Molten Chocolate Cake
1 stick (4 ounces) + 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
vanilla or caramel ice cream
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
2. Using 1 Tbsp. butter and 2 tsp. flour, butter and flour four 4-ounce molds, custard cups, or ramekins. Tap out the excess flour. Set the molds on a baking sheet.
3. Heat the remaining butter with the chocolate in a double boiler set over simmering water until chocolate is almost melted (you can also use the microwave but be careful not to overheat the mixture).
4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar and salt at high speed until light and thick.
5. Stir the chocolate and butter mixture until smooth; it should be warm.
6. Whisk egg mixture into the chocolate/butter; quickly beat in remaining flour until just combined.
7. Divide batter equally into the prepared molds.
8. Bake for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the sides of the cakes are firm but the centers are soft. Remove from oven.
9. To serve, invert each mold on a dessert plate; let sit 10 seconds; unmold by lifting one corner of mold; garnish with a scoop of ice cream.
Scale-up Can be scaled up in direct proportion.
The batter can be refrigerated in the molds several hours prior to baking. Bring molds back to room temperature before baking.
Burnt-Caramel Ice Cream
Based on Gus Rancatore’s offering at Toscanini’s Ice Cream, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Adapted by Corby Kummer.
Ingredients makes about a quart
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
To make about a quart of burnt-caramel ice cream, have on hand a two-quart saucepan (this size will reduce the possibility of spatters); please don’t use your best one, especially if it isn’t nonstick. Combine and set aside one cup of heavy cream and two cups of whole milk. Put two thirds of a cup of sugar and a quarter teaspoon of salt into the pan and set over moderate heat.
Tip the pan back and forth to nudge the pockets of white sugar to the bottom. In two or three minutes all the sugar will have melted; the color will be uneven, varying from light honey to dark maple syrup. When the first black spots appear, the steam rising from the pan will turn to smoke. Immediately pour in half the cream-milk mixture all at once. The caramel will clump, or “seize,” and the gobs and twisted tentacles will make it look like some creature from the deep. Stir over moderate heat with a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula; the sticky mess will soon turn docile, and within five minutes the mixture will be homogenous and light mahogany in color. Keep it at a low simmer for twenty minutes or so, stirring frequently. The mixture will thicken and darken. During the last three or four minutes your stirring should leave a line at the bottom of the pan.
The proteins in the milk and cream will begin to solidify and form small strings, which need to be strained out. Pour the hot mixture into a fine-mesh sieve set over the remaining milk and cream and push it through with a spoon or a spatula. Stir or whisk the warm mixture; the uncooked milk and cream will cool the base sufficiently that it can go straight into the chilled container of the ice-cream maker. (Technique for the usual cooked custard calls for thoroughly chilling the mixture in the refrigerator — a step that does have the additional benefit of allowing the flavors to ripen.)
I urge you to taste how powerful and lush just four ingredients can be. But you’ll doubtless want to embellish — resisting the urge, I hope, to “accentuate the negative,” as one of my favorite writers on food, Miriam Ungerer, said of pouring sweet liqueurs over ice cream. Toppings and additions to the mixture are better seen as opportunities to add bitter or acidic or spicy flavors rather than yet more sweet ones. Italians, for example, drizzle balsamic vinegar or Scotch whisky over ice cream.
Before freezing the cooled mixture you could stir into it a half teaspoon or more of vanilla extract, or a teaspoon of instant coffee dissolved in a tablespoon of milk, or a teaspoon of ground espresso (I like the fine grit and the strength of the coffee as it steeps in the cream, but the texture is not to everyone’s liking), or a dash of freshly ground nutmeg. Too much liquid, such as brewed coffee or liqueur, will risk ice-crystal formation. So will fresh fruit, which is better used as a topping. If you’re set on chunky additions, add them half or two thirds of the way through freezing — after at least twenty minutes. The only additions of which I wholeheartedly approve are crushed gingersnaps and chopped crystallized ginger, but it would be hard to oppose toasted chopped hazelnuts or almonds or finely chopped bittersweet chocolate.