Sunday, February 12, 2012

(molten) hot chocolate

This weekend I added possibly the most dangerous recipe to my arsenal yet: molten chocolate cake. When we lived in Winston-Salem, NC, for several years growing up, my sister and I used to drag our parents to Chili's with frightening regularity. In our defense, the culinary scene in Winston was dominated by chain restaurants and fast food joints at that point in time. 

Anyways, we'd always finish the meal with a molten chocolate lava cake for the table, and fight each other for the last bites of warm, fudge soaked cake. Our tastes have become a little more sophisticated over time (not that there's anything wrong with a trip to Chili's now and then), but our love for molten cakes has not waned. If anything, it has only grown more fervent, much to the dismay of our hips. 

So when Mom and I decided to bring the dessert to the first of her casual birthday dinners this week(end), I'm not sure why our minds didn't go directly to the gooey confection. We hemmed and hawed and grew increasingly apathetic in the face of a half dozen uninspiring recipes. I don't even remember exactly how we landed on this recipe on Epicurious. But when we did, it was like a whole house's worth of light bulbs went off. 

It honestly seemed too good to be true. Short ingredient list, incredibly easy prep, quick baking time, ability to make ahead. So I read the first few pages of reviews, and realized that, aside from a few people who weren't fans, the recipe was a smashing success. We decided we might as well go for it, and headed off to the grocery for the goods (and for three pints of ice cream to complement the cakes). 

First we separated half a dozen eggs to get the requisite 6 egg yolks (for a double batch), then threw another 6 whole eggs in with the yolks in a big old bowl. On top of that went 10 tablespoons of sugar (which equals 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons, in case you're curious). Then we set that aside. 

Next we melted 3 sticks of butter (did I mention this was a double batch?) and 16 ounces of high quality chocolate over low heat on the stove. Maybe I shouldn't have started listing the quantities, because they sound a little prohibative, but we did the math, and split amongst 12 ramekins, it comes down to something like 1.5 egg and 2 tablespoons of butter per cake. Speaking of math, we bought chocolate chips instead of chocolate bars, which led to some seriously questionable mental math between Mom and I. But we agreed to never speak of that again, so I'll just warn you that it's trickier than expected to figure out how to measure 8 ounces from a 10 ounce bag. Anyways...

While the chocolate and butter, once melted, cool a bit, you steel yourself and turn your attention to the egg/sugar part. You beat the eggs and sugar on high with a mixer for 8+ minutes (we had to do it for 10). They practically double in volume, and get pale yellow and thickish. And while that's a pain in your arm, it's really not that bad, and comprises the most taxing part of the prep work. Once you finish that task, you fold in the warm chocolate/butter and the prescribed quantity of flour. 

Once you've carefully folded the mixture together until it's all a lovely chocolate color, you pour an even amount of batter in to each ramekin, which you lovingly coated first in butter, then a sprinkling of sugar and, finally, a dusting of dark cocoa powder. You want to serve these as close to their exit from a toasty oven as you can, so either pause here, cover the ramekins in plastic, and refrigerate them until it's dessert time, or go ahead and pop them in the oven at 400 or so for 11 to 14 minutes. If you chill them prior to baking, just bring them back to room temp before popping them in the oven. 

They come out looking like this. Well, like this if you work at Bon Appetite, I suppose. If you are like us, you get so caught up in the whole affair that you totally forget to photograph a post-oven mini cake, even though you've now sampled three over the past 24 hours. 

Anyways, this is all to say that the molten cakes were spot on, just as the plethora of comments on Epicurious suggest they will be. We mint, vanilla, and chocolate peanut butter ice creams to plop on top, and although we'd had a huge and delicious dinner care of my "Aunt" Susan, the entire group all but licked their ramekins clean. 

We used half bittersweet Ghirardelli chips and half semisweet Ghirardelli chips. We also only dusted the ramekins with about half a teaspoon of sugar versus the recommended 1 1/2 tsp. Other than that, the only thing we tweaked was the oven temp (400 instead of 425) and cook time (11 instead of 14 minutes), but that depends entirely on your oven (ours cooks hot/fast). This recipe is so simple and quick that you, like me, will probably be tempted to tweak it. Do not. It is sinfully, incredibly, perfectly divine exactly how it is. 

Take it from the girl who is a self-proclaimed expert on all things molten cake. And who is on her third cake in the span of a day. 

ps-happy birthday, Mom! 
pps-I apologize in advance for ruining the far inferior restaurant version of molten cake for you. And for making you gain five pounds. But we're all in this cake cult together, ok? 

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