little chocolate puddings (budino nero)

belinda jeffery's recipes

My recipes are easy. They’re for the food I like to eat. Simple, fresh, full of flavour and just a bit different. You certainly don't need any great cooking skills for them, you just need to like food and like eating – just like me. The rest is simple.

little chocolate puddings (budino nero)

These easy-to-make Italian versions of bread and butter pudding are among my favourite winter desserts of all. The name translates as ‘black pudding’, but that really doesn’t do justice to the divine combination of chocolate and panettone (or pandoro). I love the way the puddings form two layers as they bake – a delectably crunchy, knobbly top and smooth-as-silk, custard-like bottom.

Pandoro and panettone can be hard to come by outside the Christmas season, when they’re traditionally eaten, so I try to remember (but don’t always succeed!) to stock up on a few extra while they’re around. Happily, though, a lovely yeasty brioche also works beautifully.

180 - 200g panettone (or pandoro or brioche), cut into 1 - 1½ cm cubes
125g good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1 cup (250ml) milk
1 cup (250ml) pure cream
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing sugar, for dusting
Softly whipped cream, to serve, optional

Preheat your oven to 165C.

Lightly butter 6 x 200ml ovenproof ramekins (the puddings are eaten from these ramekins so use ones that you’re happy to serve at the table). Divide the panettone cubes evenly among the ramekins, then sit them in a roasting tin and set aside.

Put the chocolate, sugar, milk and cream into a large saucepan. Gently heat the mixture, stirring it regularly, until the sugar dissolves and the chocolate is nearly melted. It should be hot, but don’t let it come to the boil. When it’s at this stage, remove the pan from the heat and whisk gently until the mixture is smooth.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks and vanilla with a balloon whisk. Whisking all the time, pour in the hot chocolate mixture in a slow, steady stream until well combined, then strain it through a fine sieve into a large jug.

Divide the chocolate mixture evenly among the ramekins. Press down gently on the panettone cubes to make sure they are soaked in it.

Sit the roasting tin with the ramekins on the middle shelf of your oven. Add enough very hot water to the tin to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the puddings for about 45 - 50 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the chocolate mixture is softly set. The cooking time may vary quite a bit depending on the shape of the ramekins you use, so start checking early - the best way to do this is to insert a fine knife into the centre of a pudding and take a peek; the chocolate mixture should be softly set. If, towards the end of the cooking time, the tops of the puddings look as though they are scorching, gently rest a sheet of foil over the top.

When the puddings are ready, remove the tin from the oven. Carefully remove the ramekins from their water bath and leave them to cool for at least 15 minutes, as the flavour is best when they’re eaten warm, not hot.

To serve, clean the rims of the ramekins if necessary with a damp tea towel, then sit each one on a plate, dust the tops with icing sugar and serve with softly whipped cream, if using.

Serves 6

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