We test how to make Heston’s Chocolate Fondant Liquid Centre Chocolate Pudding recipe, and see if it’s better than the classic chocolate fondant recipe from rival 3-Michelin star chef Gordon Ramsay.
It’s a bit naff talking about the “theatre” of a dish, but chocolate fondants are pretty damn cool. Fluffy, rich chocolate sponge and a liquid centre bursting out when you carve into them. Paired good ice cream what’s not to love?
Sure, you can buy lame versions from the supermarket for a couple of quid, but since our two favourite chefs (we still like Gordon in this household) have recipes for far superior versions then why not make our own. A good chance to indulge, and we needed the ideal dessert to pair with our Heston Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese recipe.
Heston: There’s an original Heston chocolate fondant recipe in Family Food. It’s a simple combination of egg whites, chocolate and butter. But we’ll be trying the snazzy new Heston Liquid Centre Chocolate Pudding recipe from his most recent recipe book, Heston at Home.
This modern Heston Chocolate Fondant recipe puts a nugget of frozen sauce at its core. The idea being that this will melt as the sponge cooks – giving you the perfect liquid centre.
Gordon: The same Gordon Ramsay Chocolate Fondant recipe has been doing the rounds for a while in various guises. This is basically just a chocolate sponge recipe which is cooked just long enough for the centre to still be liquid.
Special Equipment: None
Special Ingredients: None
Time: 1 – 2 days (Heston) or about 2 hours (Gordon)
Cost: Approx £8 (Heston) Approx £4 (Gordon)
Serves: 6 – 8 (Heston) or 2 (Gordon)
Step 1: Making the Water Ganache
Aside from certain measurements these two recipes are nearly identical. The main difference with Heston’s recipe being this water ganache that creates the liquid centre. It is preposterously easy to make. Here’s how:
1. Melt butter and chocolate together in a bain marie.
2. Heat up some watered down cream.
3. Mix the two together.
A word about quantity. The excellent I Want To Cook Like Heston made this recipe well before our attempt. They note that the recipe makes way more water ganache than required. We presume this is so you get a big slab from which you can punch out six exact portions, but it seems kinda wasteful. We halved the quantity in the book and still had more than we’d have needed for just six.
The instructions say to pour it into a container to freeze, but if you have a silicone chocolate mould – or even a small ice cube tray – use that. It will make portioning the ganache much easier and mean much less waste.
Heston calls it a ganache but the result will be a very, very runny sauce. You will need to freeze this overnight, or at least 6 – 8 hours depending on how good your freezer is. You can rest until tomorrow now.
Step 2: Making the Pudding Batter
We’re used to Heston recipes being long and complicated; this next bit is also refreshingly simple.
1. Melt more chocolate and butter
2. Sift in some flour and salt, then mix some more
3. Whisk up some sugar and eggs until light and frothy.
4. Fold them in too.
Bit of a hiccup here: we’d planned to put this in our measuring jug to make pouring it into the ramekins a bit easier. However, by the time the flour has been folded in the resulting batter is so thick and stodgy we could hold this jug upside down over our heads without worry (sorry, no photos).
We don’t know if this was down to the chocolate being slightly warm or the eggs being over-whisked. If you have any ideas as to why please do tell us in the comments section below.
Step 3: Assembly
This is where things started to go wrong for us. After reading I Want Cook Like Heston’s brilliantly detailed report on Heston’s Liquid Centre Chocolate Pudding recipe (please bookmark their blog) we decided to take their advice and give the water ganache a few minutes out of the freezer to make it easier to portion / handle.
Long story short: Australian freezers are clearly a much stronger breed than their Brit counterparts. After 30 minutes our ganache was on its way to becoming a chocolate soup, and producing exact shapes to place in each ramekin would’ve been impossible. Back in the freezer.
After two hours the ganache was kinda solid enough to get rough lumps into each ramekin. The rock-solid batter, more like a set mousse, was pretty tricky to “pour” in around the rapidly melting ganache.
With all this last minute panic we didn’t have time to put the desserts in the freezer for an hour before cooking. They seemed plenty firm enough anyway.
Heston’s chocolate puddings have a slightly longer cooking time than Gordon’s fondants, so they went in first with Gordon’s puddings following a couple of minutes later.
Step 1: Making the Batter
Nearly identical to step 2 of Heston’s pudding. Chocolate and butter are melted together…
… while eggs and sugar are whisked until frothy…
…and then everything is combined with flour to produce a smooth batter.
Step 2: Assembly
Gordon Ramsay has an obsession with soufflés, and uses that recipe’s trick of brushing the ramekins with melted butter then dusting them with cocoa powder. This is almost as fiddly as making Heston’s water ganache but means the fondants will be a cinch to remove and put on a plate.
It’s worth mentioning that the Ramsay batter, much heavier on the flour and sugar, is a lot stodgier than Heston’s mix. You really have to work to get it into the ramkeins.
Unfortunately, the version of the recipe we were reading is the one published in Ramsay’s Best Menus. The measurements in this are waaaay out, and so the yield is barely enough for a mere two portions. Nevermind, with a rival set of fondants to munch our way through two will be more than enough for judging.
Heston: No denying Heston’s recipe does give you a very liquid centre to your chocolate pudding. We weren’t thrilled about the appearance though: they looked like leaky chocolate udders!
I’m guessing this is down to over-whipped eggs or a too-high cooking temp, causing the sponge to rise out of control. Meanwhile the liquid centre had boiled up over the sides, exactly the opposite of where you want a liquid centre to be.
Another presentation fail is the ramekin itself. Unlike Gordon’s Chocolate Fondant recipe the way you make this dessert means that removing it from the ramekin is literally impossible. Like Kita we served ours with a good dollop of Heston’s Caramel Ice Cream recipe. So all you could see was a little dish with a lump of ice cream covering a rough brown sponge. So much for the theatre of the dish.
On the plus side the sponge itself is very moist and light, and the centre really is gorgeously liquid.
Gordon: Because we cooked these two dishes side-by-side the Gordon Ramsay Chocolate Fondant recipe was slightly overdone. The centre was much thicker.
Partly this is because the Gordon Ramsay Chocolate Fondant recipe is basically an undercooked chocolate sponge. If this was a cake the centre would be described as raw. Don’t worry, food-hygiene fans, as the centre is still cooked to well over 75°.
They’re very easy to remove from the ramekins too, thanks to a bomb-proof sponge and the buttered-and-cocoa-dusted coating inside the ramekins. So they look much nicer when you serve them.
Bomb-proof comes at the cost of a heavier, denser sponge and a much stodgier middle. As you’d expect from a batter that contains nearly twice as much flour as Heston’s recipe.
Neither of these recipes really did it for me as the perfect chocolate fondant. Heston’s is a much better dessert, but it doesn’t look half as nice as Gordon’s. The recipe’s exact steps make it slightly awkward to assemble.
In spite of a few of our mistakes making the Heston variant neither recipe is that difficult to make. Gordon’s is completely fool proof, and Heston’s gives the best result, although it’s a much uglier dish to serve.
Ramsay’s dessert might be bomb-proof, but it’s not quite as nice. However, Gordon does suggest making the dessert in a disposable muffin tin. Cocoa-dusted these might give us the presentable perfect dessert we’re looking for.
Make just half the ganache, freeze it in silicone moulds and don’t over-whip those eggs and Heston’s Liquid Centre Chocolate Fondant Pudding recipe really could be perfect.
Have you made either of these recipes, or have you got a favourite chocolate fondant recipe of your own?Let us know in the comments section below.