When I was very young, I had a book in which somebody had inscribed the following:
“Treasure good books my child. A treasure store surpassing worldly wealth thou shalt possess. Let not the glittering jewels of life obsess thy mind, alone they give a measure poor of life. Come fly with poets….”
Then something I can’t quite recall – perhaps it was, “‘bove the earth-bound clouds.” But my memory about this last bit is fuzzy.
There was more. Frustratingly, I don’t remember it now. And I certainly don’t remember the book. It was a second-hand book and the inscription was addressed to someone I never knew and signed by someone whose name has long gone. After a lifetime of moves, I no longer have the book. But the inscription (or at least most of it) stuck with me forever. As a young child, I thought the words were so other-worldly and beautiful.
Like so many things that I’ve shed over the years, I wish I still had that book. I wish I could see that ancient cursive script – the handwriting of somebody elderly. I wonder who gave the book away and if it meant anything to them. It’s funny how I’ve carried that message with me my entire life when the words were not meant for me.
Not along ago – I went searching through the few books I have leftover from my early years and some bought to replace those that had fallen by the wayside. I was hoping I might come across the old book with its inscription. But instead, I found Bread and Jam for Frances, Best Friends for Frances, Bedtime for Frances, Little Grey Rabbit and a book called Pookie – about a little white rabbit with wings. And of course, The Velveteen Rabbit. These were amongst my favourites.
So when I saw this quote posted on Facebook recently – it seemed like serendipity….
It’s so apt. “You become.” Yes, we do become. We get shabby and loose. Our hair drops out. We are real.
And that got me thinking about this baked chocolate pudding. It’s not terribly photogenic just like the old Velveteen Rabbit. It isn’t especially elegant and it’s not complicated. It isn’t like a glamorous (and phony) red velvet cake with all that colouring, or a frothy, pouffy Pavlova, or an extravagant show-stopper, overly rich cheesecake. It’s just real. And it’s absolutely delicious, so simple, and so straightforward.
I grew up on baked English puddings. My father used to come through the door at night practically shouting, “What’s for pudding?”. He lived for dessert. Any kind of baked pudding – but especially jam roly-poly, spotted Dick, and treacle pudding.
I don’t remember ever having this baked chocolate pudding in my childhood but I am certain I would have loved it and my father would have too. I discovered this recipe when I lived in Australia. I don’t recall the source of the recipe but I could almost place money on its having come from the Australian Women’s Weekly.
It’s a cinch. You can make a vegan version by substituting margarine and almond milk for the butter and milk (I make it this way for the non-dairy eating members of my family). It doesn’t call for eggs. If you don’t have time to bake it – you can microwave it – will take about 7-9 minutes depending on your microwave. And you can dress it up by serving it like I do, with a little whipped cream and a tablespoon of whiskey. I used Crown Royal Maple Rye – which just has the slightest hint of maple to it. Or you can serve it with a little ice cream – coffee would be nice. Vanilla would be good too.
This is one of my absolute favourite recipes. I make it over and over. It’s so like the Velveteen Rabbit – a classic that won’t let you down.
Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding
1 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk (I use almond milk)
2 tbsp butter (or margarine), melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa (yes, this is the second 1/4 cup cocoa)
1 1/4 cups boiling water
Lightly grease a 2 quart / 2 litre casserole dish. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, sifted cocoa and white sugar. Place in casserole dish. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk mixed with the melted butter. Mix all the ingredients and pat flattish in the casserole dish.
Next, mix together the brown sugar, second quarter cup of cocoa, and boiling water. Stir until combined and lump free. Gently pour over the batter in the casserole dish.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 for about 40 minutes or until the top is set but the bottom is a thick sauce. Alternately – if you’re in a rush – you can microwave, covered, for about 7-9 minutes. If your microwave is really small or really old – you might need to zap it for an extra minute or two but don’t get the the whole thing set solid.
Once cooked – let stand for about ten minutes minimum to set properly. Sieve a little icing sugar over it if desired. Serve with whipped cream and a splash of whiskey. Or ice cream. Or nothing at all – it’s very good naked.