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Dark chocolate can be healthy choice for sweet dessert

When it comes to dessert, a little bit can go a long way. That's why this chocolate dream of a recipe takes the form of smallish individual cakes rather than a single, family-size gut-buster.

It's also why the butter usually found in chocolate cakes has been replaced with nonfat Greek yogurt. Not only won't you miss the butter, but you won't taste the yogurt. It's in the mix strictly as a lower-fat way of adding body to the finished product.

What you will taste is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, specifically dark chocolate. It's built into the cake batter, of course, but it also reappears as a melted surprise in the center of each cake. Use bittersweet chocolate that's between 60 percent and 70 percent cacao. Once the percentage gets any higher, the chocolate begins to taste too bitter.

The eggs in this recipe (one of only five ingredients, by the way) ensure that the cakes will be light and spongy. But one of the tricky things about cooking with eggs is that while it's easiest to separate yolks from whites while they're cold, it's best to add them to recipes at room temperature (they generate more volume that way).

So, how do you warm them up without wasting a lot of time? First, go ahead and separate the eggs when they're fresh out of the fridge. Then put the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another and float each bowl in a larger bowl of hot water. Ten minutes later the eggs will be at room temperature.

By the way, the best way to separate eggs is with impeccably clean hands, rather than by using jagged-edged eggshells. Just crack the egg into your palm, toss the shell, and let the white run through your fingers. This way the yolk never breaks.

After the batter is made, it needs to set up in the fridge for a little while before you put it in the oven. You can keep the batter in the fridge for several days before baking without any damage to the recipe's freshness. So this is the perfect make-ahead dessert for entertaining.

These little cakes with a very simple -- but very flavorful -- raspberry sauce. There are exactly two ingredients: raspberries and sugar. You just buzz them in a blender, then strain out the seeds.

And here's a trick from Jacques Pepin about the quickest way to strain a sauce with seeds. Working in batches, put some of the pureed sauce in a medium-mesh strainer set over a bowl, then bang it until the only things left in the strainer are the seeds. Discard the seeds, add more sauce and continue. This method is much faster than forcing the liquid through the mesh with a rubber spatula.

Warm Double Chocolate Cakes with Raspberry Sauce

Makes 8 servings. Start to finish: 3 hours 20 minutes (30 minutes active).

For the chocolate cakes:

     1/4  cup sugar, plus 8 teaspoons for coating the ramekins

     4 1/2     ounces bittersweet chocolate, divided

     2     large eggs, whites and yolks separated and brought to room temperature

     1/3  cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

For the sauce:

     1 1/2     cups fresh or frozen raspberries (if frozen, thaw, drain and retain the liquid)

     1 1/2     tablespoons sugar

COAT eight 1/3- or 1/4-cup ramekins with cooking spray. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sugar into each, swirling it around to coat the bottom and sides, then dumping out any excess.

CHOP finely 2 1/2 ounces of the chocolate. Cut the remaining 2 ounces into 16 pieces, roughly the same size, then set those aside.

BRING a small saucepan of water to a bare simmer. Set a medium stainless-steel bowl over it and add the 2 1/2 ounces of finely chopped chocolate to that. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted.

BEAT the egg yolks in with an electric mixer in another medium bowl while the chocolate is melting. Beat the yolks with 1 tablespoon of the sugar until they are thick and lemon colored, about 4 minutes. Set the bowl aside and clean the beaters well.

BEAT the egg whites, in a third medium bowl with the electric mixer, until the whites form soft peaks. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar, a little at a time, and continue beating until the whites hold stiff peaks. Set aside.

REMOVE the melted chocolate from the heat. Add the yogurt and stir well. Add the egg yolk mixture and stir well. Add one third of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture, stirring well, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites until they are just combined with the chocolate mixture. Divide the batter among the prepared ramekins. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

PREPARE the sauce and heat the oven to 325° while the cakes are chilling.

PUREE the raspberries with the sugar in a blender. Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer, using a silicone spatula to press the pulp. Discard the pulp and seeds. Thin the sauce with water or with the reserved raspberry liquid (if using frozen berries) until the sauce has a nice pouring consistency.

REMOVE the ramekins from the fridge, tuck 2 pieces of the cut chocolate into the center of each and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until just springy when touched. Let cool for 5 minutes, then unmold or serve in the ramekins. Serve drizzled with the raspberry sauce.

Nutrition information: Per serving: 140 calories, 70 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories), 8 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated, 0 grams trans fats), 45 milligrams cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 16 grams sugar, 4 grams protein, 20 milligrams sodium.


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