Milk Chocolate-Caramel Pots de Creme


8 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups half-and-half
6 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Position a rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Coat six 5-ounce ramekins lightly with non-stick spray. Place ramekins in a large baking or roasting pan and set aside.

2. Place chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine sugar and 2 tablespoons water and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and cook without stirring, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush, until sugar caramelizes and turns a deep amber color, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and carefully pour in half-and-half, stirring until smooth. If any large pieces of caramel remain, place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until pieces dissolve and mixture is smooth.

4. Pour hot caramel over chopped chocolate in bowl. Let stand 30 seconds, then whisk until chocolate is completely melted.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk yolks. Gradually whisk one-third of hot chocolate mixture into yolks. Whisk in remaining chocolate mixture, salt and vanilla. Carefully pour custard mixture through fine-mesh sieve into prepared ramekins, dividing it evenly.

6. Place baking pan on oven rack and carefully pour enough hot water into pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of ramekins. Cover pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 40-50 minutes, until custards jiggle slightly and are very shiny.

7. Remove ramekins from water bath and cool on wire rack for 30 minutes.<BR>8. Refrigerate pots de crème for at least 3 hours before serving.