When it comes to chilled desserts and custards, pudding often gets overlooked for its more sophisticated adult versions of custard-type desserts, like pots de crème, ice cream, mousse, and parfait. In comparison to these, pudding may sound too commonplace or humble to merit a blog post. However, blame it on childhood nostalgia, chocolate pudding is one of my favorite desserts ever, and sometimes I even prefer it to chocolate ice cream. You can even make this dessert with the ingredients in your pantry, no special shopping trips required. Let me persuade you on the merits of pudding children first, as Sebastian Joe’s likes to say!
When you want comfort food, we all have our favorites, and chocolate pudding ranks at the top. It’s as simple and down-to-earth as it comes, a true classic. It helps that it is a fast easy dessert to make and, in only a few hours, offers the most dark, smooth, and rich flavor of cozy home comfort. Growing up, I always looked forward to the day of the week when we got to eat chocolate pudding for dessert as opposed to, say, flan or cake. Both my mother and my grandmother made their chocolate pudding from scratch, and it was the very first recipe they taught me to cook. They didn’t go for the boxed version because the recipe for the homemade version was so easy and simple that it didn’t merit buying it at the store, especially when we had all the ingredients in the pantry. Chocolate pudding was also my Grandpa Franco’s favorite dessert. My grandmother made chocolate pudding in one large baking dish, served with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, and it had a place of honor on the dinner table for informal large family gatherings. There was no way you could fit that many individual pudding cups in the refrigerator! So everybody got a serving from the large dessert plate served Italian-style. Back at my mom’s house, chocolate pudding was often served for dessert during one of the school-night dinners. I looked forward to a pudding cup made by my Mom. My sister, brother, and I enjoyed watching Mom measure the ingredients, mix them into the milk, and then stir over the stovetop. Raptly we held our breaths and watched until the magic would happen: when the pudding mixture would suddenly thicken into custard. After the pudding was poured into the ramekin cups and placed in the refrigerator to cool, we would be rewarded for our patience with the whisk, the bowl, or the spatula for a taste of the pudding mixture, even if it was still warm. I think this is what home comfort is about: those down-to-earth, simple moments that made up everyday life.
As families around the US and the Midwest get ready for back-to-school routines, pudding can be a great way of pudding children first at a time when the pandemic has us hankering for those simple pleasures and cozy routines that keep us grounded. If your kids are staying home for online learning, instead of packing a store-bought pudding into the lunchboxes, they might get to eat homemade pudding at the kitchen table for lunch, or after school for dinner. Seriously, though, we could all do with a little bit of home-cooked comfort right now, and the magic and simplicity of pudding offers just that, giving us a taste of simpler days and easier times.
I hope you all stay safe and have a good return to school this Autumn season.
Granny Eliza’s Chocolate Pudding
Prep time: 10 min.
Cook Time: 15 min.
Cool time: 1 hour
Chill time: 3 hours.
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- ¼ cup dulce de leche (optional)
- 4 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
- Chantilly cream and chocolate curls for garnish (optional)
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they increase in volume and are pale yellow in color.
- Add the cornstarch to the egg yolks, whisking vigorously to dissolve any granules, until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, pour in the milk and add the sugar and salt.
- Add a little bit of the milk to the cocoa, stirring vicorously until the cocoa dissolves and the mixture is smooth, then pour this cocoa mixture into the saucepan with the milk, sugar, and salt.
- Warm up the milk, cocoa, mixture until it reaches 180°F and 190°F. Measure with a candy thermometer, and when it has reached 180°F, then turn off the heat and let cool slightly.
- Remove ½ cup to 1 cup of the milk and slowly pour it into the yolk-cornstarch mixture. Make sure that the temperature of the milk is not too hot to avoid curdling the yolks—in other words, you are tempering the yolks. The success of this step will result in a creamy consistency for the pudding.
- While the milk in the saucepan cools, prepare your ramekin or pudding cups. Place the dulce de leche in a piping bag fitted with a star tip and press a star of dulce de leche into the bottom of the ramekin. Set the ramekins aside.
- When the milk in the saucepan has cooled sufficiently, add the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan. Turn on the stove to a medium-low flame and gradually warm up the pudding, stirring regularly until the mixture thickens.
- The pudding will be ready when the mixture coats the back of the spoon, about 7 to 9 minutes cook time total. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla, stirring well. The mixture should look thickened, creamy, and glossy.
- Turn off the heat and pour the pudding mixture into the prepared ramekin cups, covering the dulce de leche stars.
- Let the pudding cool for an hour at room temperature and then chill for 3 hours.
- You can serve the pudding as-is, plain, or garnish the top of the pudding with Chantilly cream and chocolate curls. Enjoy!
For the Chantilly Cream: Beat 1 cup of heavy whipping cream in a chilled metal bowl for a minute and 30 seconds. Add 1 ½ tsp powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract and beat for another 30 seconds, or until the cream forms soft peaks. Place the heavy cream in a piping bag fitted with a star tip for a fun ruffle of cream on top of the pudding.
For the Chocolate Curls: Leave a tablet or block of milk or semi-sweet chocolate at room temperature, and using a potato peeler, peel along the length of a block of chocolate to form rows. You can place the shavings straight onto the cream to make it easier.