker’s percentages and designing bread recipes here are the technical details:

I started out by choosing a hydration level of 62% because that seems about ideal for toast. The two 500-gram loaves I wanted called for 620 grams of flour and 384 grams of water along with 12 grams each of yeast and salt. A brief online search provided a rule of thumb that 240 grams of 100% hydration sourdough starter replaces one envelop, 6 grams, of yeast. I chose to replace half the yeast in my basic recipe. Because 100% hydration sourdough starter is 50:50 by weight flour to water, I reduced the flour and water by 120 grams each making my basic recipe:

Sourdough starter

240 grams

Flour

500 grams

Water

264 grams

Yeast

6 grams

Salt

12 grams

 

For toasting bread I like to add a 4% baker’s percentage of sugar and of fat, in this case 24 grams each. The two eggs I used contributed 10 grams of fat and for the rest I used cream. Since heavy cream 36% butter fat I needed 40 grams of it. The eggs also contained 80 grams of water and the cream 25 grams so I adjusted the amount of water accordingly. Here, then, is the final recipe, using white whole wheat in place of ⅕ of the flour:

Note: I designed and tested the recipe using metric units. The customary units are approximate equivalents. Do not mix units.

Ingredients

 

100% hydration sourdough starter

240 grams

8 ounces

Warm water

160 grams

6 ounces

Heavy cream

40 grams

3 Tablespoons

Sugar

24 grams

2 Tablespoons

Eggs

2 large

2 large

Active dry yeast

6 grams

1 envelope

Salt

12 grams

2 teaspoons

White whole-wheat flour

100 grams

3½ ounces

Unbleached white bread flour

400 grams

14 ounces

Method

Weigh the sourdough starter, water, cream, sugar, and eggs into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer and combine them using the paddle beater on medium speed. Stir in the yeast and salt then weigh in the flour. Fit the dough hook onto the mixer and knead at the speed recommended by the mixer manufacturer (2 for KitchenAid) until the dough is smooth, about 7 to 10 minutes.

At this point I like to weigh the dough to make dividing it later more accurate.

Warm a large, heavy earthenware or glass bowl with hot water then dry and pour in enough oil to just cover the bottom. Form the dough into a large ball, place it in the bowl, and roll it around so that it is evenly coated with the oil. Put a piece of plastic wrap loosely directly on the dough and cover the bowl with kitchen towel. Proof until doubled in size, about two to three hours depending on the temperature. Note that a long rising at a lower temperature yields a more finely-textured bread.

At the end of proofing, punch down the dough and divide it into whatever size loaves you prefer. Form the loaves and place them in lightly-oiled pans. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again until the dough is just above the sides of the pan.

Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C) for small loaves or 375°F (190°C) for large ones (I use the convect pastry setting on my convection oven at 375°). Bake for 35 minutes for small loaves to 50 minutes for large ones. The best way to determine doneness is with a thermometer; the center of the loaf should be between 200°F and 210°F (93°C and 99°C).

egg and cream sourdough toast

Salisbury Steak

salisbury steak (2)When I was a young Air Force Russian language student at Indiana University nearly a half-century ago, I enjoyed visiting a restaurant called The Gables that, besides being on the site of the former Book Nook where Hoagy Carmichael claimed to have written his classic ballad “Stardust,” served a delicious Salisbury steak at a price consistent with my $100 a month airman’s pay. At this remove I can honestly say that I do not remember what it tasted like but I have had a soft spot for Salisbury steak ever since. The dish itself was invented in 1888 by Dr. J. H. Salisbury, a physician from Cortland County NY, between Binghamton and Syracuse, who was an early promoter of a low carbohydrate diet—in fact he recommended eating his steak three times a day. During the World War I mania to remove German names from common items, hamburger steak was often called Salisbury steak. Today, while the US Department of Agriculture mandates that hamburger steak be made of 100% skeletal beef, i.e. no organ meat, commercially prepared Salisbury steak may by law contain up to 25% pork, beef heart meat, and up to 30% fat. This, if nothing else, should convince you of the wisdom of making it from scratch.

Note: to make this recipe gluten-free use corn flakes chopped in the food processor in place of bread crumbs and rice flour instead of wheat flour.

