At the beginning of my path to being a serious cook, when I was a teenager, I used to make a Black Forest Cake, which seemed to me like the most sophisticated type of dessert. It was a chocolate layer cake with cherry filling and a rich frosting. I’d seen lots of pictures in which it was served on elegant cake stands with elaborate backgrounds. Very much the vogue in food magazines at the time. It was a complicated recipe and I felt like a true gourmand when I made it.
The combination of chocolate and cherries still seems very sophisticated to me, though I haven’t the time or the patience to reconstruct the complicated version. But this recipe creates that chic taste in a simple dish with as many layers of dimension as a layered cake.
The top is cakey, the center is soft and pudding-like, and the bottom has a syrupy cherry sauce. Serve it warm and you get all the gooey center, but the longer you let it cool, the more it firms up to a brownie-like texture. This has the deep, rich taste of dark chocolate without a cloying sweetness. The juicy cherries add a luscious contrast. You could serve this with a little whipped cream or ice cream, but I don’t find that necessary.
Chocolate covered cherry baked pudding
16 ounces frozen dark sweet cherries
7 ounces dark chocolate, 70 percent cocoa solids
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1. Pour the cherries in a colander and thaw completely. You don’t want the juice in the dish, but you can reserve it for another use (like a smoothie or another drink).
2. When the cherries are thawed, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the cherries in the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish.
3. Melt the chocolate and butter together. You can do this by placing it in a bowl set over a pan of just simmering water and stirring until melted, or microwaving it in 15-second bursts, stirring after each, until the mixture is smooth. Leave to cool.
4. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in the bowl of a mixer and the yolks into a small bowl. Beat the yolks and stir into the cooled chocolate. Stir in the vanilla.
5. Beat the egg whites in the mixer until frothy. Slowly drizzle in the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir a big spoonful of whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it up, then gently fold in the remaining whites a bit at a time. Pull all the chocolate from the bottom of the bowl and make sure there are no streaks of white in the mixture. Spread the chocolate mixture over cherries in the baking dish, spreading it out to the edges, completely covering the cherries.
6. Bake the pudding for 25 minutes until the top is firm and does not jiggle. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10–15 minutes. Scoop into bowls and serve. This is equally delicious served warm, when it will be soft and saucy, or at room temperature when it will firm up a bit.