Ingredients for 8 servings:
1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon vanilla paste
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 teaspoons cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cognac
pinch of salt
5 large egg whites at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar, divided
Ice cream: Dolce con Leche, Vanilla, or Coffee
Generously butter and flour 8 - 1/2 cup custard cups.
Make a slit in the vanilla bean, open it and scrape out the small seeds. Combine bean, seeds, chocolate, cocoa and butter in a heavy saucepan. Over low heat, stir the ingredients so that the chocolate melts in the butter without burning. Add the salt and turn the mixture into a bowl to cool. Scrape clean then remove the vanilla bean and add the cognac.
Combine the egg whites and 3 tablespoons confectioner' sugar in the work bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the whites at medium speed until the form soft, moist peaks. Carefully fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in three installments. Spoon the fondant into the prepared cups and freeze.
Baking: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the cups 12-15 minutes, until the fondant is fully puffed. Remove and hold for 5 minutes.
Serving: Run a knife around the edge of the mold and reverse onto a serving plate. Garnish each serving with a dollop of whipped cream.
Ice Cream garnish: Remove the ice cream from the freezer to the refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving the dessert. Place a small softened scoop to the side of each fondant.