Ingredients

Onion                                                   1 medium, about 100 grams, divided use

Mushrooms                                       6 medium, about 140 grams

Garlic                                                    1 large clove, about 10 grams

Butter and/or oil                             about 30 grams (2 Tablespoons) divided use

Ground beef                                      340 grams (12 ounces)

Worcestershire sauce                   30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons), or to taste

Bread crumbs                                   30 grams (¼ cup)

Parsley                                                15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) fresh or dried

Salt and pepper                                to taste

Flour                                                     15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon)

Beef stock                                          about 250 milliliters (1 cup)

Thyme leaves                                   2 milliliters (¼ teaspoon) fresh or dried

Salt and pepper                                to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 375° (350° for convection).

Peel the onion and cut into two pieces through the root. Thinly slice one half and set aside. Coarsely chop the other half and put into a food processor. Separate the mushroom stems from the caps. Slice the caps thinly and set aside. Put the garlic and mushroom stems into the food processor with the onion and mince finely. Sauté the minced mushrooms and vegetables in a small amount of butter until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms fragrant. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl combine beef with cooled onion mixture, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, and parsley. Form into two oblong rolls about the size and shape of a baking potato then flatten them into 1 centimeter (½ inch) thick. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Heat about 15 grams (1 Tablespoon) of butter or 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) of oil (or a combination of the two) in a heavy cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and brown the patties for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove to the prepared sheet pan and place in the oven to cook to an internal temperature of 70°C (160°F), about 15 minutes.

Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium, adjust the fat to about 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon), and sauté the sliced onions until softened. Add the sliced mushroom caps and sauté until lightly browned. Sprinkle on the flour and cook for about minute, stirring constantly. Slowly add the stock a bit at a time stirring constantly. Be sure to let each addition come to a boil before adding the next otherwise you will not know just how think the gravy is becoming. Keep adding stock until the gravy is the consistency you like. Stir in the dried thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Serve the steaks with mashed potatoes and the gravy, accompanied by a green salad or vegetable.

Designing Bread

As you could probably tell from my last post, after years of making bread I decided to delve a bit more deeply into the science behind the art. So, armed with just enough knowledge to be dangerous (those who know me well are aware that I never read the instructions through to the end before I start assembling something), I set out to design a batch of bread.

Bread is basically just flour, water, salt, and yeast in various proportions with stuff often added for flavor. The ratio of water to flour, called hydration, plays a major role in determining the texture of the final product. In general, the higher the hydration level, the stickier the dough and larger the holes in the finished bread. Dense, chewy bagels have a hydration level between 55% and 58%. French baguettes usually are around 60% hydration while no-knead ciabatta can be as high as 75%. Since I wanted a fairly soft bread for toast I chose 62%, which is typical of American loaf bread. The baker’s percentage of salt is typically 2% and that of yeast between 1% and 2%. Too much yeast can make the bread unpleasantly sour and, some say, prone to going stale quickly, so it is best to err on the low side. The worst that will happen then is that it will take longer to proof the dough. Thus far our bread recipe, in baker’s percentages, looks like this:

Flour

100%

Water

62%

Salt

2%

Yeast

2%

 

The most common additions to basic bread are sweeteners and fats. A bit of sugar helps the bread toast nicely and some oil or butter makes its texture smoother. From experience I have found that a baker’s percentage of 4% is about right for each. Milk is also a popular ingredient in bread. Whole milk is 87% water, 4% fat, and 9% milk solids so the amount of water and fat in the recipe should be adjusted accordingly. Many professional recipes call for non-fat dry milk which is assigned its own baker’s percentage, usually around 4% or 5%. I sometimes use skim milk interchangeably with water and just ignore the solids. For this recipe I used 5% dry buttermilk powder bringing it to:

Flour

100%

Water

62%

Salt

2%

Yeast

2%

Sugar

4%

Oil

4%

Dry milk

5%

 

Eggs add richness and color to bread but they complicate the calculations. The easiest way to deal with eggs, at the expense of getting the weight of dough exactly right, is to calculate the weight of the ingredients without them then adjust the amount of water to compensate for however many eggs you add. I generally use one egg per kilogram (2.2 pound) of dough. A typical large egg weighs 50 grams of which 76%, or 38 grams, is water.

