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My favorite food of 2011? Cioccolatissimo, hands down

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What was the absolute favorite thing you ate in 2011? When Amy Ephron, publisher of an online food magazine called "One for the Table," asked me that question, I didn't hesitate before answering. I have no trouble recalling the favorite food I ate in 2011.

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It was the evening of Oct. 8. My husband and I were in Chicago that weekend to watch our son join a group of 45,000 ambitious human beings in one of the largest marathon races in the world. His birthday was the same day as the run, so we planned on lots of celebrating.

We were ready for a break after a day of exploring the Windy City by foot. We happened upon Bice Restaurant in the downtown Talbott Hotel and thought we'd stop for just a glass of wine as we regrouped and decided on our plans for the rest of the evening. One glass of wine turned into another, then dinner and finally, dessert. Tiny fluffy and light potato and Swiss chard dumplings topped with gorgonzola dolce cream sauce and toasted walnuts were exquisite. But just the thought of the dessert makes me salivate.

Our server recommended Bice's Cioccolatissimo. "I am a diabetic," he said. "If I am going to die, I am going to die eating Cioccolatissimo." After that, how could I say no to a chocolate dessert that was planned to be this charming man's last bite on earth?

Ah, yes, it is dessert to die for. It's a bit like a chocolate soufflé, but much more decadent and sexy. The dome of melt-in-the-mouth dark chocolate cake oozes with warm liquid chocolate as soon as it is pierced with the edge of a spoon. As the ribbon of chocolate spills over the plate, it begins to melt the scoops of velvety vanilla ice cream and rich whipped cream strategically placed on either side of the cake. It's the kind of dessert that makes you moan with pleasure. It's the kind of dessert that draws you back to the restaurant the next night, because you need Cioccolatissimo, you must have it. The desire for more will burn within until you get that first warm, soothing bite into your mouth. What a way to celebrate!

Although the chef at Bice promised to email the recipe for Cioccolatissimo to me, I never did receive it. As I was going through some of my recipes recently, I came upon a molten chocolate cake. Individual-size chocolate cakes are baked in custard cups just long enough for the batter in the middle to stay gooey. I hadn't made it in several years and had no notes to remind me where the recipe originated.

That recipe turned into my version of Cioccolatissimo.

With just few ingredients, the quality of each is paramount. Use real butter and the best semi-sweet chocolate and cocoa you can find. Once you mix up the thick, rich batter and spoon it into custard cups, the six desserts can be stored in the freezer until you are ready to serve them. Just pop the frozen desserts into a preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. How convenient is that?

Quick, make some Cioccolatissimo. There's still time for it to become the favorite thing you eat in 2011. And it is the perfect holiday celebration dessert to impress your guests.

Cioccolatissimo

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoon cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs

1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped

Premium vanilla ice cream

Coat 6 (6-ounce) glass custard cups with nonstick cooking spray. In a 1-quart saucepan, melt the chocolate, butter and sugar over low heat, stirring until melted and blended. Remove from heat and pour into large mixing bowl. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together. Add to bowl and mix with an electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until blended, then beat mixture for 6 minutes. Spoon batter into prepared custard cups. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the frozen custard cups on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and cool slightly, no more than 5 minutes. Run a blunt knife around the inside of each custard cup and invert the cakes onto dessert plates. Serve with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. Makes 6 servings.

Tips from the cook

--Be sure to invert these individual cakes while they are still quite warm. Chocolate will ooze out of the cakes.

--If you are concerned about turning the hot cakes out of the custard cups, use nonstick cooking spray to prepare the custard cups. If you have no worries at all, prepare the cups by coating them with butter and a mixture of half granulated sugar and half cocoa powder.

--If the chocolate that oozes out of the cakes is a little too runny for your liking, just bake them a little longer. For the photo I took of the dessert, I baked it for close to 20 minutes so the inside would be more like pudding, making for a prettier picture. When I am planning to eat the dessert right away, no longer than 15 minutes in the oven results in a thinner chocolate that runs out of the cake when it is pierced, but the chocolate cake shell might collapse. It just takes some experimenting with your own oven to get the result you want.

--Unbaked, tightly sealed desserts can be kept in freezer for a month.

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