Pig & Fiddle’s Chocolate-Stout Pudding ($5) came to us in a highball glass, minimalist and unassuming yet undeniably alluring. It had a creamy head atop a chocolate body, and — we moved closer — a caramel-coffee nose. But it wasn’t a dark and stormy ale that had our undivided attention. For starters, it came with a spoon.
When head chef Stephanie Kochlin and pastry chef Katie Elsing developed the opening dessert menu for Pig & Fiddle — located at 3808 W 50th St., Minneapolis — they held the restaurant’s promise of “European country fare” as a guide. Custard was a shoo-in, and since they were using a lot of beer in their cooking, it seemed only natural to toss some into the pudding. However, “toss some in” is probably misleading. The pudding’s current brew is Summit Oatmeal Stout, and it’s hardly treated as an afterthought. To understand its prominence, consider Elsing’s artifice: Take all milk and cream from a traditional pudding recipe and replace it with stout; then add some more stout, and a bit more after that (really). Cocoa powder is blended into the stout, which Elsing heats and thickens with eggs and brown sugar. She strains the mixture before folding in 60% cacao chocolate. The crème anglaise is sweetened with brown sugar to give the custard its toasted tan head.
The process is simple enough, though it certainly doesn’t taste it. Under a deep pool of brown sugar crème anglaise, the corresponding flavors of the two main ingredients meld seamlessly, to the point where you can’t distinguish one from the other. The stout and dark chocolate exert equal force in the bittersweet composite, deferring only slightly to the tempering sweetness of the crème anglaise. The thick and satiny mouthfeel is interrupted only by sporadic bits of unmelted chocolate — a reassuring inconsistency.
Chef Kochlin admits that it took some time for her to warm to a presentation she deemed “too cutesy.” But really, is there a more fitting way to package a stout-based pudding? It’s probably no matter, because once you dip into the dark and enigmatic mass, “cutesy” will be the last thing on your mind.