Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Molten Chocolate Cake With Candied Walnuts

I only learned that February is National Chocolate Month a couple of days ago and I absolutely had to make something with dark chocolate today - despite the fact that we're still working on a small pan of brownies from last weekend. Some whipped cream remained from last week's citrus curd tart and there was plenty of chocolate in my cupboard so I got busy this afternoon.

I've been craving molten chocolate cake for quite a while. I visited my recipe file and sorted through a few different options before I settled on this one, from and Terlato Wines International.

I've given you the entire original recipe. However, I'm not a huge fan of candied nuts so I didn't use that part of the directions, myself. But this is one easy and luscious dessert - whether or not you add nuts. The recipe is also something that you can prepare ahead and then bake just before you share it with appreciative dinner guests.

Molten Chocolate Cake with Candied Walnuts
Makes 8 servings

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

cocoa powder (my addition)

Butter 8 six-ounce ceramic ramekins and dust with flour. In a bowl over a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate, set aside and let cool.

In a mixing bowl, use electric mixer to combine eggs and sugar until pale yellow batter holds shape and forms ribbon on beaters.
Blend flour into egg-sugar mixture with the mixer for 3 minutes. Add chocolate mixture, being careful to incorporate everything; mix for 2 more minutes.

Pour about 6 ounces of batter into each ramekin and refrigerate for 1 hour (VOE - I cooked one after an hour of refrigeration and then several more after three hours of refrigeration and the creamy, gooey texture was the same in both cases).

In preheated 475 degree oven, bake ramekins on a cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes, or until they are puffed up and don't jiggle when moved. Remove from oven and serve immediately (VOE - despite the high temperature, these babies cool off quickly so you'll only need to let them rest for about five minutes before serving). Can be served with chocolate sauce or cocoa powder, whipped cream and candied walnuts (see below).
For walnuts:

3 cups walnuts, toasted
1 3/4 cups sugar
pinch of kosher salt

Cook sugar until melted and slightly amber colored. Mix walnuts, sugar and salt together, being sure to coat the nuts and let cool on a non-stick surface such as a slit pad or baker's paper.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Aldaco's Mexican Cuisine - Blanca Aldaco

I met Blanca Aldaco at Aldaco's Mexican Cuisine, in San Antonio's Historic Sunset Station, during a spring 2008 press trip. Her eyes sparkled and she spoke enthusiastically as she taught each of us how to make the ultimate margarita under her watchful eye. Aldaco then circulated through the dining room as we sat down to dinner, and served us the restaurant's signature avocado margarita.
Ever since Aldaco opened her first restaurant, nearly 21 years ago, she has taken inspiration from childhood experiences in Guadalajara. And Aldaco's has become a San Antonio favorite and a Zagat-rated dining destination.
"We ate with my grandmother and grandfather every Wednesday and Friday," Aldaco says. "She had a cook and it was very formal, with soup, salad, entree, and dessert. On Sundays we went to the club, and you could smell steaks cooking outdoors. When I came to the U.S. I knew how to make a great salsa, and tacos, and I had a great, great palate."

Nowadays, Aldaco spends most of her time at her bustling two-year-old second location, on Stone Oak Parkway.  Here, customers can enjoy steaks grilled outdoors, and billiards plus a Bloody Mary bar on many Saturdays and Sundays. 

Aldaco has added 'lighter' items to both menus. One of the newest dishes, Arrachera a la Brava, combines beef skirt steak with a marinade of lime, fresh jalapeno, garlic and one secret ingredient. The restaurants also offer items for individuals with celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

"I want [dining at Aldaco's] to be an experience, rather than just an outing," Aldaco says. "I also want to cultivate friendships."