Valentine’s day meals always end in chocolate in our house. Over the years either G or I have cooked profiteroles, chocolate cake, or chocolate pots with strawberries, and it all started with the first dessert I ever learnt to cook and had to show off immediately – chocolate fondant. This year it’s like chocolate fondant on steroids. Move over under cooked chocolate cake (don’t worry fondant, I still love you really), but in 2015 we’re making a molten chocolate custard wrapped in a crispy chocolate cake crust.When you break the crunchy, chocolate sponge exterior, out flows a rich chocolate custard. Just talking about it makes me want to bake one right now. And that’s the best bit, once you’ve done all the hard work they sit in your freezer just begging for you to pop it in the oven!
Now, there is a slight chance that even though they’re the most delicious chocolate dessert we’ve ever made we might be sick of them by Valentine’s day (although I doubt it). You see, we’ve probably cooked more than thirty of these desserts in the last three months – it’s become a bit of an obsession. It all started innocently enough. We watched an episode of Masterchef the Professionals and Marcus Wareing demonstrated this dessert but didn’t give a recipe. It looked fun, so we tried it one weekend and the results were the perfect storm for an obsession – almost right but with a couple of tiny flaws we wanted to tweak. Countless chocolate desserts and a few delicious chocolate custard puddles later, I think G and I have hit on the definitive recipe (well maybe Marcus deserves that accolade for whatever his recipe is…just maybe).
You start by making a simple (but thick) custard from full fat milk, eggs and sugar, then melting chocolate into it. You set the custard into moulds in the freezer until frozen solid – we find the perfect moulds to be a silicone muffin tray like this one. Then you make a chocolate genoise sponge, which sounds fancy but is actually quite simple. You cut into circles and a little disc of the sponge goes on top of your frozen custard and the combo goes back in the freezer. The remaining cake gets turned into crumbs and the little pucks of chocolatey sponge and custard get covered in crumbs (just like breadcrumbing). These go back in the freezer and will chill out (terrible pun) until you cook them in the oven – nice and easy. Perfect for a do-ahead dinner party, or in this case Valentine’s day where a no-stress chocolate dessert is definitely a winner!
Just don’t blame me if you become obsessed!
Melting chocolate cake
Ingredients: (makes 12)
For the custard
- 1 cup full fat milk
- 1 cup cream
- 5 egg yolks
- 60g caster sugar (plus extra to taste)
- 225g dark chocolate chopped finely (at least 55% cocoa solids)
For the cake (this recipe is taken from a fellow blogger foodiebaker)
- 45 grams (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) plain flour
- 35 grams (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) good-quality cocoa powder (I love Varlhona!)
- 4 eggs, cold or at room temperature
- 100 (1/2 cup) grams caster/granulated sugar
- 45 grams (3 tablespoons) hot, melted butter
First make the custard
- Place the milk/cream in a saucepan and heat until warm. Meanwhile whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Pour the hot milk over the eggs whilst whisking and then place the mixture back in the pan over a low heat.
- Stir constantly over a low heat until the custard thickens. It should coat the back of the spoon – i.e., if you place a wooden spoon in the custard, the custard should hold the shape of a finger swipe across the back without closing.
- Pour the hot custard over the chopped chocolate and stir until fully melted. Pour the custard into the silicone muffin tray moulds and place in the freezer until completely frozen solid.
Then make the genoise sponge
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- Sift the flour and cocoa together in a bowl and set aside.
- Place the eggs and sugar together in a heat proof bowl and whisk until combined. Place over a pan of lightly simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is slightly warm to the touch – it should be a comfortable bath temperature.
- Take the mixture off the heat and whisk with an electric whisk until very light, creamy and foamy. This is what the French call a sabayon and the Italians zabaglione, it’s delicious as a dessert all by itself, or flavoured with a little madeira. But we’re going to make a cake with it.
- Gently sift and fold in the flour and cocoa mix. Try to do this as gently as possible but make sure it’s fully incorporated. Then gently pour in the melted butter and fold in.
- Pour the batter onto a tray lined with buttered greaseproof paper (or a silicone mat). Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until set and lightly springy to the touch. Once cooked leave to cool in the tray.
To assemble and finish the desserts
- Cut out disks of sponge and place on top of the frozen chocolate custard pucks. Allow to fully freeze.
- Reduce the remaining chocolate cake to crumbs in a food processor.
- Cover the frozen chocolate custard (and sponge pucks) in cake crumbs by first dusting them in flour, dipping them in egg and covering with crumbs. Make a second layer of crumbs by dipping again in egg and then the crumbs again. Remember which side is the sponge disc as this will be the base. Place back in the freezer until frozen solid or until required (they’ll last months).
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place the desserts (sponge base down) on the tray and bake for 25-30 minutes depending on the size of your moulds. They should be molten all the way through and crispy on the outside. This is the hardest part as if you leave them in too long they may collapse!