When I was in the fifth grade I took flute from the mustached Mr. Greco, one of those talented people with a great sense of humor and a heavy dose of patience, who had somehow to the delight of all the elementary school mothers decided to dedicate the best part of his day to children. One day Crystal Horn, the clarinet player, told Mr. Greco that her mom burned pudding the night before. I laughed out loud. “How do you BURN pudding?” Well then Mr. Greco laughed and exclaimed, “Oh! Kristen! She must only eat Jell-o pudding!” I didn’t get it, for a long time. It wasn’t until after I graduated from high school that I realized that pudding existed outside of cute little cardboard boxes.
When you eat pudding that has been cooked for the first time the event is transforming and you find yourself trying to find the perfect recipe for it. This recipe from The Essential New York Times Cook Book is silky smooth and the right combination of sweetness and chocolate. The recipe is a bit fussy, but the result is exactly what you are looking for in a pudding recipe. It doesn’t need reinvented, or a little less salt and a bit more chocolate. Amanda Hesser did her job and found the perfect combination.
Homemade pudding is a bit more dressed up than a cookie, but the real reason I like making pudding isn’t to impress people, but because it is less work for me in the kitchen. Pudding doesn’t need gluten to exist. I can make one version and dessert is finished, no need for a gluten-free second dish.
Make sure you follow the directions. Don’t look away for even a second when you are supposed to be stirring or the milk might jump out of the pot and onto your stove creating a mess that takes your husband a good twenty minutes to clean.
2 1/4 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and still warm
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cut into 4 pieces, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heavy cream for serving
Get out your food processor and pour in cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Pulse it to blend. Dump the dry ingredients onto a piece of wax paper. Put the egg, egg yolks and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar in the work bowl of the food processor. Process for one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining 1/4 cup of milk. Process for a few seconds and then return the dry ingredients to the bowl and pulse until blended.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring 2 cups milk and 3 tablespoons sugar to a boil. Watch the pot and stir every minute or so.
Pour the hot mixture into a large liquid measuring cup so that you can get the mixture into the food processor without making a huge mess. While the machine is running, slowly pour in the hot milk, processing to blend. The mixture will be foamy, but the bubbles will go away when you cook the pudding in the next step.
Pour the mixture from the food processor back into the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about two minutes or until the pudding thickens. The pudding should not boil. Make sure you are stirring the bottom of the pot. Scrape the pudding back into the processor, add the chocolate, the butter and vanilla and pulse for a few seconds until it is evenly blended.
Pour into six individual bowls for a good size serving, or nine for a smaller serving. Chill for at least four hours. Serve with cream, whipped or not. My favorite way to eat pudding is with a little bit of milk on top. But, that is a weird, rather delicious family habit.
Recipe from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser