Monday, August 14, 2017

Writing the Series, Continued



In 2014, I was on a panel at the Public Safety Writers Association Conference answering questions about series writing. The moderator provides, in advance, examples of the types of questions he/she will ask. To prepare, I always answer all of them in written form, and more completely than I’ll have time for on the panel.

Answering thoroughly gets my mind in the groove for the topic and allows me to identify “sound bites” that I can use during the discussion. That would be what Rod Stewart called in a song, “Her adlib lines were well rehearsed.” Ha!

1.  When you wrote the first book did you anticipate a series? 
Absolutely. I knew my characters could get into lots more mischief than one book allowed. As I wrote (and re-wrote) the first book, the second book plot came to me. Then future plots started spinning out. Before I even finished Mission Impastable, I had created dozens of punny food titles for future books. I will NEVER live long enough to use them all, so I wrote a blog post sharing some with other writers to use if they wish.

Here are some titles for you to use: Devil’s Food Wake, Fowl Play, Berried Alive, Doughmestic Dispute, Wok and Roll, The Taming of the Stew, Fried and Prejudice, Much Ado about Noshing, Whisk It All, Roux the Day, Bone Appétit, Under Lox and Quiche, Glazed and Infused, Crumb What May. Pretty good, eh?

2.  What are the major advantages of writing a series?
There are several advantages. For years I wrote books in my second professional career. We periodically revised the books in new editions. With novels, writ is it! You don’t go back and change novels (except for some possible edits for reprints). So writing the next book in a series is analogous to writing a new edition.

You get to change characters and let them grow. They aren’t frozen in time like the characters in single title novels. Another advantage is familiarity with the main setting (assuming it doesn’t change) and characters. You don’t have to figure them out each time.

The dialogue comes more easily because you know what they’ll say and how they’ll react. A third advantage is marketing. The audience knows what’s coming--ooh, a two-fer, a mystery with recipes.  

A fourth advantage is learning to write in the genre better. When the characters and setting are familiar, you can concentrate on the craft of writing. Less to juggle.

3.  When you write a series do you have a plan for the entire series?
I absolutely know what my characters back stories are and how those will impact future plot lines. I have a character arc for Alli, my protagonist in Mission Impastable, and for other characters. A character I love has to die, and I am planning for that. A character is confronted with her hidden dark secret and she has to decide how to respond. Someone finds permanent love, or does she? When you know back stories, you can project into the future and plant seeds a book or two in advance.

4.  What do you think is the idea number of books in a series, or do you think a series that goes on and on ( e.g.Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton) is a good idea?
Far be it from me to weigh in on the mega-series authors. Their success ought to be the answer. If readers stop buying, then they may have written one too many books in the series. But I don’t see that happening yet. Instead, fans like some books more than others, just as with any multi-published author, but they keep these authors near the top of sales.

I have plotted out five more books in the “Dinner is Served” series. But who knows, with all those titles, I could end up writing many more. But more likely, I’ll start a new series. More on that in an upcoming post. Baked Alaska, anyone?

For me, the ideal number of books is when I grow tired of my characters and need to switch. For someone who already writes in multiple genres that is not as likely to happen as with someone who only writes mysteries.  If I need a break, I write a paranormal romantic suspense or a series of short plays. I never get bored with my writing.  If one book has lost some of its luster, I go play with another one for a while. When I return, I get excited again. Having said that, I am thinking of another series set in a herb shop/garden with titles Mint to Be, Thyme to Die, Arsenic and Old Mace. Maybe she dabbles in marijuana infusions and salves.

5.  Is it always necessary to end an individual book in a series with a cliff hanger?
I don’t know that a cliff hanger is necessary, but there do need to be questions your reader wonders about that propel them to your next book. With Mission Impastable, I hope the reader wonders what will happen to the killer and whether the relationship with Alli will continue or be ended.

I want the reader to wonder if Alli and Gina will take the part-time job offered to them at the cooking school. I want the reader to wonder if their personal chef business will succeed or go belly-up. And just what is up with Evan and Alli’s relationship? Will Gina find love again?

