Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Molten Chocolate Cake

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting much lately. Well, life has been complicated and I just haven't had time to play here as much as I'd like.

But cooking is another matter entirely, and sharing recipes with you is a pleasure I don't like to forego.

You know how sometimes you just need your favorite comfort food? Well I'm in that space today, and since my main comfort is chocolate (it's an inherited trait), but not just any old chocolate would do right now, I was forced to turn on the oven (in this July heat) to make the BEST chocolate dessert on the planet. I refer, of course, to those little chocolate cakes that are cakey on the outside and full of gooey liquid chocolate on the inside.

Called alternately Molten Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Fondant Pudding and Chocolate Lava Cake, this souffle-like ode to decadence consists primarily of 4 main ingredients: butter, eggs, sugar, and dark chocolate. Toss in some vanilla, a tiny bit of flour and a pinch of salt (and I like to add some freshly-grated orange zest), and that's all you need. It's as easy to make as 1 2 3, and you can even make the batter ahead, keep it in the fridge and just bake them when they are needed.

But that can be our little secret; friends and families don't need to know how easy it is, so when you whip them up for a special occasion they will be suitably impressed!

Makes 6

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, divided (2 Tbsp plus 3/4 cup)
  • 1 (8-oz) Nestle Toll House Chocolatier 62% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bars, broken into small pieces (NOTE that the original recipe just calls for plain bittersweet chocolate, but I like to keep a couple of those bars on hand just for the convenience.)
  • 3 large eggs plus
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest (optional)
  • Powdered sugar

PREHEAT oven to 425° F. Generously butter six 6-oz ramekins with two tablespoons butter.

Place a medium, heavy duty saucepan over low heat and stir in 3/4 cup butter and the chocolate. Stir continuously until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. (Do not boil!) Remove from heat and let cool a bit while you go to the next step.

Beat the eggs and egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixer bowl until thick and pale yellow, about 8 minutes. Fold (not stir) 1/3 of the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Add the remaining chocolate mixture, sprinkle the flour over the top, and fold it all in until well blended. Divide batter evenly among prepared ramekins. (You can use individual ramekins, molds, custard cups, or even muffin tins...)

Place into 425° oven for 12 to 13 minutes, or until sides are set and the centers move slightly when shaken. Remove from oven to wire rack and let them rest for a couple of minutes.

To serve, run a thin knife around the top edge of cakes to loosen slightly; carefully invert onto serving plates. Lift ramekins off of cakes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Of course, when it's an emergency and you need your fix right away, you can make one little cake at a time and eat it right from the ramekin as soon as it comes out of the oven. No one will see you, and I promise I won't tell. You can let the rest of the little darlings cool to room temperature or refrigerate them (eat them cold or reheat them in the microwave). They're still great the next day!

If you plan to make the batter ahead of time and refrigerate it, be sure to spoon it into your ramekins before you refrigerate them, as the batter gets a bit stiff when it gets cold, and it can be hard to fill ramekins until it gets soft again. You can put them straight into the oven from the fridge, adding a minute or two to the cooking time, but it's better to let the batter warm up to room temperature first.

I like to contrast the deep chocolateness of this with a dollop of whipped cream, a little vanilla ice cream or even a small scoop of some kind of fruity sorbet or sherbet. Feel free to experiment.

NOTE: If you want a finer texture, separate the 3 whole eggs from their yolks. Beat the 6 egg yolks, sugar and chocolate together and proceed as directed. Beat the egg whites into an egg foam (like a soft meringue) and fold that in at the end of the process, after all the chocolate mixture has been folded in. This will result in higher lift and a lighter cake.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my comfort is out of the oven and calling me...

Hmmm. I wonder how this would taste if I used Mexican chocolate?

Buen provecho!

If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish (or even one that isn't Mexico-based at all), I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)