These puddings, soft and yielding, are delicious and, without doubt, made for chocolate lovers. The combination of ingredients is a classic one but with timeless appeal. The cooked puddings will sit happily in a warm oven for at least an hour before serving and, indeed, could be made ahead of time, allowed to cool and re-heated in a bain-marie in a warm oven. The prunes in the recipe can be replaced with cherries - a delicious variation - in which case I would soak them in Kirsch. Cognac can replace the slightly dryer Armagnac with the prunes. The pudding can be cooked in a large dish or in individual ramekins or even tea cups.

Ingredients

  • For the Prunes:
  • 8oz of prunes, weighed after removing the stones
  • 4 tblsp Armagnac or brandy
  • For the Pudding:
  • 150g best quality chocolate, 62% cocoa solids
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150ml warm water
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 110g plain white flour
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • a 2-litre oven-proof pie or gratin dish or 10 x ramekins or tea cups of a similar volume.

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200c/400g/gas 6 and place a bain-marie of hot water for the cooking of the puddings in the oven.
  • Place the chocolate, cut into small pieces with the butter in a Pyrex bowl. Place over a saucepan of cold water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
  • Place on a low heat, not allowing the water to more than simmer at any stage.
  • While the chocolate is melting, tear or chop the Armagnac-soaked prunes into smaller pieces, about 1cm, and divide between the individual cooking dishes or spread them over the base of the large dish. If there is some Armagnac that has not soaked into the prunes, save it for adding to the cream to serve with the puddings later.
  • When the chocolate is nearly melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir with a flexible rubber spatula to blend the chocolate and the butter. Add the water, sugar and vanilla and mix with a whisk until smooth.
  • Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a spotlessly clean bowl for whisking later. Whisk the yolks into the chocolate mixture, followed by the sieved flour.
  • Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until holding soft but definite peaks. Do not allow them to over whip and take on a grainy appearance.
  • Stir a ¼ of the egg white into the chocolate mixture and fold in the remainder with a heavy flexible spatula. Make sure no lumps of egg white remain unblended.
  • Divide the mixture between the cooking dishes and immediately place in the bain-marie.
  • Cook for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 170c/325f /gas 3 for a further 10 minutes for the individual dishes or a further 20 minutes for a large dish. The puddings will appear cooked on top but will feel a little soft and molten in the centre.
  • Remove the bain-marie from the oven and allow the puddings too sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
  • The individual puddings can be turned out on to warmed plates for serving. The large dish can be brought to the table as it is. Regardless, I dust the puddings with a little sieved icing sugar just before serving.
  • Pass softly whipped cream separately.