6.  How do you let the reader know that the book is part of a series? 
That’s easy to answer. My cover says, “Dinner is Served series, Book 1”! That’s a clue for mystery readers!

But I think any textured book with lots of layers could potentially be a series. I know I have finished reading a book and wished there would be a sequel. I think all authors should write so that people want to know more about the characters and their lives so that a series is not a surprise but a pleasant bonus. All of our books should leave the reader craving more even if it’s not a series.

7.  What is the ideal time schedule for publishing each book in a series in order to keep readers interested?

I suppose the right answer is, how fast can you write them? I think in the romance field publishers ask authors to write 2-3 books a year. There are so many options out there, that if you aren’t keeping your name in front of readers, they may forget to come looking for you.

If I were only writing one genre, I could easily produce two or three culinary mystery books a year. But right now, as I search for a new publisher, I am sitting on three additional completed manuscripts and two more outlined. I’ll let the publisher set the time table for this series.


Bloggers love it when readers share the post with others. If you would do that, I’d be most appreciative. Here are some copy/paste messages you can use.

Facebook: Sharon Arthur Moore continues her previous post on mystery series writing. If writing a series, there’re some interesting points to consider. http://bit.ly/2wSEsKB

Twitter: @good2tweat continued talking about #mystery series #writing at http://bit.ly/2wSEsKB

Monday, August 7, 2017

Six Issues to Consider When Writing Your Series


Series writing is serious business. Series writing encompasses the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good? You really know your characters. You hear them in your head. You write without false steps because you know how they’re going to react in situations you throw them into. Your writing group knows them so well they speak of them as friends. Also, your readers come to expect certain reactions and dialogue. Characters’ foibles are adorable to your fans. Fans also like getting to know your setting and, if a real place, they revel in identifying where that particular gas station is.

The bad? Your characters’ foibles, so adorable to fans . . . Not so much for you after a while. Must she always open the door where everyone knows the bad guy is? Must he always ignore the advice of those who know better than he does? You’d think they’d learn, right? Also, if your setting is a small town, you are likely to encounter the Cabot Cove Syndrome, so named for Jessica Fletcher’s small town that no rational insurance company would ever provide coverage for, given the death rate per capita. And speaking of murder, can you run out of ways to kill people?

As an aside, I tackled that one for you. Go to April, 2016 in this blog and you will find 26+ Ways to Kill (in Mysteries).

And the ugly? Well, let’s just say the bad can deteriorate to the worst. Fans will berate you if you forgot he had hazel eyes in book two and by book four they’ve turned glacier blue. Much worse is that your concept is not big enough to last for several books. What are your themes that stretch across the series?

What to do about these and other limitations of series writing?

Surprisingly, a Google search turned up very few articles about issues in writing a series. Maybe people don’t have trouble with series writing and so there’s no need for such articles. Nah. That’s not it. There are too many series writers out there. I think it’s because we figure out what to do and don’t go hunting for or writing articles about troubles in series-land.

Across these articles and with my own experience, I’ve identified several major features to approach series so that you can be successful.

1)   Consistency is a blessing and a hobgoblin.
Readers like consistency. They want expectations for characters to be met. They approach the series as encounters with old friends. However, don’t be so consistent that there are never surprises. In book two of my culinary mystery series, I have a character drop a bombshell. The revelation is consistent with some earlier clues planted in books one and two. However, this one would never have been predicted. So, be consistent but allow for new information and character changes consistent with the behaviors to keep characters fresh. And if you have someone being totally inconsistent, you should be able to explain it with the onset of dementia, for example.

