Molten Chocolate Cakes

I've been making quite a few Molten Lava Cakes in the past twelve months because they a) are ridiculously easy to make and b) they are a 100% cure for a chocolate craving. I looked at a few recipes online and even one in an issue of Martha Stewart Living, but I wasn't really satisfied with the results until I consulted my "The Essence of Chocolate" cookbook. (Every recipe I have tried in this book has been a winner!)  I have modified the recipe slightly to use whole eggs (I'm so bad at keeping track of extra whites in the fridge) and I added vanilla extract. My favorite way to serve the cakes is with lightly sweetened whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

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NOTE: It's really important to use good quality chocolate. The flavor will suffer greatly if you don't. I have used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet baking bars, Trader Joe's bittersweet pound-plus, and, when feeling especially indulgent, Green & Black's 70% dark chocolate bars.

6 ounces 60-70% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped 
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 large eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unbleached, all purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter four ramekins or custard cups and dust with flour.

2. Combine chocolate and butter in a heat-proof bowl.  Heat over simmering water, stirring until chocolate is melted. (Or heat in microwave and stir every 30 seconds.)

3. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Beat until thick and pale (about 4 to 5 minutes with the whisk attachment on a stand mixer).  Add vanilla, chocolate mixture, and salt. Beat until combined.  Sprinkle flour on top and fold in.

4. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups. (Optional: place cups on a rimmed baking sheet.) Bake on the lower shelf of the oven, 8-10 minutes (edges will appear baked, quarter-sized middle will be somewhat glossy). Remove from oven to cooling rack.

5. Loosen edges of cakes with a small, flat metal spatula and un-mold onto individual plates. Serve with whipped cream & sprinkle with cinnamon.
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