A dessert of ice and fire

Warm cake made from Belgian chocolate, with a hot centre that erupts onto the plate, cooled with frozen yogurt. Say hello to my first lava cake!

On my way home yesterday, I ran into Boyfriend on the subway. This might not seem like a big event, since we live together, but I love serendipity. I commemorated that happy chance with a dessert that’s hot and cold, decadent and sweet.

I found a recipe for “molten chocolate cakes” in Chocolate! favourite recipes for cakes, cookies, pies, puddings & other sublime desserts by Good Housekeeping, which is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Good to know before you start: You don’t have to cook them all at once, the batter can be refrigerated or frozen, to bake as needed – oops, wish I realized this myself!

Chocolate will seize if it comes into contact with moisture, so always make sure the pans and utensils are dry, and use low heat without a cover to prevent condensation

Time required: 1 hr

Yields: 8 cakes

Cost per portion: $3.50

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $28.00 or higher

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • electric beaters
  • 8 ramequins
  • baking pans large enough to hold the ramequins
  • kitchen scale

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz of semi-sweet Belgian chocolate (equivalent to 4 squares)
  • ½ C butter (1 stick), room temp
  • ¼ C heavy cream
  • ½ TSP vanilla extract
  • ¼ C granulated white sugar
  • ¼ C flour
  • 4 eggs, room temp (need 2 full eggs + 2 egg yolks)

Step 1 – preheat oven to 204°C / 400°F. Grease and sugar ramequins, and place them into baking pan(s).

Step 2 – use a serrated blade to chop the chocolate. I’m glad I used the premium stuff, because Callebaut Belgian chocolate is delicious. I get mine from Domino’s in the St. Lawrence Market.

It’s easier if you cut the chocolate from an angle.

Including the weight of the container I needed 5.3 oz, so weigh it out and set it aside.

Step 3 – take 2 of the 4 eggs, and separate the yolk from the white. Return whites to fridge.

Step 4 – using a mixer on High speed for 10 minutes, beat: sugar, 2 eggs, and 2 egg yolks. Stir down the sides a few times, and it will get thicker and lemon-coloured.

Step 5 – (I did this while the mixer was going.)

In a sauce pan on Low, melt: butter, heavy cream, and chocolate.

Stir the chocolate constantly until the mixture is smooth. Chocolate has a very low melting temperature, and it will scorch if you let it get too hot.

Step 6 – remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Step 7 – gently whisk in the flour, until just combined

Step 8 – fold the egg mixture into the chocolate, adding one third at a time.

Mmm, the way it looked  reminded me of chocolate cheesecake ice cream, which I haven’t had since I was a kid. WANT NOW.

It took quite awhile for the batter to reach a uniform colour.

Step 9 – ladle the batter into the ramequins, and bake for 8-9 minutes.

Check for doneness by shaking the pan, the edges of the cakes should be set but the centres should jiggle.

Step 10 – cool on rack for 3 min, in pan

Step 11 – remove ramequins from baking pan, run thin blade around the edges of each cake to loosen it from the ramequin; then immediately turn them upside down onto a plate and serve

I was a little surprised how flat they look. I was expecting more volume, but since there is no leavening agent it makes sense. I added some vanilla frozen yogurt.

Verdict: Yum. I’m quite pleased. They were delicious and visually interesting. Boyfriend really liked them too, and said “Oh wow, this is good, this is really good.”  I snuck one into his lunch as a surprise when he gets to work. Am waiting to hear how it tasted after being microwaved. :/

Before last night, I had never eaten lava cakes, so I’m glad that situation has been rectified.

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Hot fudge sauce

An “impact event” occurs when two celestial bodies collide. Chocolate being the food of the gods, a Baking impact event is when two flavours hit you like a bolt of lightning and your taste buds sing; everything changes and you dream up more ways to bring them together. That’s how I feel about hot fudge sauce and frozen yogurt. So simple, so delicious!

I made hot fudge sauce for Boyfriend tonight as a surprise. I learned to make this when I was 8 years old, it’s from Master Your Microwave which is available on Amazon.ca. The book stands out in my mind for 2 reasons; it was the first recipe I ever made of my own volition, an innocent time when I didn’t understand arcing and would put metal pans in the microwave to watch the pretty blue sparks. (Sorry Mom.)

