The first gift that Kelli ever gave me was a cookbook. We had only known each other for a few months at the time, but had already established a forever kind of friendship. (I know, so touching, right?) The book, The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook by Elinor Klivans, turned out to have several recipes that I consider go-to’s now, one of them being these delicious individually baked brownies.
Made with a combination of unsweetened baking chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips, these brownies are served hot out of the oven and have crusty-soft edges and a warm, gooey center. As they cool slightly, a beautiful sinkhole begins to form in each ramekin, just the right size to cradle a generous scoop of ice cream.
The ice cream recipe I used this time around is an adaptation of the vanilla ice cream from David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop. Made with the seeds of a whole vanilla bean, the pod is steeped in the milk and cream to intensify the flavor. To give the recipe a little twist, I substituted ½ cup of the sugar for brown sugar and added a fourth of a cup of bourbon to the mixture before it went into the ice cream machine. It turned out better than I anticipated. The brown sugar gives it a caramel undertone, and as it freezes, the whiskey flavor snuggles into the vanilla and the flavors skyrocket. It’s really good!
The brownie component of this dessert can be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated until it’s time to bake them. Because they are individual ramekins served hot out of the oven, they appear more sophisticated than they actually are, and they are pretty time efficient if you use store bought ice cream. I’ve played around with the brownie batter, folding in raspberries or substituting some of the chocolate chips for peanut butter ones. As you might imagine, they are delightful no matter the alteration.
Trust me, once you make these you will be making them again!
Hot Chocolate Chip Brownie Sundae Cake, Elinor Klivans, The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Butter six 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups and put them on a baking sheet. (The baking sheet makes it easier to move the ramekins in and out of the oven.)
Put the butter, unsweetened chocolate, and ½ cup of the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over a saucepan of barely simmering water (or the bottom of the double boiler); the water should not touch the bowl. Stir until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs, sugar, and salt until thickened and the color lightens, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla until blended. Add the flour, mixing just until it is incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins, about a generous ⅓ cup in each. Put 1 tablespoon of the remaining chocolate chips in the center of each. Use your fingers to press the chips lightly into the batter; it is not necessary to cover the chips completely with batter, as they will sink during baking.
Bake just until the tops look dry and a crisp top has formed, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 15 to 30 minutes.
Top each cake with a large scoop of ice cream and serve.
Vanilla Ice Cream, David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar*
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream and salt in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and add the bean as well. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over the medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as your stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Put the vanilla bean into the custard, add the vanilla extract, and stir until cool over an ice bath**.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean, rinsing and reserving it for another use, and then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
*I used ½ cup brown sugar and ¼ sugar
**I added ¼ cup of bourbon to the mixture at this point