Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spiced and Salted Chocolate Pudding (and vegan too)

I almost want to call this pudding a mousse. Its texture and richness fall somewhere in between those of pudding and mousse. Distinctions are irrelevant, anyway, once you make this pot-o-chocolate-perfection, because its loveliness is really all you'll care about after your first salty-sweet, velvety bite.

Incidentally, it's vegan (at least if your chocolate is dairy-free). The vegan thing - or, more precisely, the fact that this is made with silken tofu, an ingredient that non-vegetarians might not have hanging out in their pantries - might be a deterrent. I understand that. I don't expect, say, my mom to be making this tomorrow night. But. For what it's worth. Seriously. When my mom next comes to visit, sometime around the time that my second baby will be born, in six-ish weeks, I intend to make this for her and I expect that she will be so pleasantly surprised with the flavor, intensity, richness, and texture of this pudding/mousse - not to mention the ease with which this dessert gets thrown together - that upon her return to Aptos, she just might find herself throwing a box of silken tofu and some fancy bittersweet chocolate into her shopping cart one night, with devious plans to make said dessert for her unsuspecting husband.

plated pudding

Hey! This reminds me of a story! Once upon a time my mom, uncharacteristically, made some soy "cheat" balls and tossed them with some spaghetti and pasta sauce. Note: my mom is (a) an amazing cook, and (b) not one to experiment with meatless protein substitutes. I imagine she was on some low-cal/low-fat kick at the time and that's what resulted in meatless meat balls turning up in her freezer. Anyway, I was visiting a few days after she served this meatless meal to my dad and brother. She told me, with a great deal of pride and delight, "Your dad and brother didn't even notice that they weren't real meatballs!" Literally hours later, I was talking with my brother and out of nowhere he said, "Oh my God, Edith, Mom made the grossest meatballs the other day. I think the meat had gone bad or something, or she forgot some important spice, I don't know, I didn't tell her because I didn't want to hurt her feelings and obviously it's rare that she makes something gross so whatever, but dad and I were totally trying not to make eye contact because they were so weird and disgusting!" It was hilarious. My little fly-on-the-wall moment.

chocolate pudding collage

That story depicts the opposite of what will happen when she makes this pudding for her family.

This recipe is just barely adapted from a New York Times recipe by Mark Bittman. My initial changes were merely to adjust quantities to accommodate what I had on hand. (The original recipe called for a pound of silken tofu, while the box I bought had only 12.3 ounces.) But I ended up modifying the spice profile just a tad and topping the individual puddings with Sel Melange, a fancy salt combination that is sold by a local food artisan. I love sweet + salt, and my husband does as much if not more than I do, and this was our Valentine's Day dessert, so, it had to be done. Any delicate, flaky salt would do the job.

pudding close up

Spiced and Salted Chocolate Pudding
Yield: 4-6 servings (if you made six servings, they'd be small, but it is v. rich and you might be eating it after some steak, so small would be perfectly acceptable)

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 (12.3-oz) package firm silken tofu
6 ounces best-you-can-afford bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao or more), melted*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder (or more, if you'd like)

Fleur de sel or something comparable, to garnish

In a small pot over medium heat, combine sugar and water; bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

Put all ingredients in a blender and purée until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down sides if necessary. Divide among 4 to 6 ramekins and chill for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with fancy flaky salt.

*To melt the chocolate, I just cut it into 1" chunks and microwaved it for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval. Took about 90 seconds.

For five servings, the lowdown per serving is this:
290 calories / 35 grams carbohydrates / 7 grams protein

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