The first time I saw the recipe for Baked Hot Chocolate in The Essence of Chocolate cookbook by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, I was hooked on the concept. I loved the whimsical touch of baking the cakes in coffee mugs, and then topping with a big dollop of whipped cream. For chocolate lovers, it’s a combination of three great desserts in one – the top layer is crisp and cake-like, the middle layer a warm chocolate pudding, and the bottom layer a thick and gooey version of hot chocolate.
I decided to create my own version but instead of a flourless dessert, I wanted a little more structure. I accomplished this by adding equal parts of almond and cake flour – just enough to add some texture and flavor without compromising its three-layer nature. I also decided to change up the technique of adding the eggs. The original recipe calls for incorporating whole eggs, but akin to making a soufflé, I opted for separating the eggs so I could beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold them into the chocolate mixture. I also substituted confectioners’ sugar for granulated sugar, thinking that the former just makes more sense. Probably the biggest deviation of all – and the one that I love the most – is the addition of orange zest and star anise. I tinkered around with the quantities, landing on what I feel is the perfect amount to add interest but not overwhelm the chocolate. And whatever you do, DO NOT skip the step of making the cocoa-star anise whipped cream, which I based off of Nancy Silverton’s Genius Whipped Cream recipe (on this site). I not only recommend putting a big dollop on top but serving the rest on the side so you can keep adding more.
For the Baked Hot Chocolate
9 oz good-quality semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange four 8 oz ovenproof coffee mugs or ramekins in a baking pan.
In the top of double boiler, or in a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
After the chocolate mixture has cooled for 5 minutes, whisk in the egg yolks and orange zest.
Sift together the almond and cake flours, ground star anise, and kosher salt. Gently fold into the chocolate mixture.
Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then sift in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks. Fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites in two more additions.
Spoon the batter into the cups. Add enough hot or boiling water to the baking pan to come about halfway up the sides of the cups. (Because of the short baking time, very hot or boiling water works best.) Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops lose their glossy finish and start to crack in several places. I recommend checking them at about the 15 minute mark and then keeping a close eye on them.
Remove the cups from the pan. The baked hot chocolates can be served warm or at room temperature. They can also be prepared in advanced and refrigerated for up to 1 day. To reheat, bring to room temperature and then place in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until warm.
Serve with a big dollop of cocoa-star anise whipped cream, with more on the side.
To make cocoa-star anise whipped cream: Using an electric mixer, start on low speed until the cream starts to thicken. Sift in the cocoa, confectioners’ sugar and star anise. Increase the speed to medium high and continue to whip, stopping the machine before the cream will hold soft peaks. Remove the bowl from the electric mixer and finish whipping the cream by hand with a whisk. Fold in creme fraiche.