Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Irish Steamed Chocolate Pudding

I did not do the chocolate mint pudding for Christmas, as I intended, but I did to my old reliable steamed chocolate pudding. This requires semi-sweet chocolate, but do not skimp on it and go with the Nestlés – this is a great place to use the good stuff. The end product is really dependent on the quality of the chocolate used. Warm from the kettle this is deeply decadent.

Irish Steamed Chocolate Pudding


  • 9 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour


  1. Fill the kettle and set it on to boil.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together; set aside.
  3. Beat the egg whites until foamy, gradually add 1/2 cup sugar (still beating), then beat to soft peaks; set aside.
  4. Beat the egg yolks, gradually adding the remaining sugar. Continue beating until the mixture has about tripled in volume, and the sugar is dissolved. The yolks should look light yellow.
  5. Add the chocolate mix to the yolks, beating until blended. Then add the flour, beating on low speed until thoroughly mixed. Fold the mixture into the egg whites. When completely mixed, pour into a very well greased 7 cup pudding basin, or a bowl suitable for use on the stove. If using the bowl, construct a lid as follows: Cut a piece of wax paper large enough to cover the bowl, with some excess for folding. Fold a 1-inch pleat in the middle of the wax paper. Do the same with a piece of aluminum foil. Cover the bowl with the wax paper, then with the foil, lining up the pleats. Secure with kitchen twine; cut off any excess. You may wish to construct a lifter out of twine, or you can use two spatulas to lift the pudding.
  6. Pour about two inches of water into a pot large enough to fit your pudding basin. Place the basin inside and cover the pot. Keep the water in the pot boiling for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (You will need to add more boiling water from the kettle from time to time.) The pudding will be firm and cake-like on top when it is finished. If you are not sure, boil it longer, as it can't be overdone. Once it is ready, let it cool for a few minutes in the basin, then turn it out on a plate.
  7. Serve warm or let it "age" in an airtight container, which will enhance the flavor.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bûches de Noël

It is the season of Advent, and Christmas will soon be upon us. I will refrain from political rants until after the first of the year and reserve my opinions to food.

And why not? Historically, the breaking of bread with others was a means of making peace. The table was a place for conversations – conversations among families, among diplomats and among kings and princes. Food is a primal need, and at the dinner table, we are all equals. We speak reasonably at the dinner table for fear of being banished. We offer sustenance to others there, and we accept it from them too whether they are strangers, friends or family. We are vulnerable at the dinner table too and we must put our guard down in order to partake in this ritual. And it is a ritual – a joyous ritual of feasting, sharing the same Latin root word as "festival".

We are in our season of feasts and festivals, a rare time when we return to the dinner table and bask in the warmth of our loved ones. Some brilliant Teutonic baker in times gone by decided to celebrate the Yule by reproducing a mighty fire-log in the form of a wonderful chocolate confection. Often these Yule Logs are simple, cartoonish affairs, and they are quite lovely and delicious. At the hands of a master, however, the Yule Log is transformed. It is a rare time when a baker with a sense of humor can go a bit wild. I have seen Yule Logs that look like vast fallen branches, moldering in the forest damp, complete with entirely realistic white chocolate and marzipan fungus and worms about. The dusting of cocoa reinforces the realism of the dull, dirty log. These are amazing things.

The French, contrariwise, elevate the Yule Log to something. . . well. . . French. In the United States we often malign the French. Personally, I loathe the current political climate of the nation of France, but I have always loved the Gallic people. And, particularly, I love their ability with food as art. And clothing as art. And women as art.

Recently, whilst looking for ideas for decorating Yule Logs, I found the one pictured above. Designed by men's clothing designer Alexis Mabille and executed by a brilliant Parisian bakery, this Bûche de Noël will put you back about €80 - $118 at today's exchange rate. No, I do not know what it tastes like, but who really cares? It is worth the investment to have something perfect in your life. It is much the same as my argument in favor of owning a Jaeger-Le Coultre watch or a 1929 Bentley – perfection is rare, embrace it.

No, neither this nor a witty reinvention of it will grace my holiday table this year. I see this, and I want to go back to a nice stew. I will leave creations like this to the Bo Fribergs of the world and I, I will eat Oreos.

Joyeux Noël!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Puddings

The Christmas season is upon us, and my vision of the holiday celebration includes all things Dickens. Central to the Christmas dinner is, of course, the Christmas Pudding! Traditionally, a Christmas Pudding is a Plumb Pudding, sort of a steamed fruitcake filled with all sorts of candied fruits and sometimes coins. A variant of that is actually called Christmas Pudding, and it is generally the same idea.

If your family is like mine, however, the concept of a cake filled with candied fruits is revolting to them. They would be hard pressed to touch it as a punishment, much less as a celebration of this joyful Holy Day. So what to do? Are we stuck with store-bought pumpkin pies? I say, "No!"

My wife's particular pleasure is chocolate mint. It is one of her favorite flavor combinations. Whilst perusing Anglo-Irish dessert recipes that might be in the spirit of a Dickensian celebration I came across the following, which seems as though it will fill the bill. Furthermore, unlike plumb puddings and Christmas puddings which have to ripen for a month, this one looks as though it might be best served warm out of the mold, so you can have it simmering away on the evening on which you will serve it! This recipe is, as yet, untried by me - I will report back after I attempt it.

Steamed Chocolate Mint Pudding

• 100g Softened butter
• 100g Golden caster sugar
• 200g Mint fondant chocolate
• 2T Hot water
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 175g Self-rising flour
• 4T Milk
• 200g White chocolate, broken into rough pieces, about 0.5 cm

1. Cream the butter until pale and fluffy.
2. Place the mint fondant chocolate and hot water in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until melted and leave to cool for a couple of minutes until cool but not set. Stir the chocolate mixture into the butter and sugar mixture.
3. Beat the eggs, a little at a time. Fold in the flour, adding enough milk to give a soft-dropping consistency. Finally, stir in the white chocolate pieces.
4. Spoon the pudding mixture into a greased 900ml pudding basin. Cover the top of the sponge with a circle of greaseproof paper, seal with aluminum foil and secure with string.
5. Steam the pudding in a saucepan half filled with simmering water for 90 minutes, replenishing the water as it evaporates. You may also use a steamer to cook the pudding.
6. Cool slightly before turning out and serve with clotted cream and a glass of dessert wine.