Recipe: Dark Chocolate Cakelets With Aromatic Pepper and Bacon Fat

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This recipe is as easy as making brownies but yields dazzling results. If you don't have bacon fat on hand, use six tablespoons unsalted butter. Serve with whipped cream or crème fraiche, ideally with a few grains of salt.

Makes 8 to 12 individual cakelets or one 8-inch cake that will serve 8 people. (For a dramatic 10-inch cake double the recipe and use a 10-inch cake pan or spring-form pan).

    • 1 tablespoon melted butter or bacon fat, or vegetable oil, to coat the cupcake papers

    • 8 ounces bitter- or semi-sweet chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa solids), coarsely 
chopped (fresh, fragrant chocolate is essential)

    • 4 tablespoons (14 cup) unsalted butter

    • 2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat (click here for method)

    • 23 cup all-purpose flour

    • 12 teaspoon baking powder

    • 14 teaspoon kosher salt

    • a few grinds (about ¼ teaspoon) of Aromatic Pepper (click here for recipe) or black pepper

    • 2 large eggs

    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or half vanilla extract and half Cognac

    • 12 cup sugar
    • 1 or 2 teaspoons cocoa powder

Position the rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For individual cakelets, arrange eight to 12 nests of three paper cupcake cups (one inside the other) each on a baking sheet. Brush the inside lightly with fat. If using an eight-inch cake pan, rub the inside with butter. Swirl a few teaspoons of flour around to coat completely. Invert the pan and tap out the excess.

Combine the chocolate, butter, and bacon fat in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. (Alternatively, combine in a medium, heavy saucepan and set on a flame tamer or diffuser over very low heat). Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl; add the pepper, whisk well and set aside.

Combine the eggs and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Whisk until foamy. Add the sugar and whisk until light and frothy, about one minute. Blend in the chocolate mixture. Add the flour mixture in two batches, whisking to blend completely each time.

Spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake cups. For 12 individual cakelets, bake 16 to 17 minutes until the tops look set and slightly cracked and dry. If you're making fewer, larger cakelets, bake a minute or two longer. For an eight-inch cake, bake 22 to 25 minutes until a skewer inserted one inch from the edge comes out clean. When inserted in the center, a bit of moist batter will cling to it. Do not over bake; it is better to under bake to ensure the cakes are moist and fudgy.

Cool the cakelets on a rack. For a cake, cool 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate. Invert back onto the rack so the shiny side is up. Cool the cake completely before sliding it onto a serving plate. Sift the cocoa over the top.

To read Sally Schneider's post about using bacon fat in a dessert, click here for the story.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.
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