Chocolate lava cake demystified

8th February, 2010 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Chocolate lava cakes with cookies and cream ice cream.

Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. If you are one of the crowd that prefers to leave the restaurants to the masses and use the day as a reason to make something tasty and romantic at home, then this column is for you.

What the main course will be is entirely left up to the chef and whoever they wish to impress, but for dessert there should be chocolate – and lots of it. Chocolate lava cake is my dessert of choice when trying to impress a small number. This particular concoction seems to work best in batches of four or less.

Chocolate lava cake has been a dessert menu staple for years. It is warm, rich and gooey – the perfect ending for dinner on a chilly winter night. It’s also proof that pastry chefs tend to be diabolical: they’ve got people paying 12 bucks for under cooked cake- which is basically all lava cake is. But still extremely tasty.

The batter can be made in advance and kept chilled and covered until it’s time to bake them. When selecting the proper dish for the baking, choose something taller than it is wider and not too big – about 1 1/2 cups capacity is fine. Ceramic ramekins are perfect for the job, but whatever is used should be oven safe up to 375 degrees.

The ramekins should be buttered prior to being filled. Use actual butter for this part, instead of margarine or shortening. The rich flavor of butter will work better with the chocolate. Also, use more than you think you need. The real trick of lava cake is getting it to release from the container. Skimping on the butter increases the chance that it will bake onto the dish and refuse to let go.

Once everything is filled and in the oven, let them bake for 10 to 15 minutes. The cake will be done when the tops are set. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out wet and chocolaty.

The finished cake is very rich, so plan to serve it along side ice cream or a fruit sauce. It will also be very hot. When I was looking up recipes for this column, all of them very blithely included the instruction “remove from oven, tip onto plate” – which is much easier said than done when the ramekin just came out of a hot oven. The easiest technique is to place the plate upside down over the top of the ramekin, then – using a dry dish towel or a hot pad – flip everything over. If there is a silicone hot pad or oven mitt available, use it for extra grip. Above all, be careful. Nothing ruins Valentine’s faster than burns and broken crockery.

If the evening is going so well that the cakes stay in the oven longer than intended, do not panic. Overcooked lava cake becomes dense, moist chocolate cake. Decant it onto a plate, garnish and serve it as if you meant to do that all along.

Serve with port wine and two forks. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Lava Cake
Serves 4

6 oz. Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate (or use your favorite 70% dark chocolate bar)
6 oz. Butter (diced, room temperature)
3 Eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
Butter for ramekins

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350¡F
1. Melt chocolate on low flame in a bain-marie (double boiler). When melted remove from heat.
2. Stir in diced butter until it melts.
3. In another bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until it starts to whiten.
4. Stir in melted chocolate and then the flour. Mix to remove any lumps.
5. Butter 4 individual ramekins, and pour in batter, about 3/4 full.
6. Cook for about 15 minutes.
7. Carefully tip ramekins upside down onto dessert plates – they will be very hot – and serve with ice cream or fruit.

Posted on: February 8, 2010

Filed under: Dessert, Vegetarian

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