I’ll cut right to the chase. It’s almost Valentine’s Day. You have two days.
Never fear, you still have time to make something chocolate for either your sweetheart or yourself (or both).
I have three perfect recipes for you.
First, I give you this absolutely terrific brownie recipe. It’s not too sweet, but it is quite dense and rich. It’s an adaptation of a recipe I got from someone who got it from someone else. I was convinced when I heard this story that accompanied it: These brownies are so good that a couple once asked to receive them as their wedding gift. Not crystal, not a waffle iron, not Egyptian towels. These brownies. That’s all.
The second recipe is another adaptation. (Rare is the recipe I don’t mess with. And if you’ll notice, these two recipes have similar ingredients.) This one began as a Volcano Cake recipe I found in Cook’s Illustrated. Again, I like it because it’s not that sweet, but oh my gosh, with the lava chocolate filling, and the slightly crunchy top, it’s just the most amazing little dessert.
Third is not really a recipe, but a technique for making chocolate leaves. I’ve done this so many times that I could practically make these in my sleep. It’s one of those really simple things that consistently wows people. It’s the kind of fancy-food accessory that’s so impressive that you could buy a bakery cupcake, or even scoop some ice cream into a bowl, garnish it with a few chocolate leaves, and you’d hear raves galore.
I recently made a pair of flourless chocolate cakes for a celebration, and covered them with a combination of white and chocolate leaves, and they really were gorgeous.
Chocolate leaves are also nice if you’re a little short on time.
Speaking of little, most recently I baked the Lava Cakes in demitasse cups, which basically held not even 2 tablespoons of the batter. The result was the tiniest, most adorable desserts in the world. But so cute.
Lest I mention the obvious, if you’re concerned about calories, you don’t have to worry about this dessert causing you to fall off the wagon.
The same could be true for these brownies. I cut them into triangles and then cut them in triangles again, so they ended up so diminuative that I served them on the demitasse saucers, with room to spare for heart-shaped sprinkles.
The small servings means that much more for all the sweethearts in your life. Or more just for you.
They also mean you truly can have your cake and eat it, too.
And still love yourself in the morning.
Flourless Chocolate Lava Cakes
1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter
5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
5 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, plus 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon coffee liqueur (or your favorite liqueur)
Butter and dust with sugar 8 4-ounce oven-proof ramekins, or small bowls or cups.
In microwave or over a double-boiler, melt together the solid chocolate and butter. Stir until smooth and blended.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well.
Add the eggs, yolks and liqueur and whisk until all the ingredients are incorporated. (Easy does it.)
Scoop about 1/2 cup of batter into each ramekin. (Of course, less if you’re making tiny cakes.)
(At this point, if you’re not ready to bake the cakes for a few days, you may cover the ramekins with plastic and refrigerate. Otherwise, procede with baking.)
To bake: In a preheated 375-degree oven, place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for about 16 to 20 minutes, or until the Lava Cakes are set, have shiny crusts and are beginning to crack.
Cool slightly for a few minutes. Run sharp knife around the edge of each ramekin and invert cake onto a small plate, quickly invert, right-side up, onto serving plates. (Use a towel or a hot pad to protect your hands.)
Dust with powdered sugar. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
Wedding Gift Brownies
5 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups sifted flour
4 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch process cocoa (other unsweetened cocoas work, too)
Preheat oven 350 degrees. Set rack in the oven’s center.
Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. (Or equivalent-sized pan.) Line with parchment paper, letting sides hang over by 1 inch. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave in a glass bowl or over a stove-top double boiler until it’s about 3/4 melted. Remove from heat and stir. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl or standing mixer, beat the eggs slightly, then whisk in the sugar. Beat until think and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. (This is where a standing mixer comes in handy.)
In another bowl sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.
Meanwhile, if the chocolate mixture has cooled slightly, and is not hot, pour it into the egg/sugar mixture and gently blend well. (If you add the chocolate when it’s too hot the eggs will curdle.)
Sift (yes, again) the flour mixture over the chocolate batter in 3 additions, folding gently with a heavy plastic spatula each time to incorporate well. Do not over-mix.
Scrape batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center has just a few crumbs clinging to it. Do not over-bake.
Cool before cutting. A thin-bladed knife dipped in boiling water, then wiped with a paper towel, will make the job easier.
If you want, dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with chocolate sauce.
Any kind of chocolate (except unsweetened), melted
Clean, dry lemon leaves (they’re non-toxic, and slippery)
Spread melted chocolate on the UNDERSIDE of a lemon leaf.
Set on parchment- or waxed paper-covered tray. Repeat until the chocolate’s gone.
Place in a cool place. (In the refrigerator, if you’re in a hurry.)
When the chocolate has hardened, hold the leaf by the stem and carefully pull it away from the chocolate.
This is a best-of column that first appeared on Feb. 14, 2008, back when love looked so different – so innocent and hopeful – to this writer, back when anewscafe.com had just a few thousand unique visitors each month, unlike the tens of thousands of current monthly readers anewscafe.com proudly serves. On behalf of everyone at anewscafe.com, we wish you love. And chocolate. We love you!
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.