- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- pinch salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- granulated sugar, for topping
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place a folded dish towel flat inside a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and arrange four 6 ounce or six 4 ounce ramekins inside. Bring 3 to 4 cups of water to a simmer and keep warm.
Place chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set aside. Warm heavy cream until it begins to steam, in a saucepan over medium heat.
In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until smooth. Whisk in warm cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until mixture is warm to the touch and about half of cream has been added. Do this gradually, as you want to temper the egg yolks rather than cook them. Pour yolk mixture back into saucepan and whisk until incorporated.
Pour warm cream mixture over chopped chocolate; let sit for 30 seconds, then whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. If you chopped your chocolate fine enough the residual heat from the cream should be more than enough to fully melt it. If not, return to saucepan and stir over very low heat until almost melted, then remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth. Whisk in vanilla.
Divide mixture evenly among ramekins. Place baking pan in oven, then very carefully pour hot water into the baking dish until it comes about half-way up the side of the ramekins.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until centers are just set but still slightly jiggly. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes, then carefully remove ramekins from water and let cool to room temperature on a wire cooling rack. Once cool, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 or until ready to serve.
About 30 minutes prior to serving, remove ramekins from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Just before serving, sprinkle each custard with an even layer of granulated sugar, then caramelize with a kitchen torch, keeping the flame moving over the surface of the custards, until sugar is golden brown and bubbly. Let sit for 1 to 2 minutes to allow sugar to harden, then serve.