The popularity of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours is infectious. I’ve been following the baking of the Tuesdays with Dorie group since it was formed in the beginning of this year, but I had no intention of joining, or even buying the book. I once fancied myself a collector of cookbooks, but now I feel silly for having a shelf of books when I only use a few of them. The last thing I needed was another cookbook, especially a baking book.
But after months of overwhelmingly good reviews of the book, plus flipping through it several times in bookstores, plus the fantastic Perfect Party Cake I made for the Daring Bakers, I broke down and bought the book. And TWD is a great way to make sure it doesn’t languish on my bookshelf unused, like so many other cookbooks. Furthermore, it’s actually nice to have someone else pick a recipe for me each week, because it insures that my baking stays creative and I don’t limit myself to my favorite types of recipes.
Leigh of Lemon Tartlet chose Gooey Chocolate Cakes as this week’s recipe, which is Dorie’s take on molten chocolate cakes. It’s a relatively simple dessert to put together, although my first attempt was moist, but certainly not gooey. I made them again and cooked them for one minute less, and they were gooey, but not runny. I made them again and cooked them for another half minute less, and they were exactly what I wanted in the beginning. Maybe it’s because I was using ramekins and not the muffin pan Dorie calls for, maybe my oven’s temperature cycles widely. They were good each time, but the more liquidy, the better, I think.
(Please note that I did not make 18 molten chocolate cakes over the course of a week. That would be insane. I halved the recipe twice, and the second time I baked one in the afternoon to take pictures and stashed the other two in the fridge until I was ready for dessert that evening.)
You really can’t go wrong with molten chocolate cakes. I served mine with ice cream, as per Dorie’s insistence, plus made up a strawberry coulis. This dessert was a great introduction into this group!
Gooey Chocolate Cakes (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)
It’s been more than ten years since the molten chocolate cake won the hearts of just about every pastry chef here and in France. There doesn’t seem to be a chocolate lover on either side of the ocean who hasn’t savored this cake: small, dark and warm, with a lava-like runny center, sophisticated, easily dressupable and, best of all, truly easy to make. In fact, it’s one of few restaurant desserts that can be made at home with foolproof results, even if you’re not a star baker. The most important rule to remember in making these individual cakes is to use not only the best chocolate you can find, but the chocolate you most love to eat, since that’s the ingredient you will taste.
Usually these cakes are made in individual ramekins, but with all the ramekins stacked in my cupboard, I couldn’t come up with six that were the right size. Then I discovered that disposable aluminum foil muffin pans are ideal. I buy the kind that have six cups and come two pans to a package. I also wash them in the dishwasher and re-use them.
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 4 ounces coarsely chopped, 1 ounce very finely chopped
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter (or spray – it’s easier) 6 cups of a regular-size muffin pan, preferably a disposable aluminum foil pan, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together.
Set a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, put the coarsely chopped chocolate and the butter in the bowl and stir occasionally over the simmering water just until they are melted – you don’t want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until homogenous. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and, still using the whisk, stir (don’t beat) them into the eggs. Little by little, and using a light hand, stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle the finely chopped chocolate over the batter.
Bake the cakes for 13 minutes. Transfer them, still on the baking sheet, to a rack to cool for 3 minutes. (There is no way to test that these cakes are properly baked, because the inside remains liquid.)
Line a cutting board with a silicone baking mat or parchment or wax paper, and, after the 3-minute rest, unmold the cakes onto the board. Use a wide metal spatula to lift the cakes onto dessert plates.
Serving: These should be served as soon as they are put on plates. The cakes are not meant to be served alone – they need something to play off their warm, gooey, soooooo chocolaty interior. Ice cream is the most obvious choice and, to my mind, the best in terms of texture and, of course, temperature. Any chocolate-friendly flavor will be good. Circling the cakes with crème anglaise is another good idea and, for those for whom too much is not enough, circling the cakes with crème anglaise and running a ring of bittersweet chocolate sauce through the custard is an even better idea.
Storing: Although the whole point of a warm, runny cake is to eat it when it is warm and runny, the cake is still delicious, but different, the following day. If you wrap the cooled cakes in plastic wrap and keep them at room temperature, the next day the texture of the center of the cake (the part that was once gooey) will remind you of ganache. Eating the cake will be like enjoying a bonbon: it will be firm on the outside and creamy within.