At the supermarket, they purchased garlic, which is a sharp-tasting bulbous plant; anchovies, which are small salty fish; capers, which are flower buds of a small shrub and taste marvellous; and tomatoes, which are actually fruits and not vegetables as most people believe. They thought it would be proper to serve dessert, and bought several envelopes of pudding mix. Perhaps, the orphans thought, if they made a delicious meal, Count Olaf might be a bit kinder to them.
The Bad Beginning, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket
The Baudelaire orphans' shopping list is an intriguing one. In terms of a delicious meal, pasta alla puttanesca (which their savoury ingredients will combine to make) will no doubt impress, but I'm not so convinced by 'envelopes of pudding mix'. If you want to encourage a distant relative to be a little kinder - especially if he's intent on killing you - it's a showstopping pudding you need, and there's none better than a chocolate fondant.
The only challenging aspect of a chocolate fondant pudding is the timing - too long in the oven, and it will be an uninspiring chocolate block, too short and it will fall apart in a liquid mess as you're tipping it out of its mould. It's a fine balance, and one certainly worth the trial and error sometime required to get it right (mine below is a little underdone - another minute in the oven next time should do it). A spoon going through a solid outer cake to the molten liquid inside is one of the most truly satisfying experiences I've had while baking.
This dessert is one to make when you want to impress. Luckily, this recipe works just as easily works for two, four, six or eight diners, as you'll see from the easily-dividable list of ingredients below. Or you could make it like I did - for one, on a quiet night in. Just make enough batter for two puddings, and the unbaked mixture will keep well in a mould in the freezer, ready for steps 5 and 6 another time.
Chocolate Fondant Pudding
50g melted butter (for greasing)
Cocoa (for dusting)
200g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
200g butter, chopped into small pieces
200g golden caster sugar
4 eggs and 4 egg yolks
8 small pudding moulds
Bain Marie (or medium saucepan and heatproof mixing bowl)
Electric hand whisk
1. Prepare your moulds by brushing the inside of each tin with melted butter. Place the mould in the freezer for a couple of minutes and then brush again with more butter. Add a spoonful of cocoa to each mould, tip them on their sides, turn and then tap the base, to coat the butter with cocoa. Set the moulds aside (in the fridge if it's quite warm in your kitchen).
2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bain marie, or in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Remove the bowl from the heat, stir until smooth and leave to cool for at least ten minutes.
3. In the mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks with the sugar until thick and pale (the whisk should leave a trail when drawn through the mixture). Sift the flour into the egg mixture and beat. Add the chocolate mixture in thirds, beating between each addition.
4. Divide the fondant mixture between your moulds. At this stage, they can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to a month. Alternatively, place them in the fridge for at least 20 minutes while your oven heats up.
5. Heat your oven to 200C (not fan forced). Place the fondants on a baking tray in the centre of the oven, and bake for 11-12 minutes. I would err on the side of caution, and start with 11, giving them a minute or so more if the top hasn't formed a crust and the pudding has started coming away from the side of the mould. Remove the puddings from the oven and allow to sit for a minute.
6. To serve, loosen the fondants by moving the top gently. Place a plate over the top and invert the pudding, shaking the mould slightly if needed to loosen the pudding. If it's stuck, run a flat knife carefully around the pudding and try turning out again, making a mental note to grease the mould with slightly more butter next time. Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately with ice cream or, as I did, a spoon of dulce de leche, a jar of which my lovely friend Em surprised me with recently. Delicious.