Chocolate pudding with pears poached in wine

Chocolate pudding with pears in red wineThe first time I read this recipe, from La Bretagne Gourmande by Nathalie Beauvais, I was not at all sure about it. A chocolate pudding that included squash? Pears in red wine with chocolate pudding? However, I was sufficiently intrigued to make it, and very good it was too – lighter than many chocolate puddings and the pears worked really well with it. And, of course, you can have fun getting people to guess what it’s made of!

You can also replace the squash with chestnuts to make a chocolate chestnut pudding, which is apparently denser, but I suspect it would be just as delicious, if not more so. Serves at least 6 (depending on whether you want to serve half or a whole pear each – there is a generous quantity of pudding).

500g patidoux squash (I used butternut)
200g dark chocolate
100g butter
2 sheets gelatine

6 pears
750ml red wine
150g sugar
a piece of orange zest
1 vanilla pod
½ tsp cinnamon
6 peppercorns
2 cloves
50ml crème de cassis

The pudding needs to be made at least 4 hours ahead. Peel the squash and cut it into large pieces – if you’re using a whole small squash you can just quarter it – and remove the seeds. Cook it in a steamer for 20-30 minutes until it is completely tender.

Chocolate puddingSoak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water in a shallow dish. Break up the chocolate and melt it with the butter in a bowl over a pan of just simmering water or in the microwave. Beat the cooked squash with the sugar until smooth. Mix this purée into the melted chocolate  and beat well. Drain the gelatine and add it, mixing well again. Turn the pudding into a bowl and put in the fridge to set.

Put the wine, sugar, orange rind and spices into a large shallow pan with a lid. The original recipe suggests a Beaujolais type, but in my household it would be whatever wine is to hand, and I used less than the litre specified. Cover, bring to the boil and leave to simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the core – I find it easiest to do this by scooping the core out with a teaspoon. Slide them into the wine, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes until they are tender to the point of a knife. Add the crème de cassis. Transfer the pears to a dish, strain the liquid to remove the spices and pour the wine over the pears, adding the vanilla pod back into the bowl. Allow to cool and then put in the fridge.

To serve, use a soup spoon to put a large scoop of chocolate fondant on a dessert plate, and add a pear, elegantly sliced, alongside with a little of the wine. Initially, I assumed that it would need some crème fraîche, but it is actually fine just as it is. An unusual dessert that is a bit special, but not at all difficult, and not too wicked, either.

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