Since I have decided to make four 500-gram loaves I can calculate how much of each ingredient I need from the formulae in my last post. Using a total baker’s percentage of 179% if find that for 2000 grams of dough, I need 1117 grams of flour, which I round up to 1120. That makes my recipe:

Flour

1120 grams

Water

695 grams

Salt

22 grams

Yeast

22 grams

Sugar

45 grams

Oil

45 grams

Dry milk

55 grams

Total

2004 grams

 

Now I add three eggs weighing a total of 152 grams of which 115 grams is water. To compensate I reduce the amount of water to 580 grams which makes my final recipe:

Flour

1120 grams

Water

580 grams

Salt

22 grams

Yeast

22 grams

Sugar

45 grams

Oil

45 grams

Dry milk

55 grams

Eggs

152 grams

Total

2041 grams

 

Baker’s Percentage

At one time or another we have all been faced with the need to scale a recipe to make more or less of something. If that recipe is written using customary US units of volume, doing so involves juggling fractions. Even without math errors the results can be unpredictable because measuring dry ingredients by volume is notoriously inaccurate. The weight of a cup of flour, for example, can vary by 10% or more depending on how firmly it is packed. Fortunately digital kitchen scales are inexpensive and every serious cook should have one. Converting recipes to mass or weight makes the math much easier and the outcomes more consistent. I prefer to use metric units to avoid the complication of converting between pounds and ounces, but so long as you are consistent either system of units will work. To convert a favorite recipe, simply weigh each ingredient that you have measured out volumetrically and note the weight in your cookbook. You will get a more accurate conversion if you do this several times and average the weights.

Professional bakers, who need to scale quantities all the time, developed a parametric system of measures for their recipes. Called Baker’s Percentage it expresses the mass or weight of each ingredient as percentage of the amount of flour. So a dough calling for 1 pound of flour and 1 cup of water would specify 100% flour and 50% water. Note that the flour percentage is always 100% and that of every other ingredient is calculated by:

 

clip_image002

 

As an example, here is the ingredient list for my Everyday Bread with baker’s percentages. Note that the total of the percentages, called the formula percentage, is 167%.

Unbleached white bread flour

680 grams

2 pounds

100%

Warm water

340 grams

12 ounces

50%

Dry milk powder

35 grams

1¼ ounces

5%

Honey (or sugar)

30 grams

1 ounce

4%

Salt

15 grams

2 teaspoons

2%

Active dry yeast

15 grams

2 envelopes

2%

Canola oil

30 grams

1 ounce

4%

 

This recipe makes 1145 grams, about 2½ pounds, of dough. If I wanted to make 2 kilograms of dough, the formula mass, I first determine the amount of flour I will need using:

 

clip_image004

 

In this case:

clip_image006

Using the first formula I calculate the new ingredient list:

Unbleached white bread flour

1197 grams

100%

Warm water

598 grams

50%

Dry milk powder

60 grams

5%

Honey (or sugar)

48 grams

4%

Salt

24 grams

2%

Active dry yeast

24 grams

2%

Canola oil

48 grams

4%

 

I could do the same calculation in customary US units for 5 pounds of dough, but the result is messier:

Unbleached white bread flour

3 pounds

100%

Warm water

1½ pints

50%

Dry milk powder

2½ ounces

5%

Honey (or sugar)

2 ounces

4%

Salt

5 teaspoons

2%

Active dry yeast

3 Tablespoons

2%

Canola oil

¼ cup

4%

 

Rather than doing all the math yourself, you can use one of the many  baker’s percentage calculator online.  

And now I need to go make a few loaves of bread!

Красный Борщ (Red Borscht)

red borschtMost people think of borscht as beet soup, but it is really much more than that. It is nothing less than a one-pot meal of whatever the cook of the house had on hand. In fact, the name of this version, Kрасный Bорщ, literally Red Borscht, suggests that beets are not really essential to the dish. It is peasant cooking at its best: simple and nutritious. And like any peasant cooking there endless variations each claiming to be the only authentic one.

Most of the recipes I found online seem to me to be far more complicated that what babushka would have done in her cauldron over an open fire. She would certainly not have boiled the beets before peeling them. No, she would have browned a beef shank in the pot and simmered in water. While that was cooking she would have peeled and diced the vegetables, not worrying that the beets colored her hands red. After a couple of hours she would have taken the shank out of the pot and cut off of it any meat she could find. That and the vegetables would go into the pot to be simmered until the tender. Near the end of cooking she might add some shredded cabbage and perhaps some kasha. That’s it.  

