Baked chocolate custard with pecan brittle

Serve this dessert with two spoons.
Serve this dessert with two spoons. Photo: William Meppem

I love making one big bowl of this luscious custard and sharing it with a clacking of spoons. But you could also make it using two individual ramekins, or, if not spending Valentine's à deux, simply double the recipe to serve 6-8 smaller portions. When warm, the texture is light and airy – dangerously easy to eat. But if you need to prep are ahead, refrigerate the custard and serve cold. It will be richer and denser, but still delicious.

Ingredients

For the pecan brittle

2 tbsp golden syrup

1 tbsp castor sugar

pinch of salt

40g pecans, roughly chopped

For the custard

75ml milk

180ml cream (plus 60ml for serving)

1 cinnamon stick

? vanilla bean, seeds scraped

2 strips orange peel

60g chocolate (preferably 70 per cent cocoa), chopped

3 egg yolks

50g castor sugar

? tsp salt

1 tbsp cocoa powder

Method

1. Begin by making the pecan brittle. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced). Place the golden syrup, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, then stir in the pecans, mixing until the nuts are evenly coated.

2. Transfer the mixture to a small baking tray lined with baking paper and spread the nuts out with a wooden spoon so that they are in a single layer. Bake for 7-8 minutes, until the mixture is a deep golden brown and bubbling all over, then remove from the oven (but don't switch the oven off). Set aside to cool completely.

3. For the custard, line the bottom of a deep-sided baking tray with a folded tea towel (to stabilise and insulate the pudding while baking), then place a small oven-proof bowl (about 500ml capacity) on top. Set aside.

4. Combine milk, 180ml cream, cinnamon stick, vanilla seeds and pod, and orange peel in a small saucepan and place on stove top over very low heat for 5 minutes to infuse. In the meantime, prepare all the other ingredients: place chopped chocolate in a small bowl; bring a kettle of water to the boil, and whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl.

5. After the cream mixture has infused for 5 minutes, increase the heat to medium-high and as soon as it begins to simmer, strain about a quarter of it into the egg yolk mixture and immediately whisk to combine. Strain the rest of the cream mixture in, whisk to combine, then tip in the chopped chocolate.

6. Whisk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, then pour the custard into the bowl sitting on the tea towel in the baking tray. Pour hot water into the tray – it should come about a third of the way up the sides of the bowl. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the custard is just set on the outside but remains a little wobbly in the middle.

7. Carefully take the tray out of the oven and remove the bowl of custard from the water. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes while you whip the 60ml serving cream to soft peaks. As it is only a small quantity of cream, a hand whisk is fine. Just before serving, use a small sieve to dust the cocoa powder lightly over the top of the custard. Spoon the cream onto the centre, then break the brittle and scatter it over the top. Serve with two spoons to share.

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