Lisa’s Letters Home: Chocolate Pots with a Side of Siena

Lisa’s Letters Home: Chocolate Pots with a Side of Siena

It’s always a bit tricky when we have people over for supper. We don’t want to inflict our dietary choices on unsuspecting friends (“Here, I made you a crustless cheesecake sweetened with Stevia!”  *stunned silence*) but it’s also not fun to make and serve a dessert we can’t really eat. The lack of free time also means it’s got to be something fairly simple but still nice enough to serve to company. We are eternally grateful for the invention of the cheese board for these reasons.

Generally our dessert criteria is: no wheat, simple to put together, something the kids will enjoy as well, and preferably something I can make ahead. And the more chocolate involved, the better. We first came across Jamie Oliver’s chocolate pots several years ago, back when he was a young “Naked Chef.” They’re velvety, luxurious, rich little cups of chocolate heaven that seem a lot more complicated than they are. I prefer them without the booze (surprisingly, I’m not a fan of alcohol in desserts unless it’s tiramisu) but if you do want the added alcohol, you can use rum, Cointreau, brandy, Bailey’s, or a multitude of other flavours.

The chocolate pots are incredibly rich, so a little goes a long way. If I had espresso cups, I would have used them to serve as they are the perfect size for this dessert. Also, my kids love consuming things out of tiny coffee cups for some bizarre reason. You can make these the day before and leave them in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Jamie suggests that you serve the chocolate pots with his orange polenta cookies, which reminded me of a recipe I once saw for almond cookies flavoured with orange zest. The cookies are an Italian biscuit called ricciarelli, which are actually a lot like macarons (the French variety, not the coconutty variety.) I went through a bit of a macaron phase and got a bit addicted to making them. As delicious as they are, they are stupidly labour-intensive. Good for gifts, not so good when you’ve got to whip up something for company the following day.

Ricciarelli dough is made the day before, and you could even roll and shape the cookies a day ahead as well. Or even better, bake them ahead of time – they actually get better with age. They are crispy and light on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside, gluten-free, and the kids went nuts for them. The recipe I found ( calls for 2 tbsp of almond extract, which just sounded like a crazy amount to me, but maybe that’s authentic. Who am I to judge? I used quite a lot less and thought the almond flavour was just right for me. I took the extras into the office to prevent me from stuffing them all in my face, and they got rave reviews from my workmates.

Chocolate Pots

Serves 4

½ pint/1 cup double (heavy) cream
200g/7oz 72% (bittersweet) chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 Tbps dark rum (optional)
20g/2 Tbsps unsalted butter


In a medium saucepan, heat the cream until just before the boiling point. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Add the egg yolks and whisk constantly until smooth. Stir in the rum and butter until well combined.

Pour into four 1/2-cup ramekins or espresso cups and refrigerate until chilled for at least 4 hours.

Ricciarelli (Almond Biscuits)

(Makes about 20 cookies)

2 large egg whites
Few drops of lemon juice
200g icing (confectioner’s) sugar
200g/2 cups ground almonds (almond flour)
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 orange, zested
Extra icing sugar for rolling out and dusting on top of the cookies


Whisk the egg whites with a drop of lemon juice until they form stiff peaks. Fold in 200g of icing sugar and the ground almonds. Mix in the almond extract, the grated peel of one orange and the vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge overnight (or at least for 4 hours).

Preheat the oven to 160C/ 325F

Sprinkle icing sugar on your work surface. Roll the rough into a sausage shape about 2” in diameter and cut into slices about ½” thick. Dust your hands with icing sugar and shape the cookies into an oval or lozenge if you want to get fancy.

Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone sheet, then dust the cookies with icing sugar.

Bake for about 18 minutes. They will resemble crinkle cookies. When you remove them from the oven, they will be still soft and moist, but they will get crispy on the outside once cooled. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

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  1. Pam
    February 09, 20:52 Reply

    This looks delicious and not too difficult!

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