In this recipe I have skipped forward a step by using prepared stock. Any stock will do: beef, chicken, lamb, pork, vegetable; whatever you have on hand. I keep a supply of homemade stock in the freezer but any good store-bought product will do, although I recommend unsalted so you can control the seasoning. What vegetables you use besides beets is up to you. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, and parsnips are all good. And do not scrimp on the garlic—vampires were always a worry on the steppes.

Ingredients

Note that I have not provided exact quantities of ingredients. Use your judgment.

Beef, cubed                        250 grams (8 ounces)

Butter or oil                       30 grams (2 Tablespoons)

Beets                                     2 or 3 depending on size

Carrots                                 1 or 2 depending on size

Onion                                   1 or 2 depending on size

Potatoes                              2 or 3 depending on size

Stock                                    1 liter (1 quart)

Dill seed                              5 milliliters (1 teaspoon)

Caraway seed                   5 milliliters (1 teaspoon)

Garlic                                    2 or 3 cloves, minced

Cabbage                               ½ head

Vinegar                                30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons)

Kasha                                    100 grams (½ cup) (optional)

Method

Peel and dice the root vegetables and coarsely shred the cabbage. Set aside.

Heat the butter or oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and brown the meat. Add the onion, carrot, and beets to the pot and sweat for about 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and the stock. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are nearly done. Add the dill and caraway seeds, the vinegar, and the cabbage. Continue to simmer for 15 minutes or so. Add salt to taste.

Rinse and stir in the kasha, if using. Reduce heat to very low, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes or until the kasha is done.

Serve with a large dollop of sour cream.

Carolina Slaw

If your idea of coleslaw is coarsely shredded cabbage smothered in mayonnaise, you really must try this sweet-and-sour version typical of the tidewater area of Virginia and North Carolinas. It is the only kind of slaw that belongs on pulled-pork BBQ. Note that the quantities of the ingredients are not very important. Just shred and mix. I use the coarse shredder blade of my food processor to get a fairly fine texture. Also, I like to use a mixture of green and red cabbage; the taste is the same but it is much more visually appealing.

Yield: about 1200 milliliters (5 cups)

Ingredients

 

Cabbage, one small head

350 grams

12 ounces

Bell pepper, one small

50 grams

2 ounces

Onion, one small

50 grams

2 ounces

Carrot, one large

100 grams

4 ounces

Sugar

100 grams

½ cup

Vegetable or olive oil

65 grams

⅓ cup

Cider vinegar

100 milliliters

4 ounces

Dry mustard

3 milliliters

½ teaspoon

Celery seed or Old Bay seasoning

3 milliliters

½ teaspoon

Salt

To taste

To taste

Method

Chop the onion and shred the cabbage and carrots. Mix in a large bowl.

Combine the sugar, oil, vinegar, mustard, and celery seed or Old Bay in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss well. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Pots De Crème Au Chocolat

It is just not St. Valentine’s Day without chocolate! Topped with a bit of whipped cream these little ramekins full of goodness are just the thing. This recipe makes four so you and your sweetheart can celebrate again tomorrow.

Ingredients

250 milliliters (1 cup) heavy cream (36%)

125 milliliters (½ cup) non-fat Greek yogurt

125 milliliters (½) cup water

75 grams (3 ounces) 100% cocoa unsweetened chocolate*

15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) espresso or strong coffee

125 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar

4 egg yolks

* Or 50 grams (2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder

Methodpots de creme au chocolat

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F). Warm the cream, yoghurt, water, and coffee in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring to smooth out the yogurt. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the chocolate in small pieces and stir until melted. If using powered cocoa, add it a bit at time and whisk briskly to avoid lumps. Continue to cook until the mixture is smooth and just steaming. Remove from heat but leave the double boiler together.

Using a whisk, beat the eggs yolks in a bowl until smooth.  Whisking constantly slowly add about 100 ml (scant ½ cup) of the chocolate mixture to temper the yolks. Take your time or you could end up with chocolate scrambled eggs. When the yolks are tempered, slowly pour them into the chocolate while whisking briskly. Return the double boiler to heat and cook gently, stirring often until the mixture is smooth and slightly thickened.

Place four ramekins into a shallow roasting pan. Divide the custard evenly among them. Put the pan into the oven then pour the hot water from the bottom of the double boiler into it to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until set.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the ramekins cool until you can handle them. Refrigerate, covered with foil, for at least 2 hours. Served chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.

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