When I play basketball, salt is my skin against most of the other players. During Seattle’s rare snowstorms, it means safe streets. In Greece, it is the sea. Two years ago, it was my family’s enemy.
I was 100’s of miles away when my phone rang. Hearing the tone of my brother’s voice, I sat down. “Dad’s in the hospital. No, Mom can’t come to the phone. Yes, things are okay. No, you don’t need to come home – yet.”
In the end I didn’t fly home. My dad left Swedish. My parents gave up salt.
There were a lot of changes besides salt. We kept the house warmer. My dad slept more. My patience increased. (Scary things have a funny way of doing that, don’t they?) Salt though was the biggest. It still is. I don’t see salt sitting on a table or written in a recipe without thinking about it, seeing it, processing that it’s there. The given of salting food has taken on a whole new reality.
My parents have started eating salt again, which is a good thing because my dad is healthy – and because food without salt reminds me of a mouth full of plain Wonder Bread. Needless to say, I don’t eat Wonder Bread.
I also don’t eat as much salt as I used to. Which is why, when I saw a Salted Carmel Cupcake at Verite Coffee, I hesitated. Thankfully for me, the man behind the counter flicked his wrist and said, “Oh honey, it’s good.”
He was not lying. It was FABULOUS! I have been working on a flourless chocolate cake. Its crust flakes and crackles on the top, surrounding a dense, moist center. Not only is it delicious and cheap, it’s easy. Adding a salted caramel top made it perfection. The addition of caramel is like having a good glass of red wine with a steak. But the salt seals the deal. There’s just a little of it, don’t worry, but it balances the sugar, which makes each bite its own wonderful experience. In the end, I licked the plate clean. Eating with the enemy has never tasted so good.
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel
I know. I know. I know. Serves 16! Well, it also freezes and tastes BETTER after it’s frozen. Just give it 24 hours to defrost. A freezer full of personalized deserts? That’s something on one can’t complain about.
16 circles of parchment paper cut to fit a 5oz ramekin (optional)
7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped in pieces
1¾ sticks butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat 16, 5oz ramekins with non-stick cooking spray.
NOTE: If you don’t have 16 ramekins you can certainly make this in batches, just make sure to wash and re-coat them before adding the second helping of batter. On the, “coating front,” I like to use a non-stick cooking spray like Pam because it’s easy. A lot of people use room temperature butter and spread it with a cloth or paper towel.
Optional – Add parchment paper to each ramekin and coat it as well. You don’t have to do this step but it makes removing the cake WAY easier.
Add chocolate and butter to a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high at 20 second intervals, stirring until just smooth.
NOTE: You could do this in a double boiler, but I find the microwave a lot easier.
Add sugar in ¼ cup increments, stirring each addition until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Stir in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Stir in egg yolk until fully incorporated.
Fill ramekins halfway with batter, uses about 1/3 cup.
Bake for 17 minutes. Continue baking, checking every minute to minute and a half until the cakes are finished. At 17 minutes the centers are normally still runny through the cracks of the cake and bubbling. Bake until there isn’t bubbling.
Remove and allow to cool. Remove from ramekin by running a butter knife around the outside and easing it out.
TO FREEZE – Wrap securely in plastic wrap. Before serving allow 24 hours to defrost at room temperature.
This isn’t the kind of caramel which is going to set and be chewy. It’s the runny, sticky kind which coats every bite – perfect for topping your cakes. Don’t try and use a non-stick skillet though. You’ll ruin it with the metal whisk you’re going to need to use in order to get a smooth caramel.
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt plus
6 oz butter
½ cup half and half
1 large canning jar or old (clean) jam jar
Using a heavy bottom skillet and spread sugar evenly over the surface of the skillet. Heat over medium heat until sugar begins to liquefy. This is an interesting process, which sounds a lot harder then it is. The key is to not over work the sugar. Move it just a little, so the un-melted sugar on the outside gets to the middle. You don’t want big chunks of sugar. It should all melt.
As sugar begins to liquefy and take on a copper color, whisk in butter and salt. Use a metal whisk. It picks up everything off the bottom of the pan a lot better then a silicon one.
As butter fully melts, remove pan from heat and whisk in half and half vigorously until fully incorporated.
Pour caramel into your large canning jar or old jam jar.
To Assemble Cakes
1 tsp sea salt
Set cake in the middle of plate. Depress the center of the cake with the backside of a spoon creating a small well.
Fill the well with caramel sauce.
Sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy.
Note: A little salt goes a LONG way.Recipe in print-friendly format