Chocolate Budini   

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch fine sea salt
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pint coffee ice cream or vanilla ice cream
Caramel Sauce (recipe below)
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375F.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter with 6 tablespoons of sugar and the salt in a medium stainless-steel bowl placed in a skillet of hot, not simmering, water, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla.

3. In a medium bowl combine egg whites and cream of tartar.
Using a hand-held electric mixer on high speed, beat until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar gradually, beating constantly, until the whites are stiff and glossy. Fold 1/4 of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Scrape the chocolate mixture into the bowl of whites and fold just until combined. Divide the batter evenly among 6 12- to 16-ounce (or so) oven-proof serving dishes (The batter won't fill the bowl but will leave enough room for ice cream, sauce and almond toppings.) Place the bowls on a large baking sheet. (The budini can be prepared up to 2 days ahead to this point, loosely covered and refrigerated.)

4. Bake until the budini are puffed with crusty, deeply cracked tops and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out quite gooey, 20 to 25 minutes. (The budini can be completely baked up to a day ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated. To reheat, bake in a hot, 375-degree oven until puffed, about 10 minutes.)

5. Serve within 10 minutes (the puddings will sink as they cool), topping each serving with a scoop of ice cream a spoonful of caramel sauce, and some toasted almonds.

--"The Baker's Dozen Cookbook."
Jennifer Millar is the pastry chef at Oakland's Restaurant Garibaldi.

Caramel Sauce (David Lebovitz)

1/2 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Pour the cold water into a heavy medium saucepan. Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir to dampen the sugar. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat, swirling the pan by the handle to help dissolve the sugar. Occasionally press a wet pastry brush against any sugar crystals that form on the inside of the pan to wash them back into the syrup.

Uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the caramel has colored to a deep red brown (about the color of an old penny). Being very careful to avoid splashes and steam (if you want, place a colander over the saucepan to act as a perforated lid), immediately pour the boiling water into the caramel. If the caramel hardens, whisk over low heat to dissolve.

Remove from the heat and whisk in cream. The mixture will bubble up, so be careful. Return to low heat and whisk until the hardened caramel dissolves. Add the butter and corn syrup and whisk until the sauce comes to a boil. Strain to remove any undissolved sugar crystals.

Whisk again before serving. Serve warm, at room temperature (if it is too thick for your taste, add a little cream and heat gently, stirring).

Makes 1 3/4 cups.

Source of recipe: Jennifer Millar