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Real chocolate can be healthy (and romantic)

POSTED: February 6, 2013 1:30 a.m.

Love is always sweeter when expressed with chocolate! Especially on Valentine’s Day.

Yes, chocolate ... And the more ooey-gooey deeply chocolaty, the better. Still, there’s no sense overdoing it. I’ve always believed that when it comes to dessert, a little bit can go a long way. That’s why this chocolate dream of a recipe takes the form of smallish individual cakes rather than a single, family-sized gut-buster.

It’s also why I’ve replaced the butter usually found in chocolate cakes with nonfat Greek yogurt. And trust me, not only won’t you miss the butter, but you won’t taste the yogurt. It’s in the mix strictly as a lower-fat way of adding body to the finished product.

What you will taste is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, specifically dark chocolate. It’s built into the cake batter, of course, but it also reappears as a melted surprise in the center of each cake. I suggest using bittersweet chocolate that’s between 60 percent and 70 percent cacao. Once the percentage gets any higher, the chocolate begins to taste too bitter to me.

The eggs in this recipe (one of only five ingredients, by the way) ensure that the cakes will be light and spongy. But one of the tricky things about cooking with eggs is that while it’s easiest to separate yolks from whites while they’re cold, it’s best to add them to recipes at room temperature (they generate more volume that way).

So, how do you warm them up without wasting a lot of time? First, go ahead and separate the eggs when they’re fresh out of the fridge. Then put the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another and float each bowl in a larger bowl of hot water. Ten minutes later the eggs will be at room temp.

By the way, I find that the best way to separate eggs is with my impeccably clean hands, rather than by using jagged-edged egg shells. I just crack the egg into my palm, toss the shell, and let the white run through my fingers. This way the yolk never breaks.

After the batter is made it needs to set up in the fridge for a little while before you put it in the oven. I discovered when I was testing this recipe that you can keep the batter in the fridge for several days before baking without any damage to the recipe’s freshness. So this is the perfect make-ahead dessert for entertaining.

Given my enduring love for the combination of chocolate and raspberry, I’ve topped these little cakes with a very simple — but very flavorful — raspberry sauce. There are exactly two ingredients: raspberries and sugar. You just buzz them in a blender, then strain out the seeds.

And here’s a trick from Jacques Pepin about the quickest way to strain a sauce with seeds. Working in batches, put some of the pureed sauce in a medium-mesh strainer set over a bowl, then bang it until the only things left in the strainer are the seeds.

Discard the seeds, add more sauce and continue. This method is much faster than forcing the liquid through the mesh with a rubber spatula.

Once you’re gazing with admiration at the finished product, don’t be surprised if you end up giving this little Valentine’s Day gift to yourself.


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