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Simple desserts to impress your sweetheart

By Maggie Blackwell
For The Salisbury Post
Valentine’s Day is coming up and there are all sorts of red things in the stores you can waste your money on.
Or you can make a gift from the heart with ingredients readily found in your kitchen (aka, budget gift that doesn’t look like a budget gift). And let’s face it: Everyone. Loves. Chocolate.
Chocolate rocks. That’s all there is to it.
This dessert is simple. Simple. Repeat: simple. Don’t let the appearance fool you: it is simple to make. Did I say it’s simple? Simple!
Chocolate lava cakes are delightful little individual cakes, chocolate on the outside and thick, runny, ooey-gooey chocolate in the inside. How does it happen? Beats me! But they are romantic and wonderful, and sure to impress. In French it’s called Moelleux Au Chocolat (pronunciation: mwallow oh shock-oh-laht.) Women love it when you speak French, by the way.
They say this dessert was the result of a mistake at a famous restaurant. The chef meant to make individual chocolate cakes, but took them out of the oven too early. Alas! the centers were undercooked and still liquid. With no time to make more, the chef simply had his wait staff introduce the dessert as Chocolate Lava Cake! Brilliant!
They may seem hard to make. Let your sweetheart think that. Let her think you took a course to learn how. Keep it to yourself how darned easy it was to make.
When she says, “How hard are these to make?” you have got to press the back of your hand to your brow and sigh. “You just don’t know.”
They take about 15 minutes of prep and 10 minutes to bake. Really. The recipe calls for ramekins, the little white china cups with straight sides, but use a muffin tin if you like. I have tried it both ways, and the tins work just fine. You are going to take each cake out of the baking dish anyway, and put it on a plate. A china plate. It’s Valentine’s Day.
In addition to the elegant taste, you can really dress these babies up with your presentation. Make the raspberry sauce, 5 minutes only, I promise; the recipe is below. Drizzle it on the plate in an artistic way before putting the lava cake on it. Roll a raspberry or two in sugar right before serving. If you do it way ahead of time, the sugar absorbs into the berry, so it doesn’t look sugared.
You can serve the lava cakes with whipped cream if you like, but they are great without.
I have also included a less romantic, but very good, version that you make all in one pan for the whole family. This recipe came from my ancient copy of Betty Crocker’s New Boys and Girls Cook Book. I got it when I was 9 years old, and it truly is an antique.
Note: The sexy little individual lava cakes are cheaper, easier, and way more impressive. Fewer ingredients, too. Make the Hot Fudge Pudding if you just want a fun Valentine’s dessert
for everyone to get as much as they want. Definitely serve this one with vanilla ice cream. My family prefers Breyer’s. Or you can make homemade whipped cream, recipe below.
I have to admit I used to buy the ready-made whipped product from the freezer section until I finally read the nutrition information and ingredients. The bad fats and all the chemicals scared me away so now I make real whipped cream when the occasion calls for it, only once or twice a year.
Chocolate Lava Cakes
4 4-ounce ramekins
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 eggs
3/4 C. sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter (one stick)
1/4 C. flour
Sugar for garnish
Strawberries or raspberries
Butter the insides of the ramekins and dust with sugar. This will keep the cake from sticking.
Melt butter & chocolate on very low setting in microwave or in a double boiler.
Whisk together eggs, sugar, and flour until just blended.
Gradually add chocolate mixture to egg mixture; do this slowly so as not to scramble the chocolate.
Put in ramekins (about 1/3 cup each); put ramekins on cookie pan.
Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes; don’t bake too long or centers won’t be molten.
Score rim with knife; dump on plate and garnish with berries and sugar.
Raspberry Sauce
1 (10 ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed and drained, juice reserved
1/4 C. white sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. raspberry flavored liqueur (optional)
Add enough water to reserved juice to measure 1 cup. Stir together sugar and cornstarch in 1-quart saucepan. Stir in juice and raspberries.
Heat to boiling over medium heat. Boil and stir 1 minute; strain. Stir in liqueur. Cool slightly before serving. Refrigerate any remaining sauce.Whipped Cream
1 pint whipping cream (find it in the dairy aisle near the half and half. Carton actually says, “whipping cream.”)
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pour cream in mixer bowl and beat on low for a minute, then on high until cream is at least double in volume.
With mixer still running, add sugar just a little at a time.
Add vanilla; mix just a tiny bit more.
Hot Fudge Pudding
From Betty Crocker’s “New” Boys and Girls Cook Book
A topsy-turvy dessert ó after baking, the cake is on the top and the sauce is on the bottom.
1 C. plain flour
3/4 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 C. milk
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 C. chopped nuts (I omit the nuts)
1 C. brown sugar (packed)
1/4 C. cocoa
1 3/4 C. hot water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together in bowl: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, 2 Tbsp. cocoa.
Stir in milk, oil, and optional nuts.
Spread in square pan, about 9-inch square.
Blend in small bowl: brown sugar and 1/4 C. cocoa.
Sprinkle this over top of batter.
Pour hot water over all.
Bake 45 minutes and erve warm or cold with milk, cream . Makes 9 servings.

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