Is it safe?

That scene from Marathon Man, I’m sure, wrecked the livelihood of many a respectable dentist. Talk about a classic. Though it’s a pity such a realistic torture sequence could not have come later in Dustin Hoffman’s career, say after he’d done films like Ishtar, Outbreak, Finding Neverland, and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. The scene could have been rewritten with Sir Lawrence Olivier demanding: was it necessary???!!

But then I’m here to talk about flourless chocolate cake. The fact that such a cake is baked to a mere 140 degrees might have a few of you food safety fanatics out there wondering just how safe a nice silky flourless cake actually is. The answer is, quite safe. True, USDA food safety guidelines recommend that all eggs be brought to a temperature of 160 degrees for several seconds to ensure that any Salmonella bacteria that might be present are killed. However the very same degree of pasteurization that’s realized by five seconds at 160 can be achieved by three and a half minutes at 140, but of course without the resulting chalkiness.

But if you take the cake out of the oven as soon as it reaches 140, won’t it cool down? Obviously it will, but not before the three and a half minutes are up. In fact the temperature will actually go up a couple of degrees in the few minutes after the flourless is taken out of the oven, a phenomenon known to meat cooks as carryover. By the time the temperature in the middle of this very dense and heat-absorbent cake dips below 140, all the bacteria inside it will have long since shuffled off this mortal coil.

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