Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A new twist on a favorite dessert: Molten chocolate cakes with peanut butter filling

I love all sorts of desserts, but in my heart of hearts, I'm a choc-a-holic. Not just any old chocolate incarnation will do, though. Forget milk or white chocolate, forget anything crunchy. To me not much can beat a gooey dark chocolate dessert.

That's why I was thrilled to find that Food and Wine's Grace Parisi had tackled molten chocolate cakes in her test kitchen. She offers versions filled with caramel, raspberry, marshmallow and peanut butter. All sound delicious, but how can I pass up testing out one of my favorite combinations - chocolate and peanut butter!
I had always wrongly assumed that making a molten cake was akin to make a souffle. The kind of dessert that requires finesse, and if you screw up, all is lost. Turns out these cakes aren't that hard to make. Shhh don't tell my guests, though, because it looks so damn impressive!

Ingredients
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus melted butter for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), chopped
  • 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush four 6-ounce ramekins with melted butter. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of the flour; dust the ramekins with the cocoa mixture, tapping out the excess. Transfer the ramekins to a sturdy baking sheet.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter with the chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Let cool slightly.
  3. In a bowl, blend the peanut butter with the 1 tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.
  4. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar with the eggs and salt at medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow, 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate until no streaks remain. Fold in the 1/4 cup of flour.
  5. Spoon two-thirds of the batter into the prepared ramekins, then spoon the peanut butter mixture on top. Cover with the remaining chocolate batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 16 minutes, until the tops are cracked but the centers are still slightly jiggly. Transfer the ramekins to a rack and let cool for 5 to 8 minutes.
  6. Run the tip of a small knife around each cake to loosen. Invert a small plate over each cake and, using pot holders, invert again. Carefully lift off the ramekins. Dust the warm cakes with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.
This recipe is in fact quite straight-forward and following it as written will yield a spectacular dessert. I was a bit worried about getting the cake out of the ramekins without breaking them, but I didn't have any problems.

The peanut butter filling is gooey and delicious and marries perfectly with the moist chocolate cake. It's like a high end version of a Reese's peanut butter cup, and what's not to love about that?

My favorite part is the slight thrill you get from slicing the fork through the cake for your first bite. The dark cake gives way and out pours peanut butter lava. Such a rich and satisfying dessert and unlike so many things I make, it even looks lovely.

Although these are small, it's actually hard to finish one because they're so rich, and yet the last time I served this, not a morsel went uneaten. It's just one of those desserts that you keep eating even when you're full because it's too good to waste even a single bite!

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