2)   Time can trip you up.
Both within and across books in a series, time is a lurking peril. Kinsey Milhone is a wonderful example. I believe I read long ago that Sue Grafton said if she’d known the alphabet mysteries she wrote were going to take off she wouldn’t have chosen the alphabet. She was committed to writing a series with 26 books! Is that a record? I can’t say for sure, but if not, it’s close to a record. And Kinsey is the same. It’s as if we are seeing her work on these crimes over the period of a few years instead of decades. If you have grand plans along those lines, avoid events, characters, car models and the like that will tie your book to a specific time. Within a book, make a calendar for your protagonist/antagonist so they don’t do too much within one day or week.

3)   Expand your characters’ world.
Some series authors find the created world of the cozy to limiting. Especially in cozies, the death toll can be high. I took my cooks to the Aegean in book four. They were demo cooks on a high-end cruise ship and they could get into all kinds of foreign trouble. Some series authors have their characters in a job, like being a travel writer or airline personnel so they can be in different locales. Lots of times mystery writers kill off traveling visitors or itinerants instead of regular residents.

4)   Keep a running log on characters, cars, and conflicts.
Oh, yeah, that 25-year-old silver Camry cannot become 20 years old and blue in book four. Eye color, body type, tics—all of these need to be logged so that you have a reference for checking. The running argument with Aunt Mabel in book two can’t be the same one your character has with Uncle Glenn in book eight. Make a spreadsheet (electronically is my preference, but paper works) and jot down everything that could conceivably be changed across books. Is this a pain in the sweet patootie? You betcha. But you’ll be so proud of yourself for not screwing up details.

5)   Allow for some mystery. Not everything has to be answered by the end.
We’ve all seen movies that, as the final credits roll by, you say, “Oh, yeah. There’ll be a sequel.” Things left raveled, hanging threads, unresolved issues. That’s like real life. So wrap up the biggies, but don’t feel you have to let your readers know everything. And just like in real life, characters can change given the right circumstances.

6)   Decide how much readers need to know if they read book five first.
This is the toughest one, frankly, for me. I want the reader to know EVERYTHING. But that is impractical and boring. Make character sketches for your ensemble, recurring cast. Those are the things that need to be known. Sprinkle them in here and there. Show personalities through actions and reactions. If there is need to explain the mystery in a past book, sprinkle that even more lightly. I ran into that problem in book two. How do I explain Alli visiting her brother in prison. Remember that each story must be able to stand alone. Someone reading the series gets value added by reading these connected standalones.

What have you had to deal with in your series writing? Comment below to share with others.

Resources:


http://www.nownovel.com/blog/how-to-write-a-series-mistakes/


Bloggers love to have lots of people reading and commenting on their offerings. Would you be willing to share this post on social media? Here are some copy-paste options.

Facebook: Are you considering writing a series? Have you thought through the many issues around series writing. Sharon Arthur Moore-Author has some ideas on the topic and wrote about six of them. http://bit.ly/2uPJCKj

Twitter: Six Issues to Consider When #Writing a Series by @good2tweat http://bit.ly/2uPJCKj

Monday, July 31, 2017

Are Cozies "Real" Mysteries?


Well, of course they are! However, in the mystery/thriller world cozies are the equivalent of “the little lady”, nice enough but somewhat insubstantial, easily dismissed as a lightweight with little to offer.

Is my bias showing? Absolutely! Why is there always a pecking order? Pecking Order Syndrome shows up in all sorts of places, and ultimately, racial discrimination can be traced to it. As a kid growing up in a family of West Virginia hillbillies living in Ohio, I remember the prejudice my parents exhibited and believed.

Did my term “West Virginia hillbillies living in Ohio” send you a signal? It should have. Hill people from Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia who had moved to Ohio for jobs, were looked down on. Hillbillies were denigrated by the dominant and native white group. So, hillbillies had to make a group lower than they were on the social scale. The hillbillies of my acquaintance uniformly disliked Blacks. It was their way of feeling better about themselves.

Translating the Pecking Order Syndrome to novels, in the mystery/thriller world, thrillers are more highly regarded than mystery. International thrillers top domestic thrillers for sophistication and cross-country plotting and travel. But both are viewed as superior to mysteries.

