A Sweet Treat for Valentine’s Day: Moelleux au Chocolat
By Suzanne Lenzer
It’s been years since I’ve gone out on Valentine’s Day. The main reason being that the food always seems a bit less than fabulous on that particular night (add to that the fact being out with a bunch of other New Yorkers seems to defeat the purpose of spending an evening alone with my partner). So we stopped doing it and have very happily joined the ranks of those who batten down the hatches and stay home.
Part of the fun of staying in on Valentine’s Day is that is takes the pressure off. Even if it’s your first Valentine’s together, being at home means you can relax, pad around in socks (or sexy slippers) and sip a glass of wine without having to fight for a bartender’s attention. Not to mention that with the economy the way it is right now, staying home and cooking in is a nice way to avoid dropping a lot of money on a so-so meal. Besides, what’s more romantic than taking turns stirring a pot of risotto, champagne glass in hand?
But a Valentine’s dinner doesn’t have to be fussy, and committing to cook doesn’t mean you have to impersonate a four-star chef. In fact, there’s something nice about a foolproof dinner that you can make together (or ahead of time) so that no one’s slaving away over the stove.
So here’s an idea: keep it simple. Try a bowl of pasta with sweet sausage and broccoli raab, a prosciutto and arugula pizza, or don’t cook at all. Think tapas and pick up an array of good cheeses, put out a dish of olives and, and grab a loaf of good crusty bread. This way you can focus on what really matters: dessert.
Now I wish I could say that the molten chocolate cake recipe I’m about to share with you was mine. It’s not. But it is possibly the single most decadent, delicious, and dazzling chocolate dessert around. Oh, and it’s dead easy—you can even make it ahead of time.
It comes from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (who does happen to be a four-star chef) and it is, I kid you not, pure perfection: a brownie like crust with a smooth, oozing chocolate center that never ceases to impress.
The only real trick here is knowing your oven; the original recipe says 6 to 7 minutes, however I find it takes nine in my oven to be set around the edges and still a bit soft in the center. But don’t let this stress you out and don’t over think it—if you go a minute too long you’ll have a wonderfully rich, tender brownie; a minute or two short and you’ll lose the structure and have more molten than cake. Get it right and you’ll have a perfect crumb on the outside with a warm, soft interior. You can’t lose. And just to be sure, pick up a pint of vanilla ice cream to cure any esthetic issues you run into.
Trust me, a simple dinner and Jean-Georges killer chocolate cake and you’ll be converted to staying home on Valentine’s Day from this year forward.
NOTE: This recipe serves four, and it’s so good, I’d suggest making the full batch, covering the extras with plastic wrap, and extending your Valentine’s celebration to Monday night too. However, it easily can be split in half to serve just two.
Warm, Soft Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman
Jean-Georges, Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the ramekins
4 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate
2 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons flour, plus more for dusting
1. Butter and lightly flour four 4-ounce molds, custard cups, or ramekins; tap out the flour (you can substitute coco powder for the flour when dusting the molds if you like).
2. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water (or a metal bowl set over a pan of boiling water), heat the butter and chocolate together until the chocolate is almost completely melted. While that’s heating, beat together the eggs, yolks, and sugar with a whisk or electric beater until light and thick.
2. Beat together the melted chocolate and butter; it should be quite warm. Pour in the egg mixture, then quickly beat in the flour, just until combined.
3. Divide the batter among the molds. (At this point you can refrigerate the desserts until you are ready to eat, for up to several hours or overnight, just bring them back to room temperature before baking.)
4. Preheat the oven to 450°F and bake the molds on a tray for 7 to 9 minutes; the center will still be quite soft, but the sides will be set. To remove the cakes, put a dessert plate on top of each ramekin and then flip the plate over, inverting the ramekin onto the plate; let sit for about 10 seconds to loosen. Unmold the cakes by lifting up one corner of the mold; the cake will fall out onto the plate. Serve immediately with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and fresh berries if you like.
Recipe © 1998 Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman. All rights reserved.
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Tags: chocolate cake, Cooking At Home With a Four-Star Chef, four-star recipe, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Mark Bittman, soft chocolate cake, Suzanne Lenzer, Valentine's Day, warm