Warm vanilla custard comically sporting a chocolate mousse topping, Pompadour pudding is like the inverse of molten chocolate cake, that chocolate cake with a gooey center that defined dessert in the 1990’s.
Wellesley College alums online wax nostalgically about Pompadour Pudding’s warm-from-the-oven’s charms; it seems to have been the girls’ favorite dining hall dessert in 1950. According to the combination of oooooh’s, WOW!’s, and “what IS this?!” that Pompadour Pudding inspired around my dining table on Saturday night, I predict it to be the next “it” dessert.
As retro as the hairstyle for which it’s named, Pompadour Pudding stands poised for a revival.
My neighbor, Heath Ritchie, carefully demonstrated his Pompadour techniques in my kitchen. (Custard already made. Beat egg whites. Fold into melted chocolate. Top custard with mousse. Place cups in a hot water bath. Bake for 10 minutes.)
Heath grew up in Rockport, lived an urban life in Somerville for a while, and has now returned to Cape Ann to declare a stone cottage and three acres of old gardens his and and his wife Heather’s home, along with their dog Rosie and a hive of bees.
Heath’s Pompadour Pudding history begins with Rockport’s Seaward Inn, owned by the Cameron family from 1945; their daughter still runs it today. Ann Cameron, who claims her recipes are all adapted from those favorites friends sent her over the years, managed the dining room, considered for years a fine restaurant to locals and visitors in Rockport. Maybe one of those friends was a Wellesley graduate? Cameron thankfully assembled a cookbook of Seaward Inn dishes entitled, Pierre Tells All! The Cooks‘ Book. The cookbook is still a favorite in the community, and can be found online and in old bookstores.
One of the things I love about Heath is that he’s a little like a Pompadour pudding. Like the thin, crisp shell that forms when the chocolate mousse is baked, Heath has a crisp covering, too; he’s a pseudo crank about anything he sees as remotely “popular.” (Heath recently left a strong finance career to learn Ruby, the computer language of the start-up.) Beneath that thin veneer of dispassion, Heath is sweet and warm about Rockport, his wife’s cooking, bee-keeping, beating egg whites in his own copper bowl, his nieces and nephews – the list is long of things that make a bright, boyish smile suddenly triumph across his willfully serious beard.
1 square melted chocolate
2 tablespoons milk
6 tablespoons sugar + 1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
To make the topping, in a small saucepan blend together the square of melted chocolate, milk, and 6 tablespoons sugar. Set aside to cool.
To make the custard, in the top of a double boiler, combine using a wire whisk 1/3 cup sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and the cornstarch. Add gradually 2 cups milk and 2 egg yolks. Cook over boilling water for 10 minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla. Fill 6 custard cups two-thirds full.
To finish the topping beat 2 egg whites until stiff. Fold a small bit of egg white into the melted chocolate mixture to make it “fluffy.” Then fold all of the chocolate mixture back into the beaten egg whites. Fold lightly to combine.
Top each custard with evenly divided chocolate mixture. Set cups in a glass baking dish, and fill the dish with water 2/3 up the sides of the custard cups. Bake about 20 minutes or until the topping puffs and cracks a little.