Molten Chocolate Cakes
by Jennifer Segal, inspired by Jean-Georges Vongerichten
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, plus more for buttering ramekins (but you can just use Pam--my idea)
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, best quality such as Ghirardelli (a brand I try to stock up on when it's on sale)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Generously butter or Pam 6 six-ounce ceramic ramekins. Then (my idea) "flour" the ramekins with unsweetened cocoa powder. This recipe doesn't say anything about flouring the ramekins, but other recipes I have include that step. If you do use flour, you get a white deposit on your cakes. Using cocoa for a cake pan when you're making a chocolate cake is a hint I read somewhere, and it works very well. Set them on a baking sheet.
- Melt the butter in a medium bowl in the microwave, 2 minutes at 50% power for a standard oven (my idea). Immediately add the chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely smooth and melted. If a few chunks remain, place the bowl back in the microwave for 30 seconds on 50%, then stir again. Repeat if necessary. Set aside. (I don't understand recipes that tell you to melt anything on full power. That's a good way to have the ingredient end up all over the ceiling of your microwave.)
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolks, brown sugar, vanilla and salt at high speed until thickened and pale, about 4 minutes using a hand mixer. Add the melted chocolate mixture and flour to the egg mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined (the chocolate sinks to the bottom so be sure to scrape it up into the batter).
- Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared ramekins and bake for 8 minutes (not the 10 that the recipe calls for), until the cakes are set and puffed over the edges of the ramekins. As soon as they come out of the oven, invert each one onto an individual serving plate. (This recipe says to wait 1-2 minutes, but my others say to do it right away.) They should pop right out, but you can run a thin-bladed knife around the edges if necessary. Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream. (Make-ahead note: The batter can be spooned into the ramekins, covered and refrigerated for several hours before baking. Just be sure to take them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before baking so they come to room temperature. Easiest way to do this--again, my idea--is to take them out when you sit down to dinner so they'll be ready to go when you're ready for dessert.)
Here's a nice way to serve these with whipped cream without having to whip the cream at the last minute (and no, you can't use fake whipped topping on your beautiful little cakes!):
Stabilized Whipped Cream
(I found this method in the wonderful, wonderful King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook, 2006 edition by The Countryman Press, Woodstock, Vermont. You should definitely buy this book, but their recipe for this whipped cream is pretty standard. I found, however, that using the amount of gelatin called for resulted in something more like whipped-cream jello than what I really wanted, so I cut the amount in half.)
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
Using a very small container, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for five minutes to soften, then microwave on high for 5 seconds. That should be enough to dissolve the gelatin. Stir and let it stand while you do the next step. If it does start to thicken up, just zap it for another 5 seconds.
Whip 2 cups cream with one tsp. vanilla in a fairly large container until it begins to thicken, then pour the melted gelatin right into the beaters as you continue to whip. Then add 2/3 to 3/4 cup of confectioners' sugar (I used the larger amount) and whip until it forms medium peaks. Do not overbeat! You don't want butter. Below is a picture of the leftovers from Saturday night, taken 48 hours later. You can see that it's still nice and fluffy. I think this stays so nice not only because of the gelatin but also because of the powdered sugar, which has cornstarch in it. I'm going to stick this in the freezer so I'm not quite as tempted to just eat it with a spoon!