end on a high note

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Desserts, Dinner Party, Fête Fact, Posted on September 13, 2021 by Sandy Bergsten

I take joy in setting a beautiful table. I love my bone china, sterling and crystal. Creating a place for my guests to sit infused with grace is a simple pleasure.  Many keep their finest tucked away and out of reach. I believe our beautiful things are there to be enjoyed. And with the exception of my silver, I put almost all of it in the dishwasher, which means that use my best almost weekly.  

Entertaining over the years has evolved into increasingly casual affairs. Text messages have replaced mailed invitations. Rarely do people “dress” for dinner.  But just because your company might be donning denim doesn’t mean your table can’t sparkle. Setting your table sets the tone. I find it fun to mix it up with casual elegance. It's why I always tuck pressed white linen napkins into my collection of antique silver napkin rings, no matter the occasion.

I adore my demitasse cups. In the 80s and 90s after-dinner drinks and little cups of expresso were all the rage. Now it seems it is an endless lineup of empty bottles of red. When I opened my cupboard and saw my forgotten miniature cups, I decided to bring these little gems out of hiding and fill them with a small indulgence for dessert for my two upcoming dinner parties.

There is something decidedly decadent about pot au cremes. The authentic version needs to be simmered in a hot water bath. I certainly wasn’t going to do that with my cherished cups. I decided instead to fill each one with the mousse from my frozen chocolate crepe recipe. It’s incredibly simple thanks to a food processor and heavy cream heated up in the microwave.

To make this simplest version of pots de crème begin with the highest quality of ingredients. Guittard rich chocolate chips and Nielsen Massey pure vanilla extract are my favorites.

Combine twelve ounces of chocolate chips, one and a half teaspoons vanilla extract, and a big pinch of kosher salt in the bowl of a Cuisinart. Pulse for thirty seconds. Be forewarned it’s going to be loud.

Place one and a half cups heavy cream in a 2-cup microwave safe glass measuring cup. On high, in 30 second increments, heat just to the boiling point.

With motor running pour the hot cream into the chocolate in a slow steady stream for thirty seconds. 

Add six room temperature egg yolks.

Pulse for five seconds. 

Add a tablespoon of Grand Marnier and pulse once more.

Wipe out the glass measuring cup and scape the chocolate mousse from the Cuisinart bowl into the now clean measuring cup to make filling the individual serving dishes easier.

Pour into decorative cups. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to a month.

To protect my delicate cups, I placed them in a covered plastic container so they wouldn’t get jostled in my freezer. If you freeze the pot de cremes place in the refrigerator the night before your party.

For the garnish make grand marnier whipped cream by whipping together one-half cup chilled heavy cream, one tablespoon powdered sugar and a teaspoon Grand Marnier liqueur until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days.

Thirty minutes prior to serving take the cups out of the refrigerator to soften slightly. Top each with a dollop of Grand Marnier whipped cream and scatter fresh raspberries on the plate. 

No one will guess how little you fussed over this fancy finish.

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