Chocolate Espresso Custard

When I gave myself the gift of summer, I hoped for adventure and I hoped for leisure. While adventure is on the horizon (I'm headed off to France in two weeks!), this week was spent catching up on a year's worth of much needed relaxation. I pulled a deck chair out into the sun, slathered on the sunscreen, and read my way through a couple good books. With a tall glass of ice water at my side, it felt very much like a dream.

I have been savoring these little moments, taking them in and bundling them up for a rainy day. When summer ends and the responsibilities start up once again, I'll take one of these memories out, smooth out the edges, and remember the feeling of the sun and the smell of the grass.

Custards are among the things I do not need to be reminded to savor. As a part of my own tradition, I use the smallest spoon in the drawer. Eating it slowly, one small bite at a time, letting the flavor linger. These custards are simple to prepare, an afterthought to create after dinner, but they can be enjoyed for several evenings after.

Chocolate and espresso go together effortlessly and it shows in this simple dessert. Perhaps this can be your own reminder to slow down and take in the moment with a little more awareness than before.

Chocolate Espresso Custard is a sweet, cool treat to enjoy any time of the year. While this version is dairy-free, utilizing coconut milk and coconut whipped cream, I have added substitutions to make it a bit more traditional. The smooth flavors of chocolate and espresso are both pronounced. When garnished with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and chocolate covered espresso beans, this custard will disappear in no time.

One Year Ago: Rhubarb Ginger Bars and Nutty Rhubarb Oatmeal
Two Years Ago: Coconut WafflesDark Cherry Fruit-On-The-Bottom Yogurt, and Mocha Granola
Three Years Ago: Creamy Grape SaladCornmeal Parmesan & Poppy Seed Crackers, and PiΓ±a Colada Cupcakes
Four Years Ago: Chocolate Orange Miniature CakesSimple Rhubarb Jam, and Twix Cookies

Chocolate Espresso Custard

Yields 4-6 servings

14 ounces (400 grams) full-fat coconut milk (can also substitute half and half or whole milk) 
1 tablespoon espresso powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
4 large egg yolks 
4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
Coconut Whipped Cream (or regular whipped cream), optional 
Shaved chocolate, optional 
Chocolate covered espresso beans, optional

In a large saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk, espresso powder, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to low.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Pour a small amount of the milk mixture into the eggs and stir quickly to prevent the eggs from cooking. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and whisk everything together.

Turn the heat back up to medium and continue cooking, while stirring. Once the pudding thickens enough to thickly coat the back of a spoon, about 5-10 minutes or more, remove from heat.

Stir in the chopped chocolate until the pudding is smooth and completely melted. Stir in vanilla extract. Pour pudding evenly between serving dishes, cover, and place in the refrigerator to cool.

Just before serving, garnish with coconut whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and chocolate covered espresso beans.

Rhubarb Custard Tart

Rhubarb Custard Tart

Rhubarb Custard

Many of my favorite vegetables are technically fruits. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and bell peppers all fall under that category. Botanically, the defining feature between fruit and vegetables are seedsβ€”if it has seeds, it's a fruit; if it doesn't, it's a vegetable. In some ways, I feel like I should be ashamed. Under these strict rules, I'm certain I'll never meet my daily required serving of actual vegetables.

There are only so many carrot sticks one person can eat.

Rhubarb Custard Rhubarb Custard

Rhubarb, however, is just the opposite. Though it's treated as a fruit in cooking and baking, it is technically a vegetable. Imagine that. Rhubarb grows from the ground on stalks, similar to celery, and sprouts poisonous leaves (which are only fatally poisonous if you decide to eat a few pounds of them). If it wasn't for all of the sugar needed to balance out rhubarb's tart flavor, I could have had a surefire way to get my vegetables eaten.

Perhaps someday I'll find a way to make dessert fall squarely into the healthier food groups...

Rhubarb Custard

I often feel rhubarb is an understated flavor. Given the chance to stand alone, it can be magnificently bold and tart all at once (a flavor profile I've truly grown to love). More often than not, however, rhubarb is paired with berries (particularly strawberries) in pies and desserts. While I do enjoy these combinations, every so often I feel like rhubarb should be given the chance to stand on its own. To gain a little independence and prove that it has what it takes to cook up a good dessert.

That is exactly the spirit in which these rhubarb custard tarts were created.

Rhubarb Custard

These Rhubarb Custard Tarts combine rhubarb, cardamom, and orange into a treat perfect for light lunches and sweet breakfasts. A whole wheat cardamom crust encases orange poached rhubarb with a sweet egg custard. The true star of the show, however, is the rhubarb orange syrup drizzled on top (it's simply a reduction of the liquid the rhubarb was poached in, but there is so much flavor). I enjoyed this tart both warm from the oven and chilled from the refrigerator as leftovers the next day.

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Plum Clafouti

Plum Clafouti

Plum Clafouti

I am but a humble self-taught photographer. Everything I know about photography I've learned through trial and error. A year and a half's worth, in fact. Every time I set out to shoot a new dish or dessert, I learn something new. Food photography has grown into something I really enjoy. It's challenging and difficult, true, but there is such a sense of satisfaction when a photo turns out just right.

Yet, there is always more to learn.

One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to take a photography course. This summer I did just that. While I knew so much about a few topics, in others I knew virtually nothing. It was definitely a growing experience for me as a photographer.

Plum Clafouti

When I take my camera out of the quiet of the kitchen, there is a moment (or two) of real panic. Photography intimidates me. Portraits and landscapes strike an honest fear deep within my heart. Since I am most familiar with still life photography, I get a bit unnerved when things begin to move out in the real world. People walk around. Trees sway in the wind. Vehicles are constantly stealing the limelight. It makes getting the shot I want nearly impossible. I have so much respect for all the professional photographers out there.

In the kitchen, I'm the boss. I manhandle the cookies. I govern the fruit with an iron fist. Not a stray crumb will leap out of place. Not on my watch. I direct the light, shadows, and composition. Food photography makes me feel in control. It is my comfort zone.

Plum Clafouti

But, just as staying in comfort zones is all and well, it's important to step out of them just as often as you stay in. This is what the photography course was all about for me. I left my comfort zone completely and tried out new subjects (people! Nature!) and new techniques (like HDR). Whether it has made me a better photographer, I'll never know, but I am certain it has made me a much more informed one. And, really, that's all I can hope to ask for.

Note: I will be vacationing in Portland and the Oregon coast over the next week. I may be a bit scarce in the coming days, but you can bet I'll be back with many new stories and recipes to share with you before you know it! I can never stray from pastries for too long. See you soon!

Plum Clafouti

I first made this Plum Clafouti a year ago, at the request of a roommate. In the next few weeks, I couldn't help but make it a twice more. This Plum Clafouti is delicious. Before the plums go into the clafouti, they are lightly sauteed in butter and sugar, rendering them soft and utterly divine. Cream and eggs are combined and poured over the plums, which sets into a thick custard during baking. This clafouti is best served warm, but I gobbled it up just as quickly when it was cold (and for breakfast, no less). This is a summer dessertβ€”light, with more than enough fruit to make you forget about the butter and cream.

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