But he didn't ask for anything intricate. Instead, he asked me for one of the easiest desserts in my repertoire: instant chocolate fondant.
This warm, gooey dessert (which is akin to a lava cake, except that you do not unmold it) was actually one of the first ones Laurent and I ever made together. We had only been dating for a couple of weeks. We had returned to my place one evening, and he suggested we whip up a quick dessert.
Now, there are a few things you need to know about me in order to understand the context. Back then, I wasn't nearly as active a baker (or cook) as I am these days: I was only just starting to experiment in the kitchen. I had made a few batches of cookies for my friends, and had discovered the joy of walking into a room with a plateful of goodies to share with everyone. But I wasn't nearly as passionate about food as I am today.
Not only that, but I seemed to be on a perpetual diet, at the time. I had lost about 50 pounds over the previous couple of years and, while I certainly wouldn't say I had an eating disorder, I had a somewhat uncomfortable relationship with food: I loved it (I always have), but I feared it at the same time. I was afraid of what it might do to my body - especially desserts.
Laurent had even less baking experience than I did. But he had tasted my cookies, and he seemed to know that, despite my fear of calories, I did enjoy baking; he wanted to share that experience with me. So, because I liked him and didn't want to disappoint him, I perused my meager stack of cookbooks (which has considerably grown since then), in search of something fast and easy. And that was the first time we made this fondant.
Since then, we have made it quite a few times. There's nothing particularly refined or subtle about this dessert, but its strong taste of chocolate and warm, liquid center bring delight with every bite. Satisfaction garanteed. And, although it's not quite "instant", it really is very quick to make, with ingredients that are nearly always on hand.
As for me, I associate this dessert with the evolution of two relationships: the one I have with Laurent, and the one I have with food. Cooking and baking with my sweetheart is something I cherish now, and it more or less started then. But making that late-night dessert on a whim was also a first step towards my reconciliation with food: since then, I have gradually overcome my discomfort with calories. I try to eat healthy, but will splurge when I need to, because splurging is also a part of balance.
A simple dessert, but with layers of meaning for me.
Instant Chocolat Fondant
Adapted from Gâteaux gourmands
60g (2 oz) butter, plus more for greasing
80g (2 1/2 oz) dark chocolate
60g (2 0z) sugar
40g (1 1/2 oz) flour
Confectioner' sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 210ºC (410ºF). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Grease two medium ramekins with butter. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar, then add the flour. Pour the chocolate-butter mixture over the eggs-mixture, whisking constantly.
Divide the mixture into the ramekins and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges have set and a crust has formed on the top of the cakes, and the centers have risen, but are still very jiggly.
Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve immediately.