Thursday, 10 November 2011

Chocolate Fudge and Pear Pudding

Like all children of the 80s, when Jamie Oliver was still just a twinkle in a tv producer's eye, my school cookery lessons prepared me for a life of morbid obesity. There was no question of learning to cook anything even remotely healthy - as far as school was concerned, my future life would be wall to wall crumbles and cakes. 

The most noteworthy recipe was a truly foul pizza on a scone base. Not a dough based on a scone recipe. An actual pizza-sized scone. Two inches thick of bready stodge, drizzled with a bit of tomato passata and blanketed with plastic cheese. My parents, ever supportive and encouraging, chewed manfully and silently for a few minutes. Then, in defeat, we chucked the whole lot in the bin. In terms of life lessons, I think that class taught me "Don't trust teachers".

Precisely two recipes made it into permanent rotation in our household. One was a chilled lemon cheesecake, which is delicious but irritatingly requires only half of a small tin of condensed milk. Clearly the point of this lesson was not so much "learn how to make a cheesecake" as "come on girls, it's good to share with your best friend" - or, worryingly, "condensed milk is delicious straight from the tin and you don't want it to go to waste, do you? Think of the starving children in Africa!".

The other recipe which actually found a home in our home was this chocolate fudge pudding. It's one of those where you pour some kind of boiling water concoction over a chocolate sponge before cooking. Then, magically, through the alchemy of the oven it turns into a chocolate fudge sauce lurking beneath the sponge. It blew my pre-teen mind and still sort of does now, to be honest, even though I'm much older and theoretically a bit wiser.

This time, in an unprecedented innovation, my mum recommended adding pears to the mixture, building on my new favourite pudding combo of pears and chocolate (see here and here). Now, these flights of inventive fancy are relatively common with my mum - and I don't think she'd be too offended if I said that the results can be hit or miss. This landed much closer to hit than miss, but it wasn't quite perfect. 

The pears ended up gorgeously soft and nestled very happily among the chocolate sponge and sauce. But they also exuded a lot of juice, which made the finished product both sweetier and runnier than expected. Clearly it wasn't a disaster - a sweet, runny chocolate sauce is still a chocolate sauce - but I've added notes in the recipe for changes which might bring you the perfect result.


Needless to say, this was still absolutely delicious - and now that we're back in the season of proper puddings, I'll definitely be trying it again. Just don't try to change my mind on the pizza thing. Scones are for clotted cream and jam, not melted mozzarella, and nothing will ever convince me otherwise. So there, Mrs Edwards!

Chocolate Fudge and Pear Pudding
Adapted from a school pudding approximately 20 years ago. That makes me feel old.

- optional - 6 pears, peeled and quartered lengthways (if you're doing this in advance, keep them in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice to stop them from going brown) 

For the sponge
- 75g of self raising flour
- 100 g of butter
- 100 g of caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
- 2 eggs, beaten in a little bowl
- half a teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons of milk

For the sauce
- 100g of soft brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
- 150ml hot water from the kettle  
(Sauce note - If you're using the pears, as discussed above, the sauce came out very liquid and very sweet. I'd be tempted to use just 100ml of water, 50g of sugar and double the amount of cocoa powder. I have no idea if that would work but it's worth a go. It's hot chocolate sauce, how wrong could it be?)

Preheat the oven to 190C and grease a large ovenproof dish with a bit of butter or vegetable oil.
Using electric beaters, a posh mixer or just a wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then gradually add the eggs and vanilla, beating well after every addition. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl and fold them into the mix with a wooden spoon. Add enough milk until the mixture is soft and drops off the spoon.
If you're using them, arrange the pears on the bottom of the dish. Then scoop the sponge mixture on top, spreading it level.  
Mix together the brown sugar, cocoa powder and hot water in a little bowl, stirring to get rid of lumps, then pour right over the cake mixture. It'll look disgusting and you'll think I'm loopy but I promise that the sauce will sink through the cake.
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the sponge is risen and springy, and the sauce is bubbling.

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