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Go For It

October 29, 2006|Leslee Komaiko | Leslee Komaiko has written for Westways, Los Angeles magazine and The Times' Food section.

A bowl of fresh berries is a lovely way to end a meal. But it isn't dessert. Not even close. Dessert is butter-cream-shortening-caramel-macadamia nut-streusel-praline-sugar-and-fat. My father is an exercise junkie who watches what he eats; at restaurants, he inquires if there is cream in the soup, butter in the sauce. But when it comes to dessert, his policy is: Don't ask, don't tell. Anything chocolate is good. Double chocolate is better. Triple chocolate? A must-order. Somehow when the cream and butter come in the form of a cake, cookie or crumble, they are neutralized. It's as if they don't count. None of this is to say that I don't appreciate "lite" desserts. They allow you to feel holier than thou, and they mean you don't have to unbutton your pants to release that uncomfortable pressure. Still, it's the decadent concoctions that make me swoon, crush my willpower and exert a magnetic power over my fork. Calories be damned.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Molten Cake

From pastry chef Frania Mendivil, Stonehill Taven, St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach, Dana Point

Makes about 10 cakes

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup water, plus 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons Jack Daniel's whiskey

1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 pound Valrhona Pur Caraibe chocolate, chopped

5 eggs, room temperature

1 cup cake flour

Pinch salt

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt together the sugar, water, whiskey and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Put the chocolate in a mixer with whisk attachment. With the mixer on slow speed, pour the hot liquid over the chocolate. Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time. Sift together the flour and salt and add to mixer. Mix until smooth. Grease 10 4-ounce ramekins with a nonstick cooking spray. Spoon or pour the chocolate batter into the ramekins until they are about 1/3 full. Place the peanut butter into a piping bag (disposable or cloth). Pipe a tablespoon or so of the peanut butter directly on top of the chocolate batter so that it mounds in the center. (It is important to keep the peanut butter away from the sides of the ramekins.) Gently add the remaining chocolate batter to within 1/4 inch of the top of each ramekin (the peanut butter will be suspended in the center of the cake).

Bake the cakes for about 18 to 23 minutes (if you press the top of the cakes they should feel liquid inside). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for three minutes. Using an oven mitt, gently turn each cake onto a plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with a milk chocolate milkshake.

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Milk Chocolate Shake

makes about 8 cups

518 calories per serving

3/4 cup sugar

10 egg yolks

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 1/2 cups whole milk

1/4 pound milk chocolate (Valrhona Jivara Lactee or other premium brand), chopped

Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl until the mixture starts to lighten in color. In a large heavy saucepan, bring the cream and milk to just below a boil (200 degrees). Slowly whisk the milk mixture into the eggs and sugar. Return everything to the saucepan and, over medium heat, whisk constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Place the chocolate in a large bowl and pour the hot liquid over it. Whisk until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Chill in the refrigerator overnight. The following day, process the mixture in an ice cream machine until it has reached soft-serve texture. Pour into glasses and serve.

If you don't have an ice cream machine, you can blend store-bought chocolate ice cream with milk in a blender until it has the consistency of a milkshake.

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