Among mysteries, the traditional mystery is still Queen of the Hill. These classic mysteries are revered. For the rest of the subgenres, there is also a pecking order. Police procedurals and medical mysteries with all the technical detail and knowledge required are superior (in many eyes) to other mysteries.

And the lowly cozies—aren’t they cute little things—are at the bottom of the heap.

Oh, yeah? Well, listen up, Bud. Plotting any mystery, laying out the clues, pacing the action, finding relevant subplots, and creating compelling characters is identical in every mystery/thriller written.

You don’t have to have blood and gore on the page for the essential mystery. That’s just the value-added that police procedurals and thrillers bring to the party. The value-added for cozies is learning about a hobby or special interest of the author.

I am a pretty good cooker and know a lot about food. A retired police detective knows a lot about how crooks are caught and treated. Both of us are experts in our fields. Expertise is the commodity that both cozies and thrillers and other mystery subgenres share. Should we value one kind of expertise more than another?

I don’t believe so. What I prefer to read is merely that, a preference. Given great writing, expertise should be valued in any subgenre. 


If you think others would be interested in this post, please share on social media. I’ve prepared a couple of posts you can cut and paste or create your own.

Facebook: “I don’t get no respect,” might be what the cozy mystery genre might say were it able to talk. Do you agree that many regard cozies as an “also ran” kind of mystery? http://bit.ly/2uQq73K

Twitter: Are cozy mysteries equivalent to traditional mysteries or are they just fluff? @good2tweat offers her viewpoint at http://bit.ly/2uQq73K
 

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Few Recipes from PRIME RIB AND PUNISHMENT


As you know, I write culinary mysteries. I am shopping around book two in my “Dinner is Served” series, Prime Rib and Punishment. I call them “murders with taste.”

My protagonist, Alli Wesson, is a screw-up. Or she was until she and her childhood friend, Gina Smithson, started their personal chef business. With a regular income and being her own boss, it appears early-30s Alli is finally getting it together. Well, unless there’s a murder that impinges on her life. Following trails of clues means that she sometimes makes impulsive and erratic choices. Police officer boyfriend, Evan, worries about that. A lot. And so does everyone around her.

Prime Rib and Punishment finds Alli and Gina teaching at the new Culinary Arts School-Glendale (Arizona) even though the Executive Chef hates “amateur cooks.” Add in a diet scam operation and a guy with a mafia connection, and things become . . . complicated. Murder is part of the complication.

Nevertheless, Alli and Gina are gifted cooks and they’d like to share a few recipes from this book with you. When the book is published, get your two-fer—mystery plus cookbook. Enjoy these for now!

Roast Beef Roll-ups (makes one roll-up)
Makes a great lunch when traveling. Alli uses a whole block of cream cheese to make 4 roll-ups in an assembly line.

2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 whole wheat flour tortilla
3 extra-thin slices of roast beef
1 string cheese stick
10 pieces of baby spinach

Mix together cream cheese and horseradish. Spread evenly over tortilla. Press meat slices onto tortilla, covering as much of the tortilla as possible, overlapping the meat where necessary. Add spinach the same way. Lay a cheese stick along one edge then roll into a cylinder. Seal the cylinder with a small bit of cream cheese mixture to hold it together. Roll up in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator.

Orange Marmalade Pork Tenderloin (serves 8-10)
This is a special dinner for company. The leftover pork makes great sliders for lunch with a dollop of the marinade and Dijon mustard.

pork tenderloin package (two slender ones, not the whole tenderloin)
jar orange marmalade
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
4 green onions, diced
4 tablespoons white wine, divided

Put orange marmalade, all of the garlic, green onions, and 2 T wine in a zipper bag and mush around to mix.

Add the two pork tenderloin pieces. Let marinate for at least three hours, turning a few times to distribute the marinade.

Take pork out of bag and put on grill.

Drain marinade into saucepan, reserving 2 tablespoons to brush on meat as it cooks.

Grill for 1-20 minutes, turning once. Let meat rest before slicing into medallions.

