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Soft-Centered Chocolate Cake with Espresso Ice Cream

Soft-Centered Chocolate Cake with Espresso Ice Cream
Soft-centered chocolate cakes are popular across the country, but San Francisco cooks can boast of making the dessert with local chocolate—from Ghirardelli, Guittard or Scharffen Berger. Take care not to overcook these individual cakes, and serve them promptly, or they will lose their characteristic moist center. Because all ovens don't bake evenly, you may want to conduct a test run so that you know exactly how long it takes to bake the cakes to perfection in your oven. Homemade espresso ice cream is an impressive accompaniment, but you can always substitute store-bought ice cream or other flavors, such as vanilla or pistachio.

Ingredients:


  • For the ice cream:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 Tbs. instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • For the cake:
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 5 oz. top-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 whole eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour

Directions:

To make the ice cream, in a saucepan, combine the cream, half-and-half and espresso. Using the tip of a knife, scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod halves into the cream mixture, then add the pod halves. Whisk to blend, then place over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Cover, remove from the heat and let steep for 15 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon when the whisk is lifted, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the hot cream mixture (including the vanilla pod). Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture visibly thickens and coats the spoon. (It should register 178°F on an instant-read thermometer.) Do not let it boil or it will curdle.

Immediately remove the custard from the heat and continue stirring for 1 minute. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Let the custard cool, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 8 hours or up to overnight. Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and place in the freezer.

To make the cake, preheat an oven to 350°F. Butter the bottoms and sides of four 1-cup ramekins. Dust with flour, then tap out the excess.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let stand until the chocolate softens, then stir until smooth.

In a bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg white and sugar until well blended. Add the chocolate mixture and incorporate thoroughly. Gently fold in the flour. Divide among the prepared ramekins, then place the ramekins on a baking sheet.

Bake the cakes until they are puffed and cracked on top, 26 to 28 minutes. Remove from the oven and, working with 1 cake at a time, gently invert onto a dessert plate. Turn right side up, let cool for about 3 minutes and serve with the ice cream. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, San Francisco, by Janet Fletcher (Oxmoor House, 2004).