Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

It’s been a great travel week.  Albany.  Weston.  Longmeadow.  Lunenburg.  Swampscott.  And more to come.  The common thread in all of these has been chocolate.  Okay.  Almost all of these.  I’ve been making lots of chocolate desserts.  But it’s my newest one that has people going all gooey inside.  Yes, it’s the Molten Chocolate (Lave) Cake.  It’s been around for a while, but I think I’ve perfected an easy and food-safe way to prepare it.  Really?  There’s been a non-safe problem?  Okay.  Here goes:

For those of you who’ve missed out on this great desert, it’s a small, individually portioned cake.  It’s round, chocolate, and has a runny chocolate center.  However, some recipes call for the timing of the cake to be such that you’re actually under-baking the cake, so it’s still runny in the middle.  There are some problems with this, such as how do you know the eggs inside are actually baked enough?  Will you take the cake’s temperature to make sure the eggs have hit their safe temperature of 145º.  Yeah, that’s on everyone’s mind.  And what if your oven is running a wee bit on the warm side?  You won’t have a warm, lava-like center to the cake.  You’ll have pumice (see what I did there?).  So, what to do?

Follow my recipe.  It has three extra steps.  Instead of relying on luck and timing for the previous method, just melt some cream and chocolate in advance.  Then cool them in the fridge.  And when it’s time to bake the cakes, put the cooled chocolate into the center of the cake batter.  14 minutes later, you have a molten chocolate lava cake that takes the mystery, guesswork, and disappointment out of your dessert.  But don’t take my word for it.  At a dinner last Saturday, one of the guests said, “that was the best chocolate dessert.  Ever.”  It was, too.

And you can find it here.  Happy baking!

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Black Bean and Salsa Lasagna

  • 1 package no-boil gluten-free lasagna noodles
  • 2 15 oz cans black beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rinsed and minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt
  • Tabasco (or your favorite semi-hot sauce)
  • 2 16 oz jars salsa (mild or medium spicy, your choice)
  • 1 28 oz can chopped or whole tomatoes
  • 8 oz light cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz part-skim mozzarella, grated

 

1  9” x 13” pan (supermarket disposable lasagna pans work well too).

Preheat the oven to 375°

 

  1. In a large saucepan, over a medium heat, sauté the garlic for 20-30 seconds.  Add the black beans, and bring to a simmer.  Add the cilantro, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and Tabasco.  You don’t want the beans too spicy.  Just with a mild bite to them.
  2. Set the beans aside to cool (although you can do the following steps with warm beans).
  3. In a separate bowl from the beans, combine the salsa and tomatoes.
  4. Put 1/3 cup (or so) of bean mixture mixture into pan. On top of the beans, place three (or four, depending on how many are in the box) lasagna noodles.  Layer on the noodles almost* 1/3 of the tomato/salsa mixture,* almost 1/3 of the cheese, and 1/3 of the beans.
  5. Repeat twice more. Over the top pieces of lasagna noodles, spread the remaining sauce, and then sprinkle the top with cheese.
  6. Bake at 375, covered w/foil, for 30 mins.  Remove foil, and bake 10-20 mins more, or until the pasta is cooked through, and everything is bubbly.

*NOTE: The key is to reserve approximately 1/2 cup of the tomato mixture, and 1/2 cup of cheese to place on top.

 

Black Bean and Salsa Lasagna

  • 1 package no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 15 oz cans black beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rinsed and minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt
  • Tabasco (or your favorite semi-hot sauce)
  • 2 16 oz jars salsa (mild or medium spicy, your choice)
  • 1 28 oz can chopped or whole tomatoes
  • 8 oz light cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz part-skim mozzarella, grated

1  9” x 13” pan (supermarket disposable lasagna pans work well too).

Preheat the oven to 375°

  1. In a large saucepan, over a medium heat, sauté the garlic for 20-30 seconds.  Add the black beans, and bring to a simmer.  Add the cilantro, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and Tabasco.  You don’t want the beans too spicy.  Just with a mild bite to them.
  2. Set the beans aside to cool (although you can do the following steps with warm beans).
  3. In a separate bowl from the beans, combine the salsa and tomatoes.
  4. Put 1/3 cup (or so) of bean mixture mixture into pan. On top of the beans, place three (or four, depending on how many are in the box) lasagna noodles.  Layer on the noodles almost* 1/3 of the tomato/salsa mixture,* almost 1/3 of the cheese, and 1/3 of the beans.
  5. Repeat twice more. Over the top pieces of lasagna noodles, spread the remaining sauce, and then sprinkle the top with cheese.
  6. Bake at 375, covered w/foil, for 30 mins.  Remove foil, and bake 10-20 mins more, or until the pasta is cooked through, and everything is bubbly.

*NOTE: The key is to reserve approximately 1/2 cup of the tomato mixture, and 1/2 cup of cheese to place on top.

 

Valentine’s Dinner Redux

Holy smokes!  My cooking brain shut down, and I just realized that I never posted about my Valentine’s Day Romantic Dinner for Two.  I’d auction it to the highest bidder, with all of the money going to Reader to Reader’s project to build a school in Haiti.  The dinner was won (and eaten!) by Larry Layton and Thomas Cowern, of Nashua, NH.  It was a great, fun night. Their menu was a terrific one, too.  They started with an appetizer of crab cakes, and then moved on to a Caesar salad, beef tenderloin and salmon with a fresh tomato and saffron sauce.  The dessert  was pretty great, too: individual chocolate lava cakes, with freshly whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

All in all, it was a fun evening.  I’m grateful to Thomas and Larry for supporting such a great cause.

Valentine's Dinner 2011

Chocolate Lava Cakes

These cakes are easier than you’d think to make.  Just 3 easy steps:

  1. Make the chocolate centers at least an hour ahead
  2. Prepare  the batter for the cakes
  3. Put the batter and chocolate centers in the ramekins, and bake ‘em.

Centers

  • 2 oz dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Cakes

  • 4 oz dark chocolate
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup cake flour

Preheat the oven to 400°

To make the centers:

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and cream.  Whisk together, and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour

To make the cakes:

Spray 6 4 oz ramekins.  Set aside.

  1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter.  Whisk to blend.
  2. In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer, combine eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla, on high speed, until the batter is lighter in color and thickened.
  3. Fold melted chocolate and flour into the egg mixture until just combined.  Spoon cake batter into ramekins.  Place a chocolate ball into the middle of each ramekin.  Don’t press into the bottom of the ramekin.
  4. Bake for 13-15 mins, or until cake is firm to the touch.  Let it cool for 5 minutes.  Invert onto plates.

Serve with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

Makes 6 servings