High Altitude Baking: The perfect flourless chocolate cake cups for Valentine’s Day
High Country Baking
High altitudes make 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.
Need a Valentine’s Day dessert? Look no further. These little cakes baked in ramekins are a perfect choice. Why? Well, they’re chocolate, which is almost a requirement to make this day special, and they’re a rich, gooey chocolate to boot so everyone who eats them will feel pampered and indulged. They’ll make you feel good too because even though they look fancy, they come together in about 15 minutes and are ready to serve 30 minutes later. You can even make them ahead and reheat them or serve them at room temperature. You can also double or triple the recipe. What more could you ask for?
The chocolate you use is critical to the dessert’s success. Use one you’d enjoy eating and, for a strong chocolate taste, stick with one that’s bittersweet; if you substitute semisweet expect a lighter flavor. You can use salted butter if you eliminate the salt listed in the recipe. Don’t have superfine sugar? Make your own by processing regular sugar in a food processor until it’s like fine sand. If you use regular granular sugar, the results will still be good though the cake’s texture won’t be quite as smooth.
The cakes in the photos are topped with rosettes of sweetened whipped cream and a few raspberries, but there are numerous other delicious toppings: A sprinkle of powdered sugar is all they really need, but add a few red berries or even sprinkles (for kids) if you like the look. The easiest, and one of the best tasting accompaniments, is a small scoop of coffee or vanilla ice cream (heaven on a warmed cake). A drizzle of caramel, chocolate, or raspberry sauce also works well.
Flourless Chocolate Cake Cups
Make in ½-cup
2 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
2 pinches salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease the ramekins (including the rims) with butter or a baking spray.
2. Chop the chocolate into ¼-inch pieces and place them in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cut the butter into four pieces, add them to the bowl and zap in a microwave at a medium-low temperature (I use No. 4 out of 10) for a minute. Check, and if necessary, zap at 20 second intervals until the butter has melted and the chocolate is in small lumps. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir until all ingredients are fully melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny. Set it aside to cool slightly.
This step can also be done on the stovetop: Place the chopped chocolate and pieces of butter in a small saucepan and warm them over very low heat, stirring frequently, until the butter has melted and the chocolate is in small lumps. Remove from heat and continue as specified above.
3. Add the granulated and brown sugars to a small mixing bowl along with the egg, vanilla and salt and whisk until well-combined. Add the cooled chocolate and gently whisk until it’s fully blended. Try not to create air bubbles in the mixture; it should be smooth and thick. If there are air bubbles in the batter, tap the bowl on your countertop a few times; the bubbles should rise and pop.
4. Slowly (so air bubbles don’t form) pour the batter into the prepared ramekins, dividing it evenly between them. It should come about ½-inch to ¾-inch from the top. Place them on a cookie sheet and move them to the oven. Bake until the batter puffs up and is just set (no longer looks or feels wet but is still quite soft when touched in the middle), about 20-25 minutes. Remove and let cool for at least 5 minutes. They’ll sink as they cool, which is expected with this type of cake.
5. Serve them when still warm for a mousse-like texture, or at room temperature for a fudgy texture. After cooling, covering and refrigerating, you can warm them with a quick zap in a microwave or a short time in a 325 degree oven. If you’re topping warm cakes with whipped cream, cool them a little before adding it so that their heat won’t soften or melt the stiff cream.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks Baking Above It All and Cookies in the Clouds, (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a high-altitude baking teacher. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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