This is one of the easiest desserts to make ahead -- perfect for a dinner party during the holidays. I have assembled the small, individual cakes the day before baking, and up to 3 days before baking; both with delicious results. Make the caramel sauce a week or more ahead; pour into a jar and cover. Refrigerate and warm gently before swirling around, or drizzling over the molten chocolate cakes. And be sure to have some really good vanilla bean ice cream on hand... it doesn't get much easier than this!
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TO MAKE THE CHOCOLATE CAKES:
adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit
• 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 large eggs
• 3 large egg yolks
• 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
• 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Butter 6 custard cups generously; dust with cocoa powder. Stir chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat until melted. Cool slightly. Whisk eggs and egg yolks in a large bowl to blend. Whisk in sugar, then chocolate mixture and flour. Pour batter into custard cups, dividing evenly. (This can be done one day ahead; cover and chill).
2. Bake cakes until sides are set but inside is still soft and runny, about 11 minutes, to 14 minutes for batter that was refrigerated.
3. Run a small knife around the edge of the cakes to loosen. Immediately turn out onto plates. Spoon caramel sauce around the cakes and serve with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.
TO MAKE THE SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE:
recipe by Marcie Turney | Bon Appetit Magazine
• 3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
• 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
• 4 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or kosher salt
1. Pour cream into a small bowl. Scrape in seeds from the vanilla bean; add bean and set aside.
2. Stir sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium high and boil, swirling pan and brushing down the sides with a web brush if necessary, until a deep amber color (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat; gradually vanilla cream. The mixture will bubble vigorously. Whisk over medium heat until smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Strain into a heat-proof bowl. (At this point you can either serve the caramel, or let it cool and refrigerate until needed.)
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