Time required: 10 minutes

Yields: double batch

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $18.00

Cost per serving: minuscule

Kitchen implements I used: microwave & microwave-safe glass bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1 C granulated white sugar
  • 6 TBSP cocoa
  • 3 TBSP powdered cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 C water
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 2 TSP vanilla

Instructions:

Step 1 – in large glass bowl, combine dry ingredients

Step 2 – whisk in water

Step 3 – microwave on High for 8 minutes, stirring every 60 seconds.

It remains fairly watery until the 6 minute mark, and at that point it starts turning into a thick gelatinous goo (which was considered and discarded as a potential name for this blog):

After the 8 minute mark, it’s thoroughly thickened up:

Step 4 – stir in butter and vanilla, whisking until thoroughly combined

Step 5 – add to frozen yogurt…

… or stuff it into a cream puff. (Great idea Boyfriend!)

Verdict: delicious as expected! I used to make this all the time but haven’t made it in years, and found myself yearning for some tonight. Alas I had no bananas to add to my sundae. You could also make some fresh caramel, mmmmm.

Boyfriend said, “Oooh. That’s good. That’s really good. It’s like everything that’s good melting in your mouth at the perfect temperature.”

Spiced apple & pears

Imagine a warm bowl of apple sauce, with chunks of apple and pear, spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla bean. While it’s cooking, the most tantalizing smell will have you finding excuses to linger in the kitchen. A sweet topping so warm that it melts the frozen yogurt underneath.

I found this recipe in a book that my mother gave me, Slow Cooker Magic in Minutes, which is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

It’s a hard cover book with a ring binding and colour photos, with lots of different slow cooker recipes, including some delicious desserts. Prior to reading this I was not aware you could make a dessert in a crock pot. I thought the idea was a little odd, actually, before I tried one. Turns out that slow cooked desserts are amazing!

Good to know before you start:

Sometimes vanilla bean can be substituted with vanilla extract. This is not one of those times. Get the bean! Your taste buds will thank you.

After this has finished cooking and you’ve had a bowl, the rest should be covered and refrigerated. Later you’ll notice that fat rises to the surface (just like stew). Skim that off, and heat the portion that you want to serve.

Don’t use over ripened fruit unless you enjoy the feeling of something disintegrating in your hands. On that same note, if your pears are not quite ripe that is okay, wooden pears are fine for this.

Use either 6 medium-sized fruits or 5 large ones.

getting started

Time required: 6 hours (70 min prep time, the rest is slow cooking time)

Yields: a lot, you will run out of ice cream before you run out of topping

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $30.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • apple peeler & apple corer
  • slow cooker

Ingredients:

  • 5 tart apples
  • 5 pears
  • 8 TBSP butter, unsalted (one stick)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 lemon (use half)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½TSP cloves, ground
  • ½ C water
  • 1 C brown sugar, packed

Step 1 – Peel and core apples and pears. Cut each apple slice in thirds, cut each pear slice in half. Place in slow cooker. Don’t worry about the fruit browning.

Cut each apple slice into thirds, and check the middle piece for any core remnants:

Slice the pears horizontally (errr… diagonally):

Place the flat part of the pear on the cutting board and core it, and then each pear slice should be cut in half:

Step 2 – Melt butter in sauce pan on Low.

Step 3 – Add all other ingredients to butter:

  • split and scrape vanilla bean, add seeds and pod
  • cut cinnamon stick in half, add both halves
  • use half of lemon, peel it and remove seeds, add pulp and juice
  • then add brown sugar, cloves, and water

Step 4 – Bring pot to a boil, and boil for 1 min, stirring often.

Step 5 – Pour liquid over apple and pears. Stir until mixture coats all fruit. Bury the bean pod and cinnamon sticks under the fruit.

Step 6 – Cover and cook, stirring every 45 min.  Cook times vary. The book recommends either up to 4 hours on Low, or up to 2 hours on High.

I cook it at leat 5 hours on High and I’ll show you why.

After 45 minutes:

After 90 minutes:

After 135 minutes:

After 180 minutes:

I think it’s best when the fruit has broken down to this stage and everything is soft. It’s a very versatile dessert. I have enjoyed it several ways; served warm on its own, or on top of a bowl or vanilla frozen yogurt, and on pound cake.

warm spiced apple and pear fruit toppingThe book also recommends with whipped cream, crème anglaise, or sponge cake, but I haven’t tried these last three.

One dish of spiced apple pears a day keeps the winter chill away!