Chocolate Molten Cake
Laughter carries its light, frivolous tones through the fresh air. The clumsy patter of untied, barely-velcrowed shoes tap against the dry ages-old worn dirt path trickling through a clover field. A monumental jump lifts dirty grey shoes and tattered bluejeans high over two friends huddled around a patch of green, their small eyes searching for a lucky four leaf clover. A quick duck and a low hanging pine branch is just missed.
Side to side and a pattern of back and forth cambering develops as eager legs begin to encounter heavy traffic. Obstacles litter the determined path of this young boy as he leaves the field and enteres the playground. Curious eyes track up from fastidiously constructed dirt mounds in wonderment at what dashed before them. Whispers, a game of telephone, races from the sandbox to the slide and eventually all the way back to the field. Curious eyes and intrigued ears lift boys from their battle stations in the mammoth fortresses and jungle gyms littering the playground.
A young, growing man in chase is now followed by a massing of his gossiping peers. Boys form an audience behind him; girls rush off ahead of him with their own mission. Suddenly running feet stop. A cloud of dust swirls up in a loose vortex as the boy barely manages to remain upright in his hurried stop. The stampede of feet behind him ceases too. They’re in girl territory now, land unfamiliar to the boys.
“He’s gonna do it!” a friend whispers. “No way. He’s too much of a wuss. No way,” another quietly chants. Eery, rare, never-before-seen-on-this-playground silence falls over the 3rd graders. A young boy, a boy in love, stares forward. Behind him nearly every single boy in his grade is ready to back him up. In front of him stands the most beautiful girl he had ever seen; behind her was every single intimidating, cootie-filled girl of their class.
With a sniffle and a crude wipe of his sleeve against his nose, the scared boy takes a few steps forward. Eyes meet. They’ve held hands before; why is this so tough now? Feet that once broke the speed of light barely manage to bring the boy forward into speaking distance with this young Heather. She waits. Nothing happens. He tries to speak but only inaudible mummers emerge. Unimpressive, awkward moments pass.
The crowd begins to disperse; it was a false alarm. With a frown the little girl turns around to the amassed crowd of her girlfriends. They comfort her. The boy looks behind him watching his peers leave in silent judgement. Then an idea and a smirk.
The boy darts up to the girl, lunges his arm at an arbitrary point on her back, pinches, and pulls back the girl’s bra strap. The smirk now morphs into a mischievous smile as he let’s go of the cocked and armed bra strap. Horrified faces of girlfriends appear in slow motion as a colossal, ear-cringing snap rings through the schoolyard. Silence again. A mistake has been made. The air is filled with the chanting and hollering of the boys and the screaming of the girls.
Heather turns around in a fury. Her angry eyes stop short at a pink and red object delicately balanced in the boy’s hands. A crudely cut pink colored-paper heart complete with glitter and small red heart cut outs rest in the trembling hands of this swooned boy. Taped to the card is a box of sweetheart candy hearts. He extends his offering to her with a flirtatious, apologetic grimace. Her glare fades and as she scoops up her valentine’s day present he plants a quick kiss on her unsuspecting lips. The crowd of boys and girls roar to life again.
Too embarrassed and shy to contemplate what he had just done, the young me runs off to hide amongst his peers. For months, the story of that infamous day would ring through the halls. I had managed two firsts for that playground; I was the first boy in my grade to snap a girl’s bra and the first kid to kiss a girl. For my eight year old peers I was a hero. I had done the unthinkable. I braved the girl’s side of the playground and emerged victorious. I approached a girl on their day and picked my valentine as the only way I knew how then.
For the rest of that day, and most of that year, we would sit next to each other in class, our hands clasped tightly together under the table, our smiles glowing for all to see. In hind sight that may have been the most brave moment of my life. To this day I do not think I have not made such a grand gesture; instead, I now rely on the sweet, seductive power of delicious baked goods like this chocolate molten cake with a cinnamon honey pear sauce.
