Take chocolate pudding cake, for example, the down-home kin of molten chocolate cakes now on fancy restaurant menus throughout America and Europe.
Known to generations of delighted American children as Mississippi Mud, this unpretentious, easily made dessert offers a layer of warm, creamy almost custardlike dark chocolate pudding, hidden beneath a raft of thin, crisp-edged chocolate cake.
Amazingly low in fat, put together quickly with inexpensive, easy to find ingredients, it pleases anyone with a hankering for old-fashioned, comforting desserts.
The proportion of pudding to cake is perfect if baked in an 8-by-6-inch pan. If you don't have one, use any small deep casserole dish with a 5-to 6-cup capacity.
For the batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 2 percent reduced-fat milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (not melted)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 3/4 cups boiling water
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8-by-6-inch baking pan. To prepare batter, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt, stirring well with a fork. Mix in milk, oil and vanilla, and transfer batter to prepared pan.
To prepare topping, scatter chopped chocolate over the batter. Combine brown sugar and cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water slowly and evenly over batter and topping. Do not stir.
Bake 30-35 minutes, until cake pulls slightly away from the edges of pan and is shiny and firm in the middle; don't overbake. (If using a larger baking dish, check it at 20 to 25 minutes).
Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Spoon into dessert dishes, and serve with ice cream or frozen yogurt, if desired.
NUTRITION PER SERVING: 310 calories, 8 grams fat, 0 cholesterol, 5 grams protein, 58 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber and 240 milligrams sodium.
Look for Relish magazine, celebrating America's love of food, each first Wednesday in The Augusta Chronicle. For more Relish recipes, to sign up for our biweekly newsletter, or to leave a note on our message boards, log on to relishmag.com.