Velvety Baked Chocolate and Vanilla Custards
You can make either Vanilla or Chocolate Custard with the same custard base. Simply omit the chocolate for a pure vanilla custard.
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/4 cup vanilla sugar (or plain sugar)
3 large egg yolks
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (and/or 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped into the half and half)
If making the chocolate custards, you will also need:
3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips), melted
Preheat oven to 325F. Put a large kettle of water on to boil. In a medium saucepan, bring half and half, and vanilla extract and bean and seeds- if using- just to a boil. As soon as it begins to boil, remove pan from the heat and set aside.
Add yolks, sugar and salt to a medium bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until thickened and light. If making chocolate custard, at this point you will add the melted chocolate to the eggs and whisk until chocolate is fully incorporated. Carefully whisk in a small amount -about a half a cup- of the hot half and half mixture. When that is fully incorporated add the rest of the half and half mixture and whisk thoroughly. If desired, you can scoop any foam off the top. To make sure you have the smoothest possible custard, pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a large measuring cup with a pouring spout. Divide evenly among ramekins or small jelly jars.
Place jars in a roasting or sided-baking pan that is just large enough to hold them all. Place pan on center rack in the preheated oven. Carefully pour water into the pan, taking care not to pour the water into the custard, until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the custard dishes. Loosely tent the pan with foil and bake for about 45 minutes or until the custard is set on the outside edges, but still a bit wobbly in the center.
Remove custard cups to a cooling rack from the water-filled pan. Cover and chill at least 2 hours prior to serving.