I’m a Nigella kick in the kitchen these days, and it tastes great. There was the effortlessly delicious Red Salad and before that, an apple crumble that appeared spontaneously one night, when I just had to bake and there were a few apples in the fruit bowl. I’ve been flipping through How to Eat and Nigella Express and feeling very inspired to cook, to eat, and to enjoy every mouthful. Nigella’s style is a tad more decadent than mine is, but I sort of love her for that. When the vast majority of your meals come out of your own kitchen, as mine do, it’s nice to be decadent every once in a while, to pull out the butter and the heavy cream, to feel amazed that food so rich and delicious can still be homemade food.
I think sometimes I get into the mindset that all the food I cook should earn a gold star from a nutritionist. It feels like I’m saying to myself, You know, you can never be too healthy! And there’s some truth to that idea, too, because with just about anything you do, you can always do it better/faster/more. It’s an exhausting way to live, and I say that as a former but still recovering perfectionist. I shy away from people and places that push my perfectionist buttons because I know that way of thinking doesn’t make me happy. You know Matt, that guy I hang out with sometimes? (Oh, I kid! He is so much more than “that guy.”) One of the thing I like best about being with him is how relaxing it is. Even though I always go a little crazy cleaning my apartment before he visits, once he gets here, I feel so free to let it all hang out. I know conventional wisdom would say that since I’m dating this person and not married to this person, then I should be trying to impress him, to woo him into some sort of greater commitment. But with Matt, I just feel happy. Perfectly flawed. It’s wonderful.
As strange as this analogy may seem, I think Nigella’s books have a similar effect on me. She’s in it for the pleasure—of cooking, of eating, of feeding others or just herself. Sometimes so-called “healthy cooking” can feel too oriented around the future: eat this food and be healthier in the future. Nigella is all about the here and now: eat this food because it tastes good. Cook this meal because being in the kitchen is relaxing—enjoy all those wonderful smells and sounds and tastes! Nigella’s style is appealing because it’s almost instant gratification. I never said there was anything wrong with instant gratification, did I? If so, I take it all back. Well, maybe…let’s just say that living a life based around instant gratification might be taking things too far, but there is nothing wrong with being able to achieve some almost-instant gratification in the kitchen.
[Cue the chocolate puddings, please!]
Which brings me to the reason that I sat down to write this post: Nigella’s Glitzy Chocolate Puddings, Unglitzed. I first made these darling little treats a long time ago and meant to tell you about them back then, but things got busy and I forgot. No, scratch that. I didn’t forget—I mean, they were totally delicious and I loved them. I definitely did not forget. But I wanted to make them again, and that didn’t happen until recently. The only excuse I can offer is that it’s hard for me to resist the siren’s call of a new recipe. You know how it is, this seemingly endless pursuit of the next tasty recipe. But I love it when I can write about a recipe I’ve made more than once because I can write with such authority, which makes me feel important. I figure this need to be the boss is a direct result of being a middle child who didn’t cause enough trouble to get much attention from the parents. A middle child must develop a strong sense of leadership and narcissism to compensate for being ignored during her formative years. She must also bake chocolate puddings.
These puddings are a straight shot of chocolate. They are a result of that wonderful alchemy between chocolate, butter, and sugar, but in the end, they are chocolate puddings, not butter puddings, not sugar puddings. What sets them apart from eating a bar of chocolate are all the different textures. When they are still warm from the oven, the top is beautifully crackled and delicately crispy. The center goes all plush and velvety, like a perfect, terrific chocolate cake. After a night in the refrigerator, the layers of texture fade, but the puddings retain their rich, moussey, softly melting mouthfeel.
As though all of that praise is not reason enough to fire up the oven right this instant, these puddings are easy easy easy to make. I think they’re easier to make than most cakes, and they bake faster than a cake too because the batter gets poured into single-serving ramekins. Because there’s just one of us in my household, I halved the recipe to make four puddings. The original recipe serves eight.
Finally, there’s this business of “unglitzing” the puddings. What does that mean? The original recipe calls for a chocolate glaze and a few Butterfinger bars, crushed into shards. I skipped all that lily-gilding because I am lazy. I think the glaze and Butterfinger garnish sound delicious, but the basic recipe is really quite lovely in its understated way. Without the glitz, these puddings are made of pantry staples. It always makes me happy to realize I can make something so delicious and satisfying without leaving my home.
Nigella’s Glitzy Chocolate Puddings, Unglitzed
Adapted from Nigella Express
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I use about 1/3 cup chocolate chips here)
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2) In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat. Stir frequently and be sure to keep the heat on the low side. I know many recipes call for melting chocolate over a double-boiler, but I find that if you are melting chocolate with butter, the butter seems to protect the chocolate from scorching. And this way, there are fewer dishes to wash at clean-up time!
3) After the chocolate and butter have melted together into a glossy mixture, set it aside to cool for a bit. Then in a medium-sized bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until, as Nigella says, the mixture is “thick and pale and moussey.”
4) In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Fold the flour, etc. into the egg mixture. Then fold the chocolate mixture into it.
5) Divide the batter between four ramekins. Place them on a cookie sheet, preferably one with a rim, and place in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes.
6) Allow the puddings to cool a bit after they are done baking, then serve warm or let them cool completely and refrigerate, covering the ramekins with plastic wrap.