The reading is still coming along in relentless waves. The outlines are supposed to be taking shape. It has officially turned cold in Boston - sweater, scarf and gloves cold. And apparently the town is in a tizzy over something baseball-related, which makes taking the T during the late afternoons a rather dubious venture.
This is a situation that calls for chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Preferably in warm, melted form.
Usually, I'd bake up a batch of "Cadbury Fruit and Nut Bar" cakes, or just leave a bar of dark chocolate by the radiator to turn soft, but Virgin, of Virgin in the Volcano, asked me several months ago if I had a recipe for chocolate lava cake. She and I don't share any classes this year, so we decided to get together, have some wine, grouse about classes and the job hunt, and do some baking.
I pulled a copy of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's recipe for "Warm, Soft Chocolate Cake," and I tried to follow it. I really did. I had the chocolate. I had the butter. I had the eggs, the sugar, and the flour. I only have two ramekins, but I thought I'd halve the recipe, and we'd be fine.
And then Virgin sized up my ramekins with the practiced eye of one who has handled many shot glasses and definitely knows her fluid ounces, and told me that they were two-ounce ramekins, not four. Apparently the subtleties of the imperial system of measurement are still beyond me.
And if you didn't quite butter and flour the molds generously enough, the cakes aren't going to tip out of the molds neatly. In fact, they're not going to tip out of the molds at all.
This is the moment at which you'll probably want to give up on the recipe and serve the cakes right in their ramekins, preferably with a dusting of cocoa and fresh raspberry sauce. They come out with gently crisped tops and rich, gooey centers, so it's not a complete loss.
And Virgin really likes their name. I can't blame her. I rather prefer it myself.
(Virgin in the) Volcano Soufflé-Cakes
Inspired by Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s “Warm, Soft Chocolate Cake."
Chocolate does not like high heat. Chocolate does not like water. These two factors make melting chocolate a tricky proposition. Happily, any dessert that combines melted chocolate with melted butter makes things much, much easier: as long as you melt the butter first, and then add the chocolate, your chances of ending up with a grainy, scorched mess are considerably lower.
Set up a double-boiler: put a small pot of water on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Set a heatproof bowl over the pot and drop in half a stick of butter, cut into rough chunks. When the butter has melted completely, add one-third of a cup of dark chocolate chips, or two ounces of finely chopped dark chocolate. Turn off the heat.
While you’re waiting for the chocolate to melt, beat together one egg, one egg yolk, and one-eighth of a cup of sugar until thick and very foamy.
Check on the butter-chocolate mixture. The chocolate should be mostly melted; stir with a rubber spatula until smooth and even. Don't worry if you have lumps - they're going to melt anyway when you bake the cakes.
Move the bowl to the counter and gently fold in the egg mixture.
Preheat the oven to 450F.
Take three two-ounce ramekins, butter them, and lightly flour them. Tap them to shake out any excess flour. Spoon the batter into the ramekins, filling them right up to the top.
Place the ramekins on a tray and bake for four to six minutes, or until the cakes have risen above the edge.
Remove the tray from the oven; transfer the ramekins to plates. Dust with a little icing sugar or bitter cocoa. Serve immediately with fresh raspberries or raspberry sauce on the side.