What would the world be without chocolate pudding? Chocolate and cream, licked off a spoon, is one of the greatest desserts I know, ranked with fresh strawberry shortcake and warm chocolate chip cookies.
Pudding, however, has become a lost art. Baking books proliferate, yet pudding only shows up in Snack Packs or on restaurant dessert plates. This is a secret opportunity for you as a cook, because when it comes to dessert, pudding is a snap to make. Knowing how to make pudding from scratch is like having the golden key to winning desserts.
I am biased, I confess – I wrote a whole book about pudding, custard and no-bake desserts, “Bakeless Sweets” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013), so I’ve spent some time with these sweets. Come into my kitchen and let me show you how to make rich, creamy chocolate pudding. It’s a forgotten classic that every sweet lover should know by heart.
Pudding may look homey and old-fashioned, but dress it up right and it’s a dessert that drives everyone wild. Homemade pudding, whipped and ever so slightly warm, makes people’s eyes go wide.
The other little pudding secret is that it’s naturally gluten-free. Like ice cream, as long as pudding is made with gluten-free ingredients, it’s a welcome treat for celiacs and gluten-intolerant folks. Pudding is basically ice cream for the refrigerator – rich, creamy and infinitely adaptable to your whims. But it won’t melt on the dessert buffet.
The process of making pudding – any pudding – is easy. Pudding is simply milk and cream, sweetened and then thickened by a brief bout of cooking on the stove or in the oven.
Unbaked puddings like this one get richness and thickness from a mixture of cornstarch and egg yolks. Chocolate pudding also gets an extra boost of thickness from the chocolate itself.
I use both cocoa and chocolate for a richer flavor. This isn’t a super-rich chocolate mousse, eaten by the thimbleful, but it’s rich enough for grown-ups and not too sweet. You can mellow it by omitting the cocoa or by using semisweet chocolate instead of bittersweet. You can stir in instant espresso powder to go mocha, or dash in a slug of bourbon. As I said, it’s infinitely adaptable.
I know I’m a pushy pudding evangelist, but really, I just want everyone to have the sweet experience of setting homemade pudding on the table. It’s pure delight, and isn’t that part of what cooking is all about?
Faith Durand is executive editor of TheKitchn.com, a website for food and home cooking.
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