One of the desserts we saw all over Provence was beautifully presented individual servings of dark chocolate molten cakes. The one above is from Le St André Café in the gorgeous perched village of Bonnieux.
Bonnieux is one of the beautiful villages of Provence. As early as 972 AD, it was a fortified village and has an interesting history. According to the website Luberon.com, Bonnieux started off lower down the hill, but inched its way up the slope as events got harrier in the 13th century and barricaded itself against invaders and attackers with ramparts, which sometimes kept them out and sometimes did not.” Hmm, just when I thought those perched villages were safe from the invaders during the Middle Ages.
Today Bonnieux is one of the most impressive villages in the Luberon. Here are a few of the pictures we took while we strolled around before lunch.
The French adore their dogs and take them everywhere, including restaurants. This man kindly allowed us to take his picture with his cute little pooch.
On the day we visited Bonnieux we decided to have lunch, or dejeuner as it is called in France, at Le St André Café.
Before we ordered our lunch, Meakin went inside the restaurant and found some of the staff, including our server and the hostess, both pictured below, enjoying their own lunch before the noontime rush.
As it turns out, they were eating an omelet and a chef’s salad. He thought it looked so good and, as yet, we hadn’t eaten an omelet on this trip, so he asked them if we could order the same meal as they were having. The hostess looked over to a gentleman (we presume to have been the chef or owner) of the restaurant and he nodded in the affirmative, so you’ll see below our chef’s salad and omelet, customized to our request.
For dessert we both chose the dark chocolate molten cake sitting atop a crème anglaise sauce, served with a scoop of pistachio glacée and a dollop of whipped cream sprinkled with a few miniature chocolate chips.
I could not wait to get home and try a version of their dessert myself.
I chose this particular molten chocolate cake recipe (there are a lot of recipes out there) because cookbook author Peggy Knickbocker had adapted her recipe from the Russian Tea Room, an iconic restaurant in New York City. One evening in the late seventies Meakin and I stopped into the Russian Tea Room (next door to Carnegie Hall) prior to attending a Frank Sinatra concert at Carnegie Hall and ran into to Gene Shalit, famed New York movie and television critic. It's just another reason this recipe is special to us. Funny, you never know when old memories related to recipes can crop up. Below is how dark chocolate molten cake turned out.
Try as we might to find a similar pistachio glacée or gelato, which to us seems very similar to a French glacée, we were unsuccessful. I found pistachio gelato, but unfortunately it wasn’t very green, so we settled on quality mint chocolate chip ice cream. We skipped the crème anglaise sauce, but it was a very nice addition. If you don’t want to bother with making your own crème anglaise sauce (we didn’t) and want to cheat a bit, you can melt some vanilla ice cream and swirl a little underneath the cake to take its place. We’ve done that in the past and it works great. All in all, the molten chocolate cake was easy to make and we were pleased with how it turned out. If you want it a little runnier, remove it from the oven a minute or two before the recipe calls for. I really like the fact that you can make the majority of the recipe in advance and cook it right before you plan to serve it.
The mint chocolate ice cream is very pretty with the dark chocolate, but a bright raspberry gelato would be equally stunning.
Here's our version of Le St André Café's molten chocolate cake.
Dark Chocolate Molten Cakes
Adapted from Simple Soirees by Peggy Knickerbocker, serves 6
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus additional for buttering the ramekins
10 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus additional for flouring the ramekins
¼ cup sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
French glacée, ice cream or gelato
In a double boiler (or set a bowl tightly over a pot of simmering water), melt the butter, then add the chopped chocolate to the hot butter, stirring constantly until all of the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. If desired you can place the bowl in the refrigerator briefly, but do not let the chocolate harden.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter and lightly flour six 6 ounce ramekins, making sure not to miss any spots or the cakes will stick. Place them on a sheet pan (lined with Silplat if available to keep the ramekins from sliding.)
Combine the flour and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the eggs until well blended and there are no visible lumps. Whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture until combined completely. Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins. They should be two thirds full.
At this point the recipe can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 6 hours. Bring to room temperature before baking.
Bake in the middle rack of the oven until the cakes have puffed up a bit and the cakes still jiggle slightly when shaken, about 10 to 12 minutes. (I advise checking them at 9 minutes.) The cakes will be slightly fluid at 10 minutes and a little more cakelike if baked for the 12 minutes. If you like the centers very solf, taken them out at 9 minutes. Let sit for 1 minute.
Carefully remove the ramekins for the sheet pan. Place a plate on top of each ramekin and, with a potholder to protect your hands, carefully invert the cake onto individual plates. Let it sit for 10 seconds, then lift up each ramekin off of the cake. Alternately you may serve the cakes in the ramekins if you wish. Sprinkle the cakes with powdered sugar and if desired, a scoop of French glacée ice cream, gelato, or sorbet and/or whipped cream.
We highly recommend the food and the quality of service at Le St André Café in Bonnieux. For more information on the cafe, visit their website here.
Friday is Market Day in Bonnieux. If you plan to have lunch afterwards, we suggest that you call ahead and reserve a table no matter where you dine. If you are planning to have lunch at Le St André Café and you find yourself parked too far away to comfortably walk, call ahead and they will send the cute French golf cart above to fetch you.
|Photo courtesy of Le St André Café website|