Heat remaining marinade to a boil. Add reserved 2 tablespoons wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Put in gravy boat to serve alongside meat.


Cinnamon-Nutella Brownie Bites (makes 12 mini brownies)
Here is another of Gina’s calorie-controlled desserts without sacrificing taste. Small portions mean you can enjoy big flavor. The cinnamon adds an interesting flavor layer.

½ cup Nutella                                   ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
1 large egg                                       ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon oil                                   ½ cup chopped nuts
5 tablespoons flour

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup mini-muffin pan with paper or foil liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Put the Nutella, egg, and oil in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and well blended. Add the flour and whisk until blended. Add chocolate chips and cinnamon.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin (about 3/4 full) and sprinkle with the chopped nuts.

Bake until a toothpick comes out with wet, gooey crumbs, 11 to 12 minutes (longer for a chewier brownie).

Set on a rack to cool completely. Serve immediately or cover and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. Sometimes Alli sprinkles on powdered sugar to make them prettier.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why I Go to Conferences--And Why You Should, Too


I’m kind of a conference junkie.

Given unlimited time (oh, and money), I’d be hopping planes and checking into hotels all over the world. Why? I mean, I’m getting a bit long in the tooth for all this time change/jet lag/bag hauling stuff, so why even bother?

Read books on the same topics, you might counter. There’s a ton of info on the Internet. Oh, yes.

Well, I do those things, too. Because like Kipling’s “The Elephant’s Child”, I am full of “ ‘satiable curiosity” and Must. Keep. Learning.

I’ve written before about my extensive library, but a conference does more than provide information.

At my most recent conference this past weekend, I attended sessions on topics I didn’t even know existed. How am I supposed to look that up? The session on CPTED introduced me to a topic I was unaware existed. And it gave me a subplot/career change for one of my characters that I wouldn’t have known about.

I attended sessions describing panelists’ personal experiences. How does one look those up on-line? These were people I could look in the eye and know they were there. One can write anything on-line. There is no vetting.

And the contacts one can make! At the Public Safety Writers Association Conference, I sat with a wide-range of public safety workers who generously answered questions and offered to be future contacts for more questions. Contacts are one huge reason I attend as many conferences as I can.

So, look for me, at your next conference. I might be sitting next to you. I’d be the one with a lot of questions about what you do.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Month-of-Few Ingredients: Yeasty Homemade Bread Bowls


baked bread bowls
This is shaping up to be more than a Month-of-Few Ingredients. I have been tackling fears, too, throughout the month, so it is appropriate that I take on one more on this last post for a Month-of-Few Ingredients. To recap, I told you of food fears: puff pastry (so I made two desserts with puff pastry), pie crust (one recipe), and yeast. How could I leave one undone? Today I am making bread bowls to take on my last food-fear. Aren’t you proud of me? <patting self on back>

I buy bread bowls once every couple of months, but I hate the search for them, and I know they are filled with preservatives for grocery store shelf life. This recipe, I thought when I saw it, would free me from those anxieties. And I trust Recipe Girlrecipes. Lori Lange is a great cook and has never led me astray.

Back in the day, when I was fearless (and sometimes clueless), I did make yeast breads. I grew up in a home where my mother made seven loaves at a time so we’d have bread for packed school lunches. (My brother used to sell his, but that’s another story.)

As an adult, I regularly made three-flour braided bread (white, whole wheat, and rye). Sometimes it turned out very well and sometimes not. I never could figure out what made the difference. The humidity level? The temperature? Yeast freshness? Too much (or too little) kneading? I gradually developed my yeast-fear because I couldn’t count on the results.

DH bought me a bread machine many years ago. At first, I put my own recipes into the machine. But, with varying levels of success, again, I started using the packaged bread machine mixes. Shameful, right?

But here I am again to try. Maybe success with this recipe will lead me to trying others. I love fresh, homemade, well-made bread. I might even try pizza dough with yeast next! Nah! I’m sticking with my yogurt pizza dough.

