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Chocolate Bouchon Pudding


Oh ho, this is thrilling, thrilling stuff. Quite possibly the best thing I've made all week, all month! Just you wait. You'll be so excited! I just know it.

Remember those chocolate bouchons from Thomas Keller that I made last month? The ones that turned out too salty, inedibly salty, really? Oh, you were all so sweetly sympathetic. And then remember the comments on those bouchons? Specifically, the one from David that told me to turn lemons into lemonade, or rather, salty chocolate bouchons into bread pudding?

Well, I heeded his instructions and I am so glad I did. Because out of those salty chocolate cakelets and a simple little custard came a dessert so delicious and fantastic that you will be compelled - compelled, I tell you! - to make it over and over and over again. I swear. I think you'll even find yourself making oversalted chocolate bouchons on purpose. Just so that you have a reason to make this. I know I will.

Oh, oh, it is so good. Hall-of-fame good. Laminate-this-recipe-I-beseech-you good.

So you've baked a batch of bouchons and have tried one or two just to make sure that I'm not entirely insane and that the bouchons are in fact unpleasantly salty. You should take six of them and cut them into chunks. Mine were frozen for a month and then defrosted the day before I made the bread pudding, so they were ever so faintly stale. This is a good thing! You put the chunks in a 2-quart souffle dish, along with a handful of pitted prunes that you've chopped as well.

If you're really cunning, you could soak the prunes in some rum before adding them, liquor and all, to the pudding dish, but my prunes were soft enough, and, in any case, I thought of this trick after it was too late. Instead, I added the splash of rum to the whole milk boiling up on the stove, along with a fillip of vanilla extract and a cinnamon stick. While this infuses, you whisk together sugar and eggs, then pour the hot milk into the eggs and whisk furiously so the eggs don't cook, before dumping the custard over the bouchon chunks and sliding the dish into a preheated oven.

This bakes for a while until the custard is set and the pudding has risen deliciously and the house is filled with the scent of baking chocolate and your salivary glands are feeling somewhat strained and put-upon. Can't you satiate them already?

Pull the souffle dish out of the oven, let it cool as long as possible, then scoop out portions onto small plates and - this is Important Stuff, mind you - serve the warm pudding with a small spoonful of vanilla ice cream so that it melts gently around each dark, quivery spoonful.

I tell you, you will be floored, simply floored, by how good this is. I could wax on for days about the perfection of combining prunes and chocolate, but you've got so many other lovely things going on here as well, texturally and flavor-wise. Silky custard, light-as-air cakelets, an air of sophistication and nuance from the rum, the prunes, the cinnamon, the dark chocolate, and then, the creamy cap of vanilla ice cream.

The whole thing? A dessert for the ages. Thank goodness for salty chocolate cakes and the ingenuity of a certain Parisian expat pastry chef. I'm thoroughly depressed that there aren't any leftovers.

Chocolate Bouchon Pudding
Serves 6 to 8

6 chocolate bouchons (see recipe here)
12 pitted prunes
2 cups whole milk
2-3 tablespoons rum
1 small cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut up the bouchons into chunks and put them in a 2-quart round souffle dish. Add the pitted prunes, cut into chunks. Mix well.

2. Put the milk, cinnamon stick, vanilla extract and rum into a saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Turn off the flame and let the milk infuse for 20 minutes. In the meantime, whisk together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl.

3. After the milk has infused, bring it back to a boil, discard the cinnamon stick, and then turn off the heat. Using a whisk, pour the hot milk in a thin, slow stream into the bowl of eggs and sugar, whisking all the while. Then pour the bowl of hot custard evenly over the souffle dish of bouchon chunks and prunes.

4. Put the dish into the oven and bake for an hour, or until the custard has set. Let it cool for a bit, then serve warm with good-quality vanilla ice cream.