Editor’s Note: We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled blogramming for this temporary foray into food blogging, or should we call it flogging? No, maybe fooging? I dunno, it’s a post about good grub.
Confession: I can be obsessive.
Unless it’s about food, good food, and then I can be incredibly obsessive.
To wit, I have a file called “places I will eat at someday.” It’s filled with clippings from old newspaper and magazine articles. Whenever we go on trips, I check the Food Network to see if there are noteworthy restaurants to investigate. Back when I was pregnant with my first child — and food cravings were at their height — I demanded to be driven to Phoenix on two separate occasions for Thrifty’s Chocolate Malted Krunch ice cream when I learned it was available at Water and Ice stores 100 miles away. We hauled my pregnant butt up Interstate 10, found a Water and Ice store, bought a few half gallons, carefully packed them on dry ice and drove the two hours back home to Tucson. We’ll just skip over the fact that I learned months later that just a few miles away from our house was an in-town location of the same store, and it, uh, also carried Thrifty’s.
When Krispy Kreme doughnuts opened in the southwest — and hit Phoenix first — we drove up again because I had developed an insatiable craving for a doughnut I had never even tried. All I knew was that Elvis loved them. We stood in line — my eyes as glazed as the doughnuts — as the fluffy bronzed rings plopped down the conveyor belts. Employees handed out fresh, hot, crackly-sugar-coated samples — they jabbed a straw through the hole and held each precious pillowy pastry for us to grab. I ate two freebies and then another two in the car on the way back to Tucson.
And all that was for a plain, glazed doughnut. If that intriguing food is something chocolate, woof, look out.
There used to be this restaurant in town called Daniel’s, and it was only for the fanciest of occasions. We’d celebrated anniversaries there and birthdays. I can’t tell you what the entrees were, but my favorite dessert was the chocolate molten truffle cake. It was huge, meant to be shared. Once you plunged a fork into the fluffy cake, a gooey lava stream oozed onto the plate and into the accompanying sweet tangy berries and a perfect oval scoop of vanilla gelato, which hugged the chocolate dome.
One day, I discovered a local magazine printed the recipe. I found out where it was sold, hopped in the car and only had to drive 12 miles to get one from the only bookstore that carried the mag. I remember debating buying two, so I had one for a backup. But I didn’t.
Now, what distinguished this cake from all the other lava cakes that were The Cliched Dessert of the Early 2000s, was that typically they are underbaked cakes, which, when you think about it, is a little gross. They still taste good but that seems cheat-y to me. The Daniel’s version of the cake required that you make a batter (with a dozen eggs!) and a separate ganache filling that was chilled. Then you scooped a ball of that ganache and plopped it in the center of the fluffy cake batter.
I made them multiple times and tweaked the recipe to where it was perfect for home preparation (it called for way more ganache than was needed). I had a square muffin tin for when I wanted to feed an army and a six-muffin tin for when it was just the chocolate-loving immediate family.
Then tragedy hit.
I lost the recipe.
I searched high and low and was pretty despondent. I knew I wouldn’t throw out the magazine, it was too precious. But still I couldn’t find it.
We moved into a new house, and the recipe was just gone. At the new place, my ridiculous amount of cookbooks and recipe binders were crammed in a too-dark closet with all my cooking stuff. I grabbed a flashlight and searched. Nothing. I pulled everything out and sorted through each individual book, rifling through the pages, nothing.
Then, I got a new dedicated bookcase with a few pull-out boxes for magazines and the rest of the shelves were for alllllll my cookbooks (mostly dessert related). I transferred all my recipes into the open space of the family room where there is plenty of light. Still, I couldn’t find that Tucson Gourmet magazine.
Once, out of desperation, I even called the chef to see if he still had the recipe. It’s not as weird as it sounds because I was the food editor of the local newspaper at the time. He faxed over a recipe and, alas, it was for one of those undercooked cakes, not the recipe I knew.
I moved on with my life and then one day, when I was on the hunt for something else, pulled out one of the bamboo-ish woven boxes where my Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines and King Arthur newsletters are stuffed and there, folded in half and flattened in the back, was that magazine.
Years had passed, but I finally had my recipe back.
Because it’s labor-intensive and my middle-aged metabolism doesn’t allow me to eat desserts like I used to, I don’t make the cakes that often. But, I do every once in a while, pull out the magazine to reassure myself that it’s still there.
This year, I made the cakes for Valentine’s Day. It had been a looooong time since they’d graced the table.
“These are the best molten cakes I’ve ever had,” the hub said.
I reminded him where the recipe came from and how traumatized I’d been when it was lost. He’d forgotten. I sure hadn’t.
So, this isn’t normally a cooking blog, but today it is. If you, too, are an obsessive foodie and/or chocolate lover, then consider this a gift — but mostly it’s a selfish post to ensure that I have a backup copy of this recipe in a safe place so I don’t ever, ever lose it again.