Sichuan peppercorns (also known as Szechwan Szechuan peppercorns) Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavor that is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper, or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth that awakens your taste buds and makes these creamy little custards all the more chocolaty.
- 4 large egg yolks
- .75 cup whole milk
- 3 ounce dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
- ½ cup whole espresso or dark roast coffee beans
- .75 cup heavy cream
- lightly whipped, lightly sweetened cream (optional)
Bring a medium saucepan half filled with water to a simmer. Put ½ cup of the cream and the chopped chocolate into a heat proof bowl. Choose a bowl that will snugly fit on top of the saucepan without touching the water. Stir until melted and well combined. Remove from heat, set aside.
Put the coffee beans and Sichuan peppercorns in the bowl of a mortar and pestle. Lightly work them into a roughly crushed mixture. Do not grind into a powder.
Add the crushed coffee and Sichuan peppercorns along with the remaining ¼ cup cream, all of the milk and the sugar to another small sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a near boil, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let the flavors infuse, covered about 30 minutes. Return the pan to low heat and bring the mixture back to a simmer.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg yolks together well, then slowly pour the ⅓ of the warmed cream and milk through a strainer into the yolks. Whisk to combine. Repeat 2 more times until all of the cream and milk is incorporated. Discard the solids and rinse out the strainer.
Next pour the egg, cream and milk mixture through the rinsed strainer (to remove any coddled egg) directly into the bowl with the melted chocolate. Stir to combine.
Arrange four 4 or 5 ounce espresso or custard cups in a small baking dish so that they do not touch. Fill each cup nearly to the top with the custard mixture. Fill the baking dish with enough warm water to come about halfway up the sides of the cups. Cover the pan with plastic wrap (it won’t melt). Poke 2 or 3 holes in the plastic wrap and carefully move the pan to the oven. Bake about 40 to 45 minutes, until the edges begin to darken and the custards are barely set. They will continue to cook once removed from the oven.
Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit covered about 10 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and take the cups out of the water to come to room temperature. At this point they can be covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated up to one day.
Serve at room temperature, with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream (optional).