High Altitude Baking: Chocolate-velvet cups (recipe) | SummitDaily.com

High Altitude Baking: Chocolate-velvet cups (recipe)

Editor's note: High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.

It's the holiday season, when days are full of good cheer and frantic activity. I don't want to miss a moment of it, so I seek out recipes that are quick and easy, yet worthy of a celebration. These chocolate-velvet cups are a prime example. Their rich taste and velvety texture have wide appeal, and they look showy, like a restaurant dessert. But it takes only one bowl and about 15 minutes to get them in the oven, and they can be prepared two days before serving.

Serve these slightly warm, with ice cream, to kids or top them with whipped cream flavored with Kahlua or Grand Marnier for those with a more sophisticated palate.

My recommendations: Be sure to beat the batter the specified amount of time to assure the lovely texture that's responsible for the dessert's success. And, most important, don't overbake these beauties.

Chocolate-velvet cups

(Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and higher. Make in 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups.)

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¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened, natural cocoa

1 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker's

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ cup unsalted butter (one stick), melted

¼ teaspoon salt

2 ½ large eggs, slightly beaten (for half a large egg, beat one lightly so the yolk and white are combined and then use approximately 2 tablespoons of the mixture)

1 generous teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream or ice cream, optional

Center a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Bring a kettle of water to a boil to use in a water bath. Grease or butter the ramekins all the way to the top, and select a shallow baking pan to use for the water bath that will hold them without touching one another.

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat until combined, and then increase the speed to medium-high and beat for three to four minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, as needed. Continue until the batter is thick, very smooth and lightened in texture and color.

Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins or custard cups, filling them to about ¼ inch from the top (if serving with ice cream, fill to about ½ inch from the top). Rap each filled ramekin on a counter to release any air bubbles in the batter, and place them in the shallow baking pan, spacing them so water can circulate freely around each of them.

Place the pan in the oven. Carefully pour the boiling water into the pan so it covers the bottom inch of the ramekins. Bake until the tops puff and are set all the way across but still springy to the touch. This takes about 40 minutes, but the precise time will depend on the size and depth of the ramekins and the depth and temperature of the water. Don't overbake.

Carefully remove the ramekins from the baking dish (I use tongs to do this), and place them on a rack to cool completely. They will deflate as they cool. Once they reach room temperature, you can serve or refrigerate them, covered, up to two days. We like to serve them at room temperature, when they have a light, creamy texture, or warmed slightly, when they are gooier; almost like a pudding. If the desserts are refrigerated, then give them an hour or so to come to room temperature before serving.

Makes 5 servings.

Vera Dawson is a high-altitude baking teacher and author of two high-altitude cookbooks, "Baking Above It All" and "Cookies in the Clouds" (available at The Bookworm of Edwards). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at veradawson1@gmail.com.

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