Chocolate Molten Cake: The secret to chocolate molten cake is whipped eggs, a quick baking time in a moderately high heat, and cooking the cakes as close to the bottom of the oven as possible. This is also one of those dishes that must be served immediately after baking. Because of the speedy nature of this recipe, I suggest making the sauce first, setting it aside, then preparing the cakes.
If when you unmould the first cake, it does not stand up like a cake layer, or seems too runny or oozy, place the other cakes back in the hot oven for another couple minutes. I had to sacrifice one of the cakes to figure out the cooking time for my oven.
Chocolate Molten Cake
This recipe will yield about 6, 8 ounce cakes. The recipe has been adapted from Craig Stoll and Michelle Polzine of San Francisco’s Delfina.
6, 8 once ramekins
Standmixer or bowl and hand mixer
Spoon or scoop
8 ounces unsalted butter, roughly chopped
10 ounces 70% cocoa, chopped
2 ounces 99% or 100% cocoa, finely chopped
4 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
4 ounces sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ounce flour
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack as low as it can be placed in the oven. Butter the ramekins. Line the bottom of each ramekin with parchment paper and butter that as well.
2. Place the chopped butter and cocoa in a bowl over simmering water. Heat the mixture, stirring frequently until the butter and cocoa have melted completely. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. In another bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar on high speed for about 5 minutes until it reaches the ribbon stage (when the whisk is lifted from the bowl, the mixture should fall back to the bowl slowly in thick ribbons).
4. With the mixer on low slowly mix in the flour.
5. Gently fold the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, using 1/3 of the egg mixture at a time. Once the egg mixture is completely folded in and the mixture is homogenous, evenly spoon or pour the batter into the prepared ramekins, leaving 1/4 inch at the top of each ramekin.
If you want to serve the cake later, cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days.
6. Bake in a preheated oven for 11 to 13 minutes until the sides are set and firm. The center will be soft to the touch but set.
7. Remove from the oven and let the ramekins sit for 1 minute before unmoulding, if you plan to serve it that way (you may need to run a very sharp, thin knife around the outside before unmoulding). You can also serve them in the ramekin as I have done.
8. Serve immediately, topped with the cinnamon honey pear sauce (recipe below).
Cinnamon Honey Pear Sauce: This sauce is essentially a poaching liquid that is reduced until thick like a syrup. If you would like larger pieces of pear, or even pear halves instead of cubed pears, simply poach the pears for a few minutes longer until they are cooked through. You can also substitute the whole cinnamon stick and vanilla bean with 1 tsp of cinnamon and vanilla extract each.
If you want to multi task and save dishes, instead of using a bain-marie, simply place the bowl of chocolate and butter for the chocolate molten cake onto of the pot simmering the syrup after the pears have been removed.
Cinnamon Honey Pear Sauce
This recipe will yield about 2 cups of sauce.
Heavy bottomed pot
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick, broken into quarters
1 vanilla bean, split
3 tablespoons honey
2 or 3 pears, peeled, cored & chopped
1. Place all the ingredients except the pears in a heavy bottomed pot. Be sure to scrape the vanilla bean seeds from the pod into the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir until the honey and sugar has dissolved.
2. Add the pears and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pears are soft and cooked through.
3. Remove the pears and set them aside.
4. Increase the heat of the poaching liquid mixture so that it is at a gentle boil. Boil the mixture until it has reduced by almost 1/2 and is thick like a syrup, about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the mixture as the rate at which it is simmering or boiling can greatly affect the cooking time.
5. Remove the mixture from the heat and remove the vanilla bean pod and the cinnamon sticks. Add the pears back to the mixture (unless you wish to keep them separate).
6. Serve warm or cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Serving tips: Pour the syrup and pears over the chocolate molten cake, or next to them on a plate. If you are a honey fan you can add a little extra honey too. The cake is very rich so the sweetness of the sauce and honey pulls out the sweet notes and balances the bitterness of the chocolate.
Enjoy and happy valentines!