The Artist and I are extremely fortunate to live very close to both San Francisco and the Napa/Sonoma Wine country; two places that people dream of visiting. For us, they are our playgrounds. We go as often as we can to explore the various neighborhoods, discover new restaurants and wineries, visit old favorites, and say Hi to friends.
One of our favorite restaurants, that we have been going to for many, many years, is Bouchon in Yountville. Opened by Thomas Keller (of French Laundry fame) in 1998, it is designed to be a more casual French dining experience and boy does it deliver … year in and year out. They serve many traditional bistro-style dishes like steak frites, quiche du jour, terrine de foie gras, butter lettuce salad with vinaigrette, moules au verjus, and canard a l’orange. But if chocolate is your calling, then you definitely want to save room for dessert.
While they have, of course, a delightful selection of sweets to tempt you, by far our favorites is the bouchon au chocolat. Named for their shape, bouchon is French for “cork,” they are a cross between a brownie and a chocolate cake, rich, fudgy, and studded with chocolate chips. They are so intense that unless you are a true devotee, they could be a bit overwhelming.
To help balance them out, I like to serve them with either a scoop of vanilla ice cream or my personal favorite, a white chocolate mousse sauce. Made by combining whipped cream and melted white chocolate, it is light and the perfect combination with the dense chocolate. For the purists in your life, serve them simply sprinkled with a little powdered sugar, like lightly falling snow.
While these are usually made in timbale molds (which you can find at Williams-Sonoma or online), they can also be made in common muffin tins. This is what I did this year because they were easier to transport. They are much more elegant without the wrappers, but again, that made them easier to take to our Christmas dinner. I baked them one day, let them cool overnight, dusted them with powdered sugar and took them on the road. They were outstanding and a real hit after dinner.
One thing to be aware of … just like a soufflé, these will rise beautifully in the oven and then the centers will sink as they cool. Don’t be afraid when this happens. If the depression in the center bothers you, serve them upside down and no one will be the wiser! I just filled the indentation with some of the White Chocolate Sauce and they were stunning.
They are incredible when eaten on the day they are baked with the chocolate chips oozing out in every bite, and if you have the choice, absolutely serve them that way. But, if you are making them ahead as I did, I would leave out the chocolate chips. They really aren’t needed and once they re-harden, I think the crunchiness takes away just a little from the overall texture.
Whether you are serving an elegant New Year’s Eve dinner party or creating an annual birthday tradition, these little bites of chocolate heaven are absolute perfection. I could go on and on about these, but I think I will let the photos tell the story for me.
From me to you with love on this last Chocolate Monday in 2011… enjoy your New Year’s celebration, have fun and stay safe. And definitely stay tuned to The Heritage Cook for another year of incredible Chocolate Mondays and fantastic Festive Fridays!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Standard muffin tins (trays of 12) hold about 2 oz of batter each. So for this recipe if you use them you will get about 16 bouchons.
Kitchen Skill: How to Easily Fill Muffin Tins
This may not seem like a “real” skill to learn, but if I can figure out how to cleanly and quickly fill a whole tray of muffins, cupcakes, or other baked goods, I am one happy camper. The secret is to use either a piping bag or a spring-loaded ice cream scoop. They work with all but the thinnest batters. If you are using a scoop, make sure you use the right sized one for the tins you have. Either method assures you can easily fill each container with an equal amount of batter without spilling any.
- Butter and flour for the timbale molds *
- 24 tbsp (12 oz / 3 sticks) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup (3-1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt (this brand is less “salty” than Morton’s kosher, sea salts or table salts)
- 3 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cups plus 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 6 oz semisweet chocolate, about 55% to 60%, chopped into pieces the size of chocolate chips (Keller recommends Valrhona Equatoriale chocolate, I used Guittard’s semisweet chips)
- Confectioners’ sugar, optional
- Make the Bouchons: Butter and flour 12 timbale molds; set aside. Note: Bouchon Bakery uses 2-ounce Fleximolds. You can also use 3 oz (2 to 2-1/2 inch diameter) timbale molds for larger cakes; adjust the baking time accordingly.
- Place the butter in a large heatproof measuring cup with a pouring spout that holds 3 to 4 cups. Place in the microwave and heat until butter is completely melted, about 1-1/2 minutes depending on the strength of your oven. Set aside to cool until slightly warm.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
- In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the eggs and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until very pale in color. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/3 of the butter, and continue alternating with the remaining flour and butter. Add the chocolate and mix to combine. Make Ahead: The batter can be refrigerated for up to a day.
- Put the timbale molds on a baking sheet and fill each mold about 2/3 full. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
- When the tops look shiny and set (like a brownie), test one cake with a toothpick: It should come out clean but not dry (there may be some melted chocolate from the chopped chocolate). You want to feel some resistance as you insert the toothpick.
- Transfer the bouchons to a cooling rack. After a couple of minutes, invert the timbale molds and let the bouchons cool upside down in the molds; then lift off the molds. (This helps them keep from sinking too much in the center.)
- To serve, invert the bouchons (turn them right-side up) and dust them with confectioners’ sugar. The bouchons are best eaten the day they are baked.
- I like to serve mine with White Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows). This is especially pretty if you have red plates to set off the white and dark chocolate components.
- Yield: 12 to 16 servings, depending on the size container you use.
- If you don’t want to buy special baking equipment, you can also bake these in traditional cupcake tins. Regular tins hold about 2 oz of batter (at 2/3 full) for approximately 16 pieces.
- 4 oz white chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream, divided
- 1 tbsp confectioners’ sugar, optional
- Melt the white chocolate with 1/4 cup of the cream in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (You can speed this up by setting the bowl in a larger bowl of cool water and whisking briskly to release the heat.)
- In the bowl of your standing mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 3/4 cup cream until medium-firm peaks form. Beat in sugar if desired.
- Stir 1/3 of white chocolate mixture into the whipped cream. Then beat in remaining white chocolate until smooth and thickened to stiff peaks. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.
- Yield: about 1-1/2 cups