For something that is a sure fire hit when it comes to seduction you can just forget about chocolate. You want something silky and creamy and slightly unctuous - something that won't weigh you down but leave you wanting more. Most of all you want something to share - a spoon for you and a spoon for your intended.
One the best dishes that fit these criteria is the venerable Crème Brûlée. This version couldn't be simpler and may have some crying out "sacrebleu" but it avoids the need for the water bath. It's a method prescribed by Stephanie Alexander and I personally cannot taste the difference. The only difference is in this method there is no stress and succeeds every time. Better still you can pretty much complete it the day before and just leave the torching of the top for when you are ready to serve. Considering we are in a mood to seduce, the less fuss and stressing, the better the evening.
[For 2 to share]
250-mls/1 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon caster sugar
brown sugar, for topping
Put the cream and vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean in a small saucepan and bring it slowly to the boil - if using the bean, make sure you try to get all the seeds into the cream. When it's just about to boil, take it off the heat.
While this is happening, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until the sugar dissolves. Continue whisking as you pour in the scalded cream, make sure you scrap down the pan for all the vanilla seeds. It's important that you don't stop whisking as this stops the mixture from turning into sweet scrambled eggs. I use an electric hand mixer for this part.
Once all the cream is added, then pour the mixture into a clean saucepan and return to the stove. Stir this mixture over a gentle heat until it thickens. A simple test is to run a finger down the back of a spoon and if the mixture stays apart, it's done.
As soon as it's thick enough, place the pan in a bowl/sink of cold water, continue stirring for a few minutes - this will put a stop to the cooking.
Pour this into a dish and place in the fridge to cool and set completely.
When ready to serve, lightly sprinkle brown sugar over the top of the dish and using a blow torch, brown the sugar. You can also do this under the grill. I tend to repeat this process a few times, sprinkling only thin layers of sugar - in this way I can build up the structure of the toffee giving me that "crackable" characteristic I'm after.
And there it is, silky smooth, speckled with vanilla bean seeds and covered with a crisp toffee crust. I think I'm in love.