But chocolate pudding is none of these things. The perfect recipe–the one I sifted through dozens and dozens to find–would be chocolaty but not overly heavy, indulgent but not too rich. In short, the kind of thing you’d want to eat with the love of your life without the risk of shortening the length of it. As a bonus, it would be a reasonable recipe to tackle on a weekday night.
This turned out to be a surprisingly complicated feat. You see, chocolate pudding has lost its way. Over the years, as chocolate desserts have gotten more and more decadent, so-called “puddings” have followed suit. Suddenly, the chocolate pudding that your grandmother made for your mother, or your mother made for you has been poshed up with cream and butter and egg yolks. They’re made in food processors, they’re hit up with immersion blenders, they’re lightened with whipped egg whites, they’re baked in ramekins in water baths covered with tented foil. While these desserts are many wonderful things–pot-de-cremes, pasty creams, souffles–puddings, they are not.
And this is the point where I can progress no further in this story without tell you how my mother feels about making chocolate pudding: she thinks it is pointless. As she has similar cooking proclivities, one day when my sister and I were young, she set out to replace the My-T-Fine stuff we knew and loved with one she made from scratch. In her words, it took forever and tasted exactly like the stuff from the box. She would never make it again. “Some things,” she says when I wax on, conspiring to make my own sourdough starter, yogurt or marshmallows, “are just not worth it.”
Of course, I didn’t listen and dove first into a recipe from someone I adore so much, it broke my heart that I hated the recipe. You started in a double-boiler, then a saucepan, then move over to the food processor, then the food processor a second time, then the saucepan again and then the food processor. No, I am not making this up. It had egg yolks, a whole egg, butter, cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate in it and I just don’t know what I was thinking. I was almost embarrassed to tell my mother that it was good–oh, and we did eat it with nary a complaint–but not even mindblowing. To her credit, she spared me the “I told you so.”
But I knew I had to spare you this recipe, truly more of a pastry cream than a pudding. I mean, you would have rightfully scoffed. For gosh sakes, it is pudding not salted butter caramel ice cream, evidence that not everything I have been saving in my recipe files for many years has earned its keep.
And this was when I remembered something, well, really quite mindless. Skimming down to item #43 in the “sweets” subsection of my Cook This list, there was the blissful, three-step (oh, and the third one is “chill”), egg-, butter-, cream-, food processor- and oven-free 22 minute chocolate pudding from John Scharffenberger of Scharffenberger Chocolate that Luisa had posted about over a year ago. You see, the best recipe was already out there, and now it is here too.
Perhaps if my mother had tried this recipe instead, I’d be getting my sourdough starter from her!
One year ago: Green Tea Cookie with White Chocolate Filling
1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups (705 ml) whole milk
6 ounces (170 grams) 62% semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used good quality semisweet chocolate chips; use 70% bittersweet if you want more of a dark chocolate kick)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1. Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer (or skip this step if you’re a slacker like me who is absolutely certain that there is nary a lump her puddin’) into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.
3. If you like pudding skin, pull plastic wrap over the top of the serving dish(es) before refrigerating. If you dislike pudding skin, place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days (ahem, good luck with that).