Thursday, February 6, 2014

Molten Chocolate Cake

There are many versions of this incredibly rich, yet easy dessert. This version is from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of the most accomplished chefs on the planet. You may not be able to afford to eat at many of his restaurants, but you can make this. It has only four ingredients, so if you want it do be as wonderful as it can be, spring for high-quality bittersweet chocolate, which is not the same as semisweet chocolate (semisweet is too sweet). Look for chocolate with 62%-72% cacao. It won't be cheap, but it's worth it. This is one sumptuous Valentine's Day dessert!

You will need 4 ramekins or small glass dishes or cups. They should be big enough to hold 4 oz. of liquid. You can even use 7-8 oz. cans  (such as for tunafish or bamboo shoots), but they must be washed very well to remove any odor.

Molten Chocolate Cake
(serves 4, costs - really, isn't your honey worth it?)

1 stick unsalted butter plus a little more for greasing the ramekins
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate ( ⅔ cup chocolate chips)
2 whole large eggs
2 large egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons flour plus a little more for flouring the ramekins

Butter the dishes making sure to cover the inside completely. Add a spoonful of flour and shake it around to cover all the butter. Tap out any excess. Set aside.

Place a medium saucepan on medium heat and bring about 1" of water to just a simmer. Once the water gets hot, reduce the heat to low. Place the stick of butter and the chocolate in a medium bowl and place over the simmering water to melt them. While they are melting, beat together the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a bowl. You can do this by hand but it goes much faster if you have an electric mixer. Beat until the mixture becomes light yellow and thick. Remove the melted chocolate/butter from the heat. Beat just to combine. Pour in the egg mixture and beat until the color is uniform. Add in the 2 teaspoons of flour and mix just to combine. Divide the batter among the 4 dishes and smooth the top. At this point, you can refrigerate them for a few hours. Remove them from the fridge an hour before baking so they can warm up.

When ready to eat them, preheat oven to 450°F. Place the dishes on a small rimmed cookie sheet (makes getting them in and out of the oven a lot easier). Bake for 8 minutes. The edges will be set but the center will still be soft. Remove from the oven. With hot mitts, carefully lift up a dish and invert onto a plate*. Repeat with remaining cakes. Remove the dish from the first cake you inverted (careful! it's hot). If your dishes were well-greased, it will fall right out. Repeat with the rest. Serve immediately, maybe with a dollop of whipped cream or with some rich vanilla ice cream.

* It's easy if you know how - with a hot mitt, pick up the dish by holding onto the top edges. With another hot mitt in your other hand, place the dish on that hand. Take a plate and place it, upside-down, on top of the dish. Flip the whole thing over.

Recipe adapted from Jean-Georges Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman, Broadway Books, 1998.

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