Molten Chocolate Cake

Thursday, Jan 23rd, 2014

On the occasion I leave my restaurant for the night, or have entire days off, I can occasionally be tempted to join the greater part of society and attend a party. Years ago, on one of these such occasions, I found myself in a small circle of adults, foodies if you will, discussing my favorite topic; dessert.

The conversation shifted towards a modern classic dessert, one everyone in the room was familiar with. This discussion of molten chocolate cake was focused on it’s “pedestrian” status, from every mid range fine dining restaurant in the suburbs to it’s signature status on Chili’s menu.

While I sipped my glass of wine, I heard some chuckles as all faces turned to me. “Not that you’d ever have a molten chocolate cake on your menu!”

Laughter ensued.

I smiled, and chuckled with the crowd, thinking to myself, “oh I wouldn’t? Watch me.”

I set myself to the task the next day, and the dish that came from a momentary desire to be contrary has followed me from Poppy in Seattle, to Spago in Beverly Hills, and has finally landed itself a spot on my menu at Avec.

You might not realize it’s that molten chocolate cake when you order it, and I’ve taken some liberties with the recipe, swapping the butter for a fruity olive oil, and serving it contained in it’s baking vessel rather than turning it out onto a plate. But make no mistake, my “Warm Chocolate-Olive Oil Cocotte” takes it’s cues directly from the same molten chocolate cake that has permeated every inch of American dining.

A few years ago, I found myself with the good fortune of being in Denmark over the summer. As if summering in Denmark isn’t fortune enough, I was one of the lucky attendees of the first MAD festival. This may not be the place you’d expect a discussion to turn to molten chocolate cake, and I was surprised and delighted when it did. Upon introducing Michelle Bras to the stage, Rene Redzepi took a minute to speak on the breadth of a chefs influence.

To prove that we as chefs have more influence than we think, he brought up a photograph of a dessert created for the menu at Michelle Bras eponymous restaurant in the early 1980’s, the Chocolate Coulant. You might not recognize it by name, as Bras patented it there-by limiting it’s use to one menu. The dish, however, could not be contained to the country of france let alone one restaurant, and imitators were forced to come up with titles of their own. Over 20 years later, if you’re unfamiliar with the Coulant, you’ll most certainly have seen a Chocolate Lava Cake, or a Molten Chocolate Cake.

I write this post now, because Avec’s Warm Chocolate-Olive Oil Cocotte has made it’s annual appearance on the menu, just in time for some mighty cold weather. The batter is cast into a casuela, the flat terracotta baking vessels used through out Mediterranean countries, and baked in our woodfire oven. At a whopping 800 degrees, this cake barely hovers inside the door as it bakes to order, just long enough to set the outside and leave the inside as ooey and gooey as any one of this cake’s alias’s would suggest. Upon removal from the oven, a sprinkling of buttery hazelnut crunch and a scoop of coffee ice cream are placed on top, and a quick drizzle of black olive oil finishes the dish.

If a trip to Avec isn’t in your future, these cakes are packaged in little jars and sold in the refrigerated case at Publican Quality Meats. One simply needs to unscrew the cap and place it in a 350 degree oven and molten chocolate cakes, I mean Warm Chocolate-Olive Oil Cocottes can be enjoyed at any moment you find suitable.

Best chocolate cakes in the U.S.- Food and Wine Magazine