Lori’s Homemade Bread Bowls call for bread flour. If you make a lot of bread, you might have that around, but if not, you can make your own for when you need it. 

First, you need to buy vital gluten. For each cup of all-purpose flour, mix in 1 teaspoon of vital gluten. Store unused vital gluten in the refrigerator or freezer.  Bread flour has more gluten than all-purpose flour, and gluten gives bread its strength. Whereas cookies and cakes can be crumbly, you don’t want that for your bread.

I’m not going to mess with this recipe. This is as written by Recipe Girl, Lori Lange.

Homemade Bread Bowls (makes 4)
rising bread
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
  • 2 cups warm water, 110º F
  • 5 1/3 cups (680 g) bread flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
Directions:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Stir to combine and allow to sit for 5 to 7 minutes to activate. The mixture will smell like beer once it's done.
  2. Attach dough hook to stand mixer. Add bread flour and salt to mixing bowl. Start the mixer on low speed until the dough begins to come together, about 2 minutes.
  3. Increase speed to medium and knead dough for 3 minutes until the dough has formed into a ball and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to a large greased bowl. Cover and allow dough to rest for 1 hour until dough has doubled in volume.
  4. Punch dough down and place on a lightly floured work surface. Weigh dough and divide into four equal parts. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
  5. Deflate each portion. Working with one portion at a time, shape into a tight round ball. Use your fingers to pinch the seams together at the bottom of the ball. Place rounds seam-side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the rounds as far apart as possible. Cover dough and let rest for 40 minutes to allow rounds to proof.
  6. Preheat oven to 450º F. Place an oven safe pan (high-rimmed baking sheet, lasagna pan, or cast iron pan) on the bottom rack of oven. While the bread is resting, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. This water will be used to steam the bread, giving it that nice crunchy crust.
  7. Uncover dough and place in oven's center rack. Gently and carefully pour hot water into the pan on the bottom rack. Close oven door and do not open until steaming is finished. Bake bread bowls for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown on the outside and internal temperature of bread registers at least 190º F. For even crispier bread, turn off oven and allow bread to remain in oven for another 5 to 7 minutes.  Allow bread to cool on wire rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing into.
  • If mixing by hand, use a large bowl and a sturdy spatula to combine ingredients. Stir until dough starts to form. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand until dough is smooth.
  • The steaming at the start of baking allows a nice, crispy crust to form on the bread bowls. If you choose to omit this step, the bread bowls will have a softer exterior.
  • Do not substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour. Bread flour contains a higher amount of protein which helps to create the bread bowl's structure.
  • Dough can be mixed the night before baking. After mixing dough together, transfer dough to a large greased bowl. Cover and place in the fridge to rest overnight. When ready to roll bread, allow dough to sit at room temperature for 40 minutes before deflating and dividing into portions.

DH’S Rating: 5 Tongues Up   What’s not to like about homemade bread, right?

If you liked this recipe, I’d really appreciate you spreading the word on your social media outlets. Here are some pre-made Twitter and Facebook posts you can use or modify.

Twitter: #recipe for yeasty bread bowls by @good2tweat at http://bit.ly/2lSLnBc

Facebook: Do you like bread bowls for holding your stew and salads? Make your own from the recipe at Sharon Arthur Moore’s blog, Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time. http://sharonarthurmoore.blogspot.com/2017/02/month-of-few-ingredients-yeasty.html

Monday, February 27, 2017

Month-of-Few Ingredients: Melt-Your-Heart Chocolate Cake


Yum! Chocolate Lava Cake
I have a number of recipes that didn’t make the cut this month. February would have had to have had at least another 20 days for me to use up the collection I have. So here we are, one day from the end. I want to do a dessert, and I have four options.

Do I go for the unusual/interesting/may-not-have-heard-of option, two that are variations of ones you probably already do, or a dessert that screams elegance and fancy restaurant? And which one would DH likely give up Five Tongues to? I mean, I like validation, too. So fancy dessert it is.

