Spiked topping adds to chocolate cups
Vail CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado High Country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude.
I wasn’t sure I’d be able to share this recipe for Baked Chocolate Cups with you because it’s so difficult to describe them. They taste like the soft center of a flourless chocolate cake, though they aren’t a cake. They’re mousse-like, but not really a mousse. And, at room temperature, the texture is close to that of a pudding or custard, but they’re not that either.
The only thing I can say about them with certainty is that they’re GOOD . . . rich and chocolatey in taste, with a pleasing contrast between the crunch of pecans and the moist, velvety batter. They have wide appeal; kids love the hit of intense chocolate and, when topped with kahlua-flavored whipped cream, adults find them to be a sophisticated little dessert.
The recipe isn’t time-consuming; in fact I made it at the end of a work day and served it that evening. Most of the ingredients are combined in one step; only the nuts go into the batter separately. Don’t let the water bath put you off; it requires almost nothing.
You can serve these as soon as they cool or you can make them ahead and refrigerate them for up to two days.
Two recommendations: First, grease or butter the ramekins all the way to the top. The crust can crack if it sticks to the side of the ramekin when it cools and shrinks. If this happens, it’s no big deal ” just cover the crack with whipped cream at serving time. Second, be sure to beat the batter the specified amount of time. This assures the lovely texture that is a big part of this dessert’s success.
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Make in 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 eggs, slightly beaten (Most large eggs equal about 4 liquid tablespoons or 1/4 of a cup. To get half an egg, beat one lightly so the yolk and white are combined, then remove approximately 2 tablespoons.)
1 generous teaspoon of vanilla
3/4 cup of pecans, chopped medium
Kahlua or vanilla whipped cream
1/2 cup of whipping cream
2 tablespoons of Kahlua or 1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 cup of powdered sugar, stirred or sifted to break up any clumps
Step One: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Locate a shallow baking pan that will hold the five ramekins with a little space between them so they are not touching one another. Grease or butter the ramekins or custard cups. Warm some water to use as a water bath when baking the dessert.
Step Two: Combine all of the ingredients except the pecans in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat until combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium or medium-high and beat for three to four minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. The batter should be thick, very smooth, and lightened in texture and color.
Step Three: Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins or custard cups and place them in the shallow baking pan with space between them. Place the pan on the center rack in the oven. Carefully pour the warm water in the pan and around the ramekins to a depth of about one inch. (Baking the desserts in this water bath will allow them to remain moist and creamy.) Bake until the tops of the chocolate batter are crusted all the way across. This will take about 40 minutes but the precise time will depend on the size and depth of the ramekins or custard cups you use. Don’t overbake.
Step Four: Carefully remove the ramekins from the baking dish and place them on a rack to cool completely. Once cooled to room temperature, you can serve the dessert or you can refrigerate it for a couple hours or up to two days before serving. If served at room temperature, the baked chocolate will have a light, creamy texture, like a chocolate mousse. If served chilled, the texture will be denser. If the desserts are refrigerated for more than a couple hours, let them rest at room temperature for fifteen minutes or so before serving.
Step Five: Prepare the whipped cream topping: About ten minutes before whipping the cream, combine the cream, kahlua or vanilla, and powdered sugar in a bowl and place it and the beaters for your electric mixer in the freezer. (Cream whips much more easily when everything is chilled.) Remove the bowl and beaters from the freezer and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Dollop some of the whipped cream on top of each of the baked chocolate cups and serve.
Contact Vera Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.