Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Baked Chocolate Pudding

I found the recipe for Ina Garten's Baked Chocolate Pudding in Good Housekeeping magazine, which keeps showing up uninvited in my mailbox. I would never subscribe, since I have a little problem with keeping too many magazines, so I rigorously edit my subscriptions. I called and emailed to ask them to stop it but it still keeps coming.

I probably have this recipe in one of my four Ina Garten cookbooks, too, but you know how it is: Who ever has time to leaf through one's extensive cookbook collection? I browse through them when I'm in the mood, but there's nothing like being hit over the head by a recipe that's right in your hand.

This baked pudding is supposed to be more like molten chocolate cake or an underbaked brownie than pudding (unless you mean British pudding, which is anything served as dessert, I guess). That sounded perfect to me. It calls for a cup of butter but no cream; for some reason butter agrees with me while cream does not. It's a match made in Cholesterol Heaven.

I described it to my sister and she immediately told me to make it for Thanksgiving. So it will travel to Pennsylvania with us for the family feast. You're supposed to serve it with vanilla ice cream to tone down the richness. I'm tougher than that; I'll take mine straight.

As usual, I can't leave well enough alone; I tinker with every recipe I make; I can't help it. I considered using 5 large eggs instead of buying a carton of extra-large eggs just for this recipe. In the end, I bought more eggs. I didn't want it to taste too eggy. It is not quiche.

I read up on vanilla beans. According to About.com's Home Cooking, vanilla beans last "indefinitely." I disagree. I picked up some in the Khan el Khalili, the legendary souk in downtown Cairo, in 1999. (In those days the souk was more fabulous and less full of Chinese imports than now. The spice sellers haven't changed much since the Middle Ages, however. They have the gorgeous, fragrant shops, packed with sacks and barrels overflowing with every fragrant thing you can imagine...) It turns out that vanilla beans from 1999 are mostly tasteless black powder, so I tossed them in favor of pure Bourbon vanilla extract. Even the people at Cook's Illustrated can't tell the difference between beans and extract in baking, so I'm sure it's fine.

I used Trader Joe's cocoa powder; it's a special kind that's higher in cocoa butter than other brands. I used Chambord for the framboise. We've had a bottle sitting unopened for two years. Waiting for this dessert.

Finally, I use salted butter for chocolate recipes no matter what the recipe says. I think chocolate desserts need salt to bring out the flavor; otherwise they can be bland. But this recipe calls for a cup of butter, which means a lot of added salt. It's one of very few main ingredients. I melted the butter and tasted it on my finger. Very salty. But I discovered that most of the white foam on top was salt. I skimmed off more than half of it, and the resulting batter has just enough salt to keep it from tasting boring.

I baked it in my trusty French oval baking dish, which fits neatly into a 9x13 baking pan half full of water, so it works as a bain-marie in the oven. At one point, I heard some hissing; I needed to spoon excess water from the pan, which was boiling and flinging droplets onto the batter.

The baked pudding looks like it's supposed to, but lighter in color and crustier than I expected. The recipe said to bake it for exactly one hour, which I did. Next time I'll tinker. Under the crust, I can see it's darker and very moist. I wish I could show photos but the flash on my camera is dead and my photos look unappetizing.

I'm also bringing a pecan pie from Community Servings' Pie in the Sky and a triple berry pie from Cook's Farm Orchard and Bakery, picked up on the final day of the Copley Square farmer's market. Snalbert tried to get into that one in the wee hours this morning. His desperate racket woke us up.  He'd chewed and wrestled off the plastic bag and was trying madly to paw open the plastic box or push it onto the floor when I accosted him. He started at me with the eyes of a determined carb fiend, reluctant to surrender the pie. I sort of sympathized, but my family won't want a pie that Snalbert has sampled. And there will be ten of us so we need three desserts plus ice cream. All chips off the old block.

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