Recently I picked up a French food magazine, tempted by the promise of chocolate recipes inside. I thought I’d try one for Nick’s and my anniversary, and the moelleux fit the bill by being relatively simple, yet elegant. Moelleux, or melting center chocolate cake, as we verbosely refer to it in the States, is an extremely popular dessert here in France. It appears on many restaurant menus and in the frozen dessert aisle at the supermarket. Part of me has to wonder why, when it’s so easy to make at home?
At any rate, I wanted to use some good chocolate, but sourcing world-class chocolate in Paris is a more daunting task than it might first appear. I have found Valrhona and Cluizel at the Grande Epicerie, and I saw some Bonnat lurking at a coffee-roaster, but so far, my search for non-French high-end chocolate has been fruitless. So, feeling lazy, and because I also had to buy ramekins and a suitable bowl for melting the chocolate over a bain-marie, I wound up at the supermarket, carefully inspecting the chocolate selection. I bought the only single-plantation bar there, Lindt’s Diogo Vaz 70%. Wanting an option in case it sucked, I eventually chose the 86% noir de dégustation from 1848, a company I’ll admit I never heard of before moving here. I had to calm my inner snob by telling myself, “Just because you’ve never heard of it doesn’t mean it’s terrible.”
Neither was particularly spectacular, but they were serviceable for my purposes. The Lindt displayed hints of it’s characteristic chalkiness, so I decided to use that one for the cake batter and the smoother, almost fudgesicle-flavored 1848 for the melting centers.
I roughly chopped the Lindt and put it into my new bowl with some butter, guessing at the amounts since I don’t have a scale yet and all the recipes are in grams. Anyway, I placed the bowl over a saucepan with a little water and turned the heat on to medium-low.
Meanwhile, I beat some eggs and cassonade together with a pinch of sea salt. When the chocolate and butter were completely melted and smooth, I removed the bowl from the bain-marie and beat in the egg mixture in a steady stream. About halfway through this process, it looked like the chocolate was on the verge of seizing up and ruining everything, but I kept whisking and wound up with a smooth mixture. I folded in a couple spoonfuls of flour (French recipes call for cuillère à soupe or cuillère à café, literally soup spoon or coffee spoon, respectively, and as far as I have been able to determine, they mean for you to use your flatware for these measurements, as I haven’t seen any measuring spoons in any of the cookware shops I have visited), and my batter was ready.
I buttered my ramekins and filled each half-full with batter. I carefully placed two squares of the 1848 on top, so they wouldn’t sink to the bottom.
I poured the rest of the batter over the top, thus filling the ramekins almost all the way up.
And into the very hot toaster oven they went. I had planned on making an orange caramel sauce to accompany the moelleux, but dinner had been heartier than expected and isn’t the whole point of this dessert that it makes its own sauce? So I skipped it. Fifteen minutes later, upon opening the oven, I was greeted with two of these:
We let them cool a bit and dug in. I was pretty pleased with the results – the top had some crispness to it, with the cake below dissolving almost imperceptibly into the melted chocolate center. Next time I’ll try it with better chocolate, and I bet it will be fantastic.
Happy Easter weekend, everyone!