My sister is a gourmet chocolatier. She makes chocolate for a small exquisite chocolate producer in Vancouver, Canada called Cocoa Nymph. I especially recommend the Sea Nymph bar (it has sea salt and english toffee). I also really like the Sesame Bianco, which involves sesame and sea salt, but they don’t seem to sell that on-line, so you will just have to drop by the next time you are in Vancouver. You may have gathered that I am a fan of a bit of salt in my chocolate.
I am not a chocolate expert. I don’t even think that I qualify as a chocolate snob. It is true that I don’t really like “candy bars”. Most of the time when I eat chocolate it is the good stuff, but there is a major exception to this rule. In Canada there is a chocolate bar called Burnt Almond, which combines dark chocolate with darkly toasted almond bits. It is not a fancy chocolate bar. It is available at any convenience store. I love this chocolate bar. I eat it every time I go back to Canada to visit family. Even though I have direct access through my sister to what is probably the best handmade chocolate in Vancouver, I still find room for a bar or two of Burnt Almond. To my palate, this chocolate bar has always tasted a bit salty. Perhaps this candy bar of my childhood trained my palate to crave salt in my gourmet chocolates? Or maybe a bit of salt in chocolate is just plain delicious.
Although the humble Burnt Almond chocolate bar was the original inspiration for this pudding, in the end it turned out to be a pretty fancy desert. I used the chocolate pudding recipe from Home restaurant in NYC as the jumping off point. Home is a fabulous restaurant in general, but it is famous for it’s chocolate pudding. At least it is famous to anyone who has ever talked about chocolate pudding with me (which is actually quite a large number of people). My point is, if you need a really nice, small restaurant to go to in Greenwich village, go to Home…and order the chocolate pudding for dessert.
If you want to make chocolate pudding for you and five friends, make this pudding. No that’s not right exactly. This recipe makes six puddings that are each much more than your average pudding lover can consume. It’s really rich. If you want to make chocolate pudding for you and five friends, halve this recipe and have everyone at the dinner party buddy up for pudding eating. Or resign yourself to the chore of eating leftover chocolate pudding for days to come. Poor thing.
This recipe calls for egg yolks. Save your egg whites! Freeze them so that you can make Almond, Cardamom Macaroons with Berry Filling, Anise Pavlova with Plum Preserves and Almond Cream or Marzipan cake with Baked figs and Mint!
I got my smoked salt from Sahadi’s (an awesome gourmet food shop in Brooklyn). Sahadi’s has an online store too. This smoked salt is almost black and has a very strong smoke flavour. This pudding would be good with not smoked sea salt too. I got some smoked Maldone salt for Christmas last year that is milder than the very dark smoked salt that I used here. It would have been great, but it is long gone.
CHOCOLATE PUDDING WITH SMOKED SALT AND BURNT ALMONDS
Adapted from Recipes from Home by David Page and Barbara Shinn
- sliced almonds
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 3 big pinches of smoked salt plus more for the top
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Spread the almonds out in a small baking dish and put them in the oven while you prep the pudding.
- Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a large heavy saucepan, then remove the pan from the heat.
- Place the chocolate in a large stainless steel bowl, add 1 cup of the warm cream, and let stand until the chocolate is melted. Stir the chocolate mixture until it is smooth, then stir in the remaining cream.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, almond extract, and smoked salt. Gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture.
- Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and skim the froth from the top.
- Pour the pudding into eight 6-ounce oven-proof ramekins or coffee cups. Place them in a deep baking pan (I used my turkey roasting pan) and put the pan in the preheated oven. Add enough hot water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the cups. If you can, try to avoid accidentally sprinkling water into some of the pudding cups. I did that, and the pudding that had water in it did not have as nice a consistency as the ones that did not.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil , crimping it along the edge to form a tight seal (or use a lid if you are using a turkey roasting pan).
- Bake the puddings for about 50 minutes. When gently shaken, they should look set around the edges but not quite set in a quarter-sized area at the center. Your almonds should be a nice dark brown color by now. Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.
- Remove the cups from the water bath and let cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Garnish with more smoked salt and toasted almonds.