Mistakes keep us humble, don't they? Without mistakes, we might all go through life learning nothing and thinking that we are absolute geniuses. I know people like this, and they irritate me. And so, in this sad tale of melting heart chocolate cakes, or lack thereof, I am prepared to take a little blame. Just look at the sad little cake . . .
I know they've become commonplace and tired, but I still love melting center chocolate cakes. They are so delicious - combining so many wonderful things. And I have tried, rather unsuccessfully, to make a few in my day. One recipe, which came from Williams Sonoma, involved inserting a homemade ganache truffle into the center of a dense and rather bitter chocolate cake; they insisted I should use 71% cocoa, but no sugar was added to the truffle mixture, and the whole thing was just wrong.
So today I decided to use Alton Brown's Chocolate Lava Muffins. Yikes. First of all, the muffins do not resemble cake in any way during the baking process, making one think they aren't baking and forcing one to leave them in for an extra 2 minutes. They rose rounded, puffy, and pale in the oven and then deflated to nothingness as soon as they came out. They were not flowing in the center, owing to overbaking, but they were cooked pretty evenly all the way through, leaving me to wonder how they would hold together if the centers had been oozing. I remember watching this episode a few years ago on Good Eats and the muffin he ate looked absolutely nothing like the one that came from my oven.
Getting a bad recipe from a trusted source is really disappointing. It's like a good friend standing you up, leaving you sitting alone at a bar. Maybe, okay, maybe it's me, as I have just looked up the user reviews on foodnetwork.com and there are loads of reviews, almost all 5 stars. Can we possibly be talking about the same cake? Who are the people writing these reviews? I couldn't believe some people said that their batter only made 6 muffins - mine made 12 huge ones - and/or that the muffins didn't rise - mine all rose and met each other on top of the pan. The flavor of the cake (and this is a fault of the recipe) rather than being intensely chocolaty, had a cooked-egg, almost meat-like flavor. Er - not what I think of when I think of Chocolate Lava Muffins.
I had visions of oozing, gooey chocolate centers, of amazement and wonder from friends and Husband, who bought some of Jeni's Paupa New Guinea coffee ice cream today, with which I thought these cakes would be wonderful. Alas, all hopes were dashed. I have decided to try one more time, maybe sometime next week, just making regular chocolate cake batter and putting some chocolate bits in the centers, to see how that works. You can be sure I will keep you posted.