Monday, September 14, 2009

Laurie Colwin and Chocolate Pear Pudding

The past week or so it's actually been cool enough in Texas to think about turning on the oven, so for dinner I cooked the Tiny Thanksgiving: a 3-lb Butterball turkey roast (comes with a gravy packet); glazed carrots, green bean casserole, and corn. And since it's fall, and pears are in season, I was able to make one of my favorite homey desserts: Chocolate Pear Pudding from Laurie Colwin's excellent book, More Home Cooking.

For those of you who don't know her work, Laurie Colwin was a fiction writer and food essayist who died suddenly at the age of 48. She wrote several novels and collections of short stories, but may be best known for her food columns in Gourmet. More Home Cooking, her second book of food essays with recipes, was published posthumously. They are witty and charming, and her writing style is so easy and accessible, it's like she's sitting in the kitchen talking to you. Her novels and short stories are also wonderful, but I'll have to blog about those later.

In her essay, In Praise of Pears, Laurie includes the Chocolate Pear Pudding, which is not an American-style custard pudding, but a British baked pudding. For lovers of British literature like myself, this is what characters are referring to when they say, "What's for pudding?" Colwin is a big fan of British cookbooks, and writes that this recipe comes from Josceline Dimbleby's Book of Puddings, Desserts and Savouries. It's out of print, but copies are available from the online bookseller Alibris and from

It's an easy and wonderful fall dessert. The pudding itself is fluffy and cakelike, and the soft baked pears at the bottom are a tender surprise. Apples would be inappropriate in a chocolate dessert, but the pears are subtle and delicious.

One of the ingredients in this dessert is Lyle's Golden Syrup -- golden treacle, to be specific. Those of you who are Harry Potter fans will now have two reasons to purchase a can or jar of treacle. You an make a treacle tart, (Harry's favorite dessert) and still have enough left over to make this wonderful dessert. It's available at well-stocked grocery stores and specialty gourmet or British stores.

Chocolate Pear Pudding

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

For the pears:
1 lb pears (about 4) peeled, cored and cut into chunks
2 Tb white sugar
2 TB butter

Butter a baking dish and fill the bottom with pears. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with butter, just like a fruit pie.

Next, mix the batter:

3/4 cup flour
1 heaping TB cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar (scant)
2 TB Lyle's Golden Syrup
1 large egg, beaten
4 TB melted butter
1/4 cup milk

Beat this into a batter and pour it on top of the pears. Bake about 45 minutes or until a pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

You can eat this hot or cold, and it's excellent served with ice cream.


  1. You are making me hungry!

    The only book-like cookbook that we own is a Middle Eastern cookbook that Jason got me when I got back from Palestine in 2008. I'd never understood what a book/cookbook combo was before that one.

  2. Ah... pears... sigh...

    I wonder if it would work without the cocoa...

  3. I was just thinking this would work really well with gingerbread as well. I'll bet you could leave out the cocoa and use a combination of spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. You might have to adjust the baking powder and soda though, which is something I've never really done. Gingerbread may well be the subject of my next dessert blog.

    More Home Cooking also has a nice chapter on gingerbread, with two recipes from additional English cookbooks -- think I need to visit England just to buy books.

    The gingerbread essay may also include this quote, which probably was the subconscious inspiration for this blog. Colwin is describing a friend who loves gingerbread and is a frequent taste-tester: "His idea of heaven is some good science fiction and a piece of gingerbread." So there you are!

  4. I love gingerbread! I like it hard and made in houses, like it soft and bathed in cream, I like it iced with candy buttons, mmm... It would be good with pears, I agree. We'll have to invite you to dinner now, so that you can bring dessert :P.

    Can't wait to see your reviews up, too :). What are you reading, now, to look forward to? I'm in the middle of a bunch of long books, so I'm having to get my 'I'm Done!' feelings surreptitiously from my acquaintances for a while... :)

  5. I finished David Copperfield last night, review to follow soon. Good, but tiring.

  6. I adore books and recipes like this! I'll have to give Chocolate Pear Pudding a try. Thanks for introducing me to Laurie Colwin and I think that I would enjoy reading her novels and short stories.


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