“I wonder what would happen if…”. This is a question I often ask when I think about food. This afternoon, this question took David Lebovitz’s salted butter chocolate sauce into the oven and returned with a plateful of oozy, molten lava-like cakelets, or fondants.
Ever since I made David Lebovitz’s salted butter chocolate sauce for the Tuesdays with Dorie profiteroles (and added star anise), I’ve been thinking about that sauce. It was rich, had tiny flecks of saltiness and savoury-aromatic five spice, flirting with dark chocolate and butter. We don’t eat much ice cream around the house, so I found myself digging into that sauce with a spoon. Straight from the fridge, it was a smooth ganache that melts on the tongue to leave me wanting more.
But, one can only eat chocolate ganache for a snack so many times before, well, it starts to seem excessive. So I began to think about other ways to have my star-anise salted-butter chocolate sauce and eat it too.
Then, an idea popped into my head, niggling, like a chocolate ganache ear worm – “what if I turned the chocolate sauce into a chocolate fondant or lava cake?”
The ear worm stayed with me during the week and prompted me to look into recipes for chocolate fondant, lava cake, molten chocolate cake. Finally, I went back to FX Cuisine (one of the first food blogs I became obsessed with, before I knew blogging was an online publishing genre), and saw an elaborate recipe for chocolate raspberry moelleux, from Pierre Hermé, no less. It requires the baker to add pieces of frozen raspberry ganache and dollops of the best raspberry jam into the cake batter, so that the finished cake will reveal a centre of warm, sweet-tart, liquid raspberry. And the ear worm became a full fledged idea.
I whipped up egg and yolk until light and frothy, folded in some room temperature ganache, and a small amount of cocoa powder and flour. The rest of the chocolate sauce was placed into the freezer for 10 minutes until it became very firm.
In chocolate-raspberry moelleux fashion, I filled miniature muffin trays with cake batter, made round-ish quenelles of chocolate ganache, pushed the quenelles into the cake batter, and covered it with a little more batter. The mini muffins / cakelets / moelleux went into a hot oven for about 10 minutes, until they were just puffed up but had not yet collapsed in the centre.
One cakelet broke on the way from the muffin tray onto the plate, and a little puddle of chocolate sauce appeared.
1) I am so clumsy.
2) It worked!!!
Even though it was nothing like morning tea time, I plated up warm cakelet with roasted strawberries and strawberry syrup, and savoured the moment.
Because the centre of the cakes have a dollop of pure ganache, they are almost guaranteed to remain liquid when the cake is baked and set. This may just become my chocolate fondant shortcut from now, and if anyone asks, I’m just making Pierre Hermé’s moelleux. And the ganache remains thickly oozing at room temperature, so we can serve the cakelets to unexpected afternoon guests.
Molten chocolate cakelets
Since it was an experiment, I can’t promise exact fool-proof measures, but here’s what I did. Makes 12 cakelets with plenty of ganache left over.
Chocolate sauce (from David Lebovitz)
1 cup (250ml) milk
6 tbsp (85g) salted butter, cubed
1/4 cup (45g) packed light brown sugar
8 ounces (230g) semisweet chocolate (I used 70%), chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp flaky sea salt
2 egg yolks
2 tbsps cocoa powder
2.5 tbsps AP / plain flour, sifted (or stirred with a whisk briefly)
Optional: sprinkling of fragrant (ie, not stale) five spice powder
1. For the chocolate sauce: heat the milk, butter, and brown sugar in a saucepan until it begins to steam. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, vanilla, and salt, stirring gently until the chocolate is melted and the sauce is smooth.
2. Cool sauce to room temperature, and roughly divide in half. Put one half aside, and place the other half into the fridge while you make the cake batter.
3. For the cakelets: pre-heat the oven to 200C / 400F. whisk the eggs and yolks in a food processor until it is frothy. Fold in almost all of the room temperature ganache (I only used about 80% of the ganache that I had set aside, but you could probably use all of it), stir until no streaks remain. Sift or stir together the cocoa powder and flour, and gently fold into the mixture in a figure-of-8 motion, be careful to keep all that air in the batter.
4. Butter miniature muffin pans (you could use cupcake pans, just slightly increase the baking time), remove the ganache from the freezer. It should be very firm, but can still be scooped out with a spoon.
5. Spoon or pipe cake batter into miniature muffin pan until 2/3 full. Form round quenelles of ganache from the freezer portion, and gently push it into the batter. Top with more cake batter until the quenelles are just covered. Try to increase the ganache-to-batter ratio, but be careful the cake will leak if the walls are too thin.
6. Bake the cakelets until they are just puffed. This took about 12 minutes, but may take up to 15 minutes or longer if you are using larger pans.
7. Take the pan out of the oven, run a knife around the edge of each cakelet. After the cakelets have cooled a little, place a plate over the pan (tarte tatin style) and invert cakelets onto the plate. Dust with a little five spice powder to finish.
Serve: with strawberries, raspberries, or something else that cuts through the rich cakelets.