Thursday 10 May 2012

Dark Chocolate Lava Cakes

Oh yes, you read that right. Dark. Chocolate. Lava cakes.

When I first stumbled across this recipe in February's Reader's Digest, I thought, no. This is too complicated. There's too many things I could mess up, and then that would be a terrible waste of chocolate.

But then I kept seeing the magazine sitting around the apartment, and once in a while I'd pick it up and it would somehow end up on that page, the lava cake sitting there in all its glory... taunting me.

And before I knew it I was bringing home bittersweet chocolate and chopping it up.

The first step is to make the centers which starts, as you have likely surmised, by chopping up the best bittersweet chocolate you can find. (The recipe is actually by Ghirardelli, so please, if your store has that brand of chocolate, use it! Mine didn't though, so Baker's it is!)

In any case, pop a pot on the stove with a bit of water in it, get it simmering a bit and set up a little double-boiler action with your favourite heatproof bowl. One day I will invest in a glass one so as not to sear everyone's retinas with the glare off this metal one.

Anyway! Throw your 2 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate in there and pour a quarter cup of cream on it.

Mix and heat it until it looks incredibly silky and smooth and delicious, as above. Then comes one of the toughest parts of this recipe: putting this luscious bowl ganache in the fridge and waiting at least an hour.

... An hour?! I was ready to dig a spoon into it already! But I somehow survived the hour. Once it's firmed up in the fridge, you want to form the centers into equally-sized balls.

Or, at least, equal-ish-sized ball-type lumps. They don't have to be perfect, they're going to be liquid in the end, anyway! For now, pop them back in the fridge while we get the next part ready.

Grease 6 of your favourite mini-pans or ramekins. I used a few of each since I didn't have quite enough of either. From my experience I must suggest going for a deeper dish like the ones on the right, the shallower glass ramekins did not produce a very good lava cake. Those ones actually fell apart when it was time to turn them out of the pan.

So guess how the next step starts? Yep, chop more chocolate! There's something I really enjoy about the k-k-krrrch-THUNK of chopping big chunks of chocolate with my biggest knife. I was a little sad when I ran out of chocolate to chop.

So take this batch of chopped chocolate and pop it in a clean double-boiler setup along with 1/2 cup of butter, and stir once in a while until it looks like this:

Then put it aside to cool a bit while you work on the rest of the batter.

That's 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1/3 cup of sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Blitz 'em up with your hand mixer until the mixture becomes thick and light in colour, which takes around 5 minutes or so.

Once you have a thick, creamy mixture, you can start folding in the chocolate and butter mixture. I added a tiny bit of the chocolate at first, stirring quickly with a spatula, to try to temper the egg mixture and avoid scrambled eggs in my lava cakes. Because that would be eww.

Fold in your chocolate mixture, and then sift a 1/4 cup of pastry flour over the top and continue to fold.

Now, the recipe didn't actually say to sift the flour, but I am telling you to, because I did end up with a couple of little flour clumps in my finished cakes and I do not wish you to suffer the same. As always, take the chance to learn from my mistakes!

Once you've folded in all your flour and chocolate, you'll have something that looks like this. I didn't try to mix it to be perfectly homogeneous because the batter was already deflating, and I didn't want it to lose any more lift than it already had.

Pour a bit of batter into each of your molds/ramekins/mini-pans/whatever and pop one center in the (you'll never guess) center of each pan.

Cover with batter. This is part of why a deeper pan is better than a wider one, better center coverage.

While your cakes bake in the 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, you can clean some of your dishes and utensils, and take a moment to marvel at the utility and utter adorableness of that pink cupcake spatula that followed you home from Home Outfitters.

Or maybe that's just me. But seriously, look at this thing! I need another 20 of them.

After 15 minutes (and much cupcake-spatula ogling) your cakes should be firm to the touch. Let them sit in their pans for about 5 minutes.

As they sit, you'll notice they start to pull away from the edges of the pan a bit.

Once 5 minutes have elapsed, you can flip it out onto a plate, pile on your favourite whipped topping (or ice cream, ice cream would be amazing with this!) and get ready to dig in.

Oh, look at that luscious little bite! And you can see that chocolatey center starting to ooze forth... Let's see if I can get you a better shot of that...

Mmm, yes, with the whipped cream melting down over it and the gooey middle puddling onto the plate. You know, maybe I should clear a bit more of the cake so you can see the center better -

- oh, gee, now the whipped cream is really getting in the way. Just a sec while I tidy this up a bit to get a better shot for you -

Oh. Uh, I don't really know what happened there. One minute I was arranging the cake to take more photos and the next, the plate was empty! This has never happened before.

Well, I guess to get a good look, you'll have to make some yourself! Full instructions are available on the Reader's Digest website. What they don't mention is, you can save these cakes in the fridge for at least a day, and if you turn 'em out onto a plate and microwave for 15 seconds, they're almost as good as if you've just made them. Thought you might like to know that.

I loved these cakes so much, I'm dreaming of all kind of variations now... Just imagine a white chocolate lava cake with a drizzle of raspberry sauce! Mmm. Someday.

But just this moment I have some Mother's Day cookies to bake for a friend. I'll try and get a post together about them to share with you before the big day - which is this Sunday! Whoa! Where does the time go? I better figure out what I'm doing for my Mom...

Until next time!

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