I almost made this for Valentine’s Day, but I decided to save it to give DH an unexpected treat. He loves lava/molten chocolate cakes because they are so chocolatey dense. Being warm, I think they also fall into the comfort food category.

The Internet, unsurprisingly, abounds with lava cakes/melted chocolate cake recipes. Interestingly, three versions I found (maybe there are more) are attributed to Carnival Cruise Lines. The recipes are related but different of their Melting Chocolate Cake, a signature dessert for Carnival. Why so many versions? Beats me, but it might have to do with which chef they ask. Seems like cutting down a recipe for thousands to one for six might affect proportions. I can’t explain it.

Back in the day, I used to make lava cake for a crowd in the slow cooker. Not as pretty, but it serves a bunch. If that interests you, check out this slow cooker chocolate lava cake.

In one version of Carnival’s Melting Chocolate Cake, you watch a video (which I suggest if you haven’t made a melted chocolate cake before). In the vid, sometimes they tell you the ingredients, and sometimes you have to figure it out, but the technique is very clear and helpful for your first time with lava cake.

In another version, posted on the Internet with somewhat different ingredient amounts (four eggs or seven eggs?), the recipe gives a different cooking temperature. What’s with that???

Anyway, here’s the version of Lava Cake I ended up with. I don’t know about the others with different amounts of ingredients and different cooking temps, but I can assure you this one works beautifully!

Chocolate Lava Cake (serves 6)
6 tablespoons butter
6 ounces best quality chocolate (Ghiradelli), ½ 85% cacao & ½ 60% cacao
¾ cup sugar
4 eggs
¼ cup flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter or spray 6 ramekins with butter-flavored, non-stick cooking spray. Place ramekins on sturdy baking pan.
Put butter and chocolate in a double boiler and stir gently with spatula until all chocolate is melted into the butter. Remove from heat while mixing other ingredients.

Put sugar in a small bowl. Crack in one egg and whisk until the egg/sugar mixture turns lemon yellow. Add in one more egg and whisk again. Continue with remaining eggs, always whisking thoroughly after each addition. This will take several minutes. Don’t rush it.

Add flour and thoroughly incorporate into the egg/sugar mixture.

Slowly pour chocolate mixture into sugar mixture, whisking completely after each addition.

Distribute batter among the ramekins. After filling, shake or tap each ramekin on the baking pan several times before putting into oven.

Bake for 14 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately serve in the ramekin, or wait a couple of minutes, and up end each on small dishes to serve upside down. The lava cake right out of the oven will look molten-y. It is done even if it doesn’t look it to you. The top will look like regular chocolate cake if served upside down out of the ramekin.

You can add sprinkled powdered sugar, ice cream, or whipped cream if you like.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up  As expected. Warm, deep, dark chocolate. What’s not to love? Because it’s so rich, it should be served after a lighter meal. Sort of like a reward after eating your stir fry veggies. “Very chocolatey. Glad it’s so small,” DH said. Yep, the best things are in little packages.

If you liked this recipe, I’d really appreciate you spreading the word on your social media outlets. Here are some pre-made Twitter and Facebook posts you can use or modify.

Twitter: #recipe for you-won’t-believe-how-easy chocolate lava cake. Check out the post by @good2tweat at http://bit.ly/2lN9AHc

Facebook: Do you love chocolate lava cake/molten chocolate cake? Find out how easy it is to do them at home. See Sharon Arthur Moore’s blog, Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time at http://sharonarthurmoore.blogspot.com/2017/02/month-of-few-ingredients-melt-your.html

Two more recipes to look at:

https://cruiseline.com/advice/before-you-cruise/what-to-know/carnival-cruise-lines-warm-chocolate-melting-cake-recipe

http://www.cruisin.me/info/carnival-cruise-lines/food-recipes/warm-chocolate-melting-cake.php

A reminder:
House rules for what counts as an ingredient:
Salt and pepper are not ingredients.
Oil is not an ingredient when it’s for the cooking pan, not the recipe.
Water is not an ingredient.