One of my past secrets is that I was once an exalted leader (aka president) of a local chapter of the National Association of Accountants, a wild and crazy bunch of guys. In a survey we asked what we could do to increase meeting attendance. One of the responses was about our Social Hour, which we had recently decreased to 30 minutes. The suggestion was to pare it back to 15 minutes since it was so hard to do.
I took my first wife to our annual Christmas party where she met some of my colleagues. She was so impressed that she asked why we forced ourselves on innocent, unsuspecting people like herself, and wanted to know why we just didn’t melt into the wallpaper where we really belonged.
Meeting artists is a little difference experience. Among Lesley’s student’s last weekend was a woman who entertained us with her whistling that she had just learned at age 39. There was also someone who had raced camels. The wife of a retired Coast Guard captain regaled us with stories I could never repeat here, while another commissioned Lesley to make a pendant that incorporates a picture of her parents as high school sweethearts.
I’m afraid artists would never make good accountants: too much personality.
Molten Chocolate Cakes
Softened butter and sugar, for the ramekins
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 tablespoons milk, but half and half works better
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch processed is preferable
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
Whipped Creme Topping, made with 1 cup heavy cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar whipped together.
1. Lightly butter the insides of six 6-ounce custard cups, sprinkle with sugar to coat, and tap out the excess.
2. In a medium stainless steel bowl placed in a skillet of hot, not simmering, water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring often, until smooth. Remove from the heat. Measure 6 tablespoons into a small shallow bowl (a cereal bowl is perfect). Add the milk and stir well. Place in the freezer while preparing the rest of the recipe. Stir the cocoa and egg yolks into the remaining chocolate-butter mixture.
3. In a grease-free medium bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until the peaks are stiff and glossy but not dry. Fold about one-quarter of the egg whites into the cocoa mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Spoon the batter into the cups, filling them half full. Set the remaining batter aside.
4. Remove the chocolate-butter mixture from the freezer; it should be firm. Using a dessert spoon, scrape up the mixture and roll into 6 truffle-like balls (they do not have to be perfectly round). Embed a truffle into the center of each custard cup, top with equal amounts of the remaining batter, and level the tops. Place the cups on a baking sheet. Cover the cups with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (The cakes can be prepared to this point up to 3 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.)
5. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400°F.
6. Bake until the cakes are puffed and cracked and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out gooey, indicating that the truffle is melted, about 12 minutes. Let the cakes cool for 3 minutes.
7. Run a thin knife around the inside of each cup to release the cake. Protecting your hands with a towel, invert a cup in the center of a dessert plate to unmold the cake. Repeat with the remaining cakes. Serve immediately with a dollop of whipped cream topping.