By Request


A can or a small gratin dish works as well as a real baking ring, shown at left on its side.

Roy’s chocolate souffle
a melt-in-your-mouth joy

If you lean in the direction of chocolate when the dessert menu comes, you've probably spooned into a molten chocolate cake -- sometimes called a melting chocolate cake or a chocolate souffle.

This is a dessert designed to impress: a warm, rich cake with a pool of chocolate sauce inside. Many restaurants around town have their own versions.

John Min fell in love with the dessert at the Morton's of Chicago steak house, and asked for the recipe. Well, Morton's declines to share, but Roy's restaurants gave up the recipe quite happily. In fact, corporate chef Jackie Lau provided tips for making the dish fool-proof.

These cakes can be made two ways. The first, fussier version starts with a ganache -- a little ball of chocolate. Often the ganache is frozen, then placed within the cake dough. As the cake bakes, the ganache melts into a sauce. Magic! The second, simpler, procedure involves a cake baked just until the sides are set, but the inside is still liquidy.

Roy's recipe is of the second type and baked up simple and seriously fabulous.

Before you start, be warned that if your baking experience, like mine, tends to run toward cookies and quick breads, this recipe is going to look all wrong. There's no flour, for one thing, and none of the usual leavening agents (baking soda, baking powder or salt). Also, it seems to have way too many eggs. But have faith, it works.

Next comes the matter of molds. Most restaurants use bottomless metal rings, which are hard to find and expensive. What worked for me was an 8-ounce tomato sauce can. Remove the top and bottom and be sure to smooth out any sharp edges (run the can opener around the edge a second time and that'll do it). It's cheap, and as a bonus you get tomato sauce.

Larger cans also worked -- it just seemed that the smaller cakes were better for individual servings. Custard cups, small gratin dishes and tart pans also worked. The recipe is resilient.

Preparation is simple, which brings us to Lau's tips: Be sure to refrigerate the dough overnight. This firms it up so it doesn't leak out of the molds and so the interior cooks slow and stays soft. Also, use baking parchment and cooking oil spray generously. Spray your molds, line them with parchment, then spray the parchment, Lau advises.

If using dishes instead of molds, cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom, then spray the sides generously. They'll unmold easily. You can also just leave the cakes in the dishes, although you'll miss out on the effect of having the inner sauce spill out onto the plate.

Test the cakes after 20 minutes. The top will be just barely cooked, like an underdone brownie.

Serve warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar, with a dab of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side. Your friends will think you spent your summer at pastry school.

Roy's Chocolate Souffle

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
1-3/4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks

Melt butter and chocolate together in a double boiler.

Combine sugar and cornstarch. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with yolks. Add chocolate mixture to sugar mixture; combine thoroughly. Add eggs and whisk just until smooth. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking oil. Spray molds with oil and line with parchment. Spray parchment with oil. Scoop batter into molds so they are 2/3 full.

Bake on top rack of oven 20 minutes, or until sides are set but center is still undercooked. Remove from oven. Holding each mold with tongs or potholders, slip a metal spatula underneath and transfer to a plate. Slip a butter knife between the parchment and the mold to loosen cake; slip off mold and peel off parchment. Serve immediately. Makes 4 3-inch cakes (if using 8-ounce tomato sauce cans you'll get 6).

Nutritional information unavailable.

Food Stuffs: Morsels

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"By Request," Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
500 Ala Moana, No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813.
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Asterisk (*) after nutritional analyses in the
Body & Soul section indicates calculations by
Joannie Dobbs of Exploring New Concepts,
a nutritional consulting firm.

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