It will be seven years, next month, since I served as a U.S. delegate to Terre Madre and Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy (most English speakers call this city Turin). Sponsored by Slow Food International this mind-boggling biannual extravaganza showcases producers and supporters of ‘good, clean & fair food.’ During the week-long event, I met chocolate (cioccolato, in Italian) makers from across the globe and attended a chocolate tasting workshop with a wide range of samples.
In the Italian Marketplace, many more chocolatiers represented the country’s centuries-old chocolate legacy. But this international festival also showcased chocolate makers from Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, and Bolivia, among others.
One morning, I took a break from the Slow Food conference and trekked out to Torino's legendary Caffè Al Bicerin – where the warm Bicerin beverage has been made at this tiny shop for centuries. It's full of coffee, liquid chocolate and cream.
But my most unexpected chocolate encounter took place at the conference hotel, where I arrived a night early, before because of transportation issues. By the time I checked in to my room at Rivoli Hotel, in Rivoli, Italy, it was nearly 10 p.m. and I hadn’t eaten much while in transit.
I didn’t want a big meal so ordered a glass of Sangiovese and a slice of chocolate cake. As I sipped my wine, I began to wonder why I hadn’t yet received any cake and asked my server. He somehow communicated that the dessert takes a long time, because it has to be baked at the last minute. I had inadvertently ordered classic Torino lava cake, perfectly prepared and perfectly decadent.
It was a sweet ending to a trying day.
A certified chocoholic, I returned home and tried a recipe for Classic Torino Chocolate Lava Cakes. You can also find it inside my friend, Jasper J. Mirabile, Jr.'s, Jasper's Kitchen Cookbook. Reprinted with author permission.
Classic Torino Chocolate Lava Cakes
6 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch of salt
2 whole large eggs, separated, plus 2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
Espresso cream sauce, for serving (see Jasper’s cookbook)
whipped cream, for serving (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter four 6-ounce custard cups, dust with flour and shake out the excess.
2. Combine the chocolate, butter, and salt in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler from the bottom and cool for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, use an electric mixer to beat the egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed until thick and light, about 2 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate mixture.
4. In a clean medium bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with clean, dry beaters beat the egg whites with the remaining tablespoon of sugar until stiff but dry peaks do not form. Gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in 3 equal portions, each time mixing just until the whites are incorporated.
5. Divide the batter among the prepared custard cups. Place the custard cups on a baking sheet and bake until the cakes are puffed out but still soft in the center, about 11 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool for about 3 minutes.
6. Using a small, thin knife, cut around the sides of the cakes to loosen them from the cups. Place individual serving plates on top of each cup and invert each cake onto a plate. Remove the cups.
7. Spoon the Espresso Cream Sauce around the cakes and top each cake with whipped cream, if using.
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