If there is even the slightest possibility of snow, the building superintendents in our neighborhood coat the sidewalks with a thick layer of vile, chemically-enhanced salt. I complained to my own super about it once, and although he tends to forget basic English-language phrases when asked to schedule a repair, he managed to exclaim "but it's cheap!"
With any luck we're done with little boots for the season, and can move on to the spring-time task of toweling off little wet paws.
I rarely make desserts but February is such a drag that it seems appropriate for routines of all kinds to be broken, even the most banal, even the most domestic. So, dessert. I'd wanted to try this recipe for Aztec hot chocolate pudding since I'd clipped it from the NY Times in 2003 (!) because, as I mentioned once before, I find chocolate much more interesting when it's combined with some improbable flavor — chile powder or flowers, nothing too kooky.
This dessert looks a lot like a pan of brownies when you pull it out of the oven —
But notwithstanding the name, it is a variation on the ubiquitous "molten chocolate cake": fully cooked around the edges, gooey in the center. This one is flavored with a heady combination of cinnamon, chile powder and dark rum, and I loved it.
Here is the recipe as published, with notes from me in brackets.
Aztec Hot Chocolate Pudding
Published: October 15, 2003
Time: 45 minutes
Butter for greasing pudding dish
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chili powder [I substitued cayenne and was pleased with the flavor]
1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup best-quality cocoa powder [I used Droste]
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup corn oil
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark rum [I used a 4-year-old oak-aged rum by Rhum Barbancourt; it's made in Haiti and is, so far, the only rum I've tried that I truly like].
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 8-cup pudding or soufflé dish. Set aside. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, chili, superfine sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa powder. In small bowl, mix milk, vanilla and oil. Pour into flour mixture. Mix by hand for thick smooth batter.
2. Spoon batter into pudding dish, and smooth the top. Pour 3/8 cup water into a small pan. Set over high heat, and bring to boil. In small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup cocoa with brown sugar, making sure there are no lumps. Spread evenly across the batter. Pour boiling water over it, and top with rum. [The batter will be a sloshy mess at this point; don't despair, it's supposed to look like that. Just avert your eyes and put it in the oven.]
3. Bake pudding until top is a bubbling sponge and center is wobbly and liquid, about 30 minutes. To serve, spoon out portions that include some of the top and chocolate sauce beneath. If desired, accompany with vanilla ice cream.
Yield: 4 servings [I disagree; this is a very flavorful dessert and a large serving is not ideal. This serves at least 6, and possibly even 8 if served with ice cream.]