I've been thinking about this blog a lot these past few months.
I've been thinking about how it wasn't really what I envisioned. About how, in my first 6 months of blogging, I tried to be too much like other bloggers, all funny and nonchalant. About how the recipes I've shared weren't really my style, nor my own. About how I'd promised to share some of my family recipes, but never seemed to get around to it. About how I wanted to change all that.
My intention has always been for this blog to be personal and honest, but somehow I got a little lost in it all. I was overwhelmed, maybe, at how much time went into baking and testing and writing, so I settled for simple reports on baking class. I guess I was scared, too. It can be so difficult to share the things that are closest to you. If I haven't shared any family recipes yet, this is undoubtedly the reason why.
This year, however, I have set out to make les filles de madeleine my own again. I've started to experiment and develop recipes that reflect my taste, my character and my history. I'm learning to open up and to write about these recipes in a voice that is true to me, one that is thoughtful, honest and laced with nostalgia. It's funny how all of this makes me feel both confident and insecure, how it feels like stepping in and out of my comfort zone at the very same time. It's clear, also, how it has given me new energy and enthusiasm, how it has opened up doors and possibilities, how it makes me want to share.
If you were to ask me about the desserts I grew up with, this Crème au Chocolat would be at the top of the list. It's not a special dessert, nor is it difficult to make, but it is one that seems inseparable from my childhood. This is the dessert my mother made for a regular Friday or Saturday night - for a regular weeknight, even. I don't think I can count the times I've had a little pot of this creamy chocolate pudding, yet I can't remember ever being bored with it, either.
I do have difficulty describing it as chocolate pudding, though. Chocolate pudding, to me, was what you bought in the supermarket or what you got at a friend's house: a sweet and fairly thick substance with a distinctly artificial chocolate flavor, prepackaged in plastic cups or made using a little bag of pudding powder. My mother never made chocolate pudding. She made Crème au Chocolat: a light and silky cream, still quite runny, made with good quality chocolate and only a little sugar. Making it now, I am always struck by how much it smells like proper chocolate. How much it smells like my childhood, really. Shouldn't everyone's childhood smell like that?
• Instead of using just granulated sugar, this recipe calls for sugar cubes. It has never been clear to me exactly why that is, nor could my mother provide an answer. Perhaps because sugar cubes tend to be more pure than regular granulated sugar, perhaps because they don't burn as easily, perhaps because it just seemed easier to whoever developed the recipe. No one in my family seems to have ever questioned the recipe, but I'm pretty sure it'll work just as well with regular granulated sugar.
• I know you're not supposed to, but I did slightly alter the recipe. For one, the original recipe calls for 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch ... Taking into account what my mother considers a heaping tablespoon, I just go with 2 regular tablespoons. I also added a little bit of extra chocolate, because ... well, extra chocolate.
Crème au Chocolat
500 ml whole milk
75 gr dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
45 gr sugar cubes (or granulated sugar)
2 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in a few tbsp of cold milk
1. In a saucepan, combine milk, chocolate and sugar. Heat the mixture over medium heat and, stirring occasionally, allow the sugar to dissolve and the chocolate to melt. Bring up to the boil.
2. When the milk starts boiling, whisk in the cornstarch mixture, little by little, until the crème thickens. Depending on how thick you want it, you may not need all of the cornstarch. Continue to stir and bring the mixture back up to the boil. Allow to boil for a couple of seconds, then remove from the heat.
3. Pour the Crème au Chocolat through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps, then divide into individual ramekins. Let cool to room temperature, then move the ramekins to the fridge to cool completely, preferably overnight.
Serve cold. Feel free to add a scoop of whipped cream.