Chocolate Pudding

I was raised on chocolate and pudding cups. In my family, it was an after dinner ritual to pull out the pudding whenever dessert was on the menu. Warm or cold, pudding cups were a part of my childhood routine. My mother always bought the packs with vanilla and chocolate because they came in volume packs, but the rest of my family thought it was silly—no one liked the vanilla cups. My father and I would always scramble to grab the chocolate ones before anyone else and my poor mother was left with the vanilla. In fact, I am not sure my mother ever had the opportunity to claim a chocolate cup as her own.

Nowadays, even though there seems to be a countless number of flavored puddings and custards, I always come back to good old-fashioned chocolate. Sometimes you just should not mess with an original.

There is a special pudding-eating spoon sitting in my kitchen drawer. Long and skinny, it was the smallest spoon we had in the house growing up (and I have since carried it with me into my own apartment). I adore this spoon for its small size and prefer to eat my favorite foods with it. The narrow curve holds very little, which means that I get to draw out the satisfaction of eating much longer. This proves doubly so when it comes to pudding.

Since I was young, I have liked to mix a few Cheerios into my chocolate pudding whenever they were in the cupboard. The cheerios absorb a bit of the bold chocolate flavor, but keep their firmness, resulting in the greatest bowl of cheerios a small child (or grown woman) can experience. My family would look at me strangely, too uncertain of the combination to try it themselves. Back then I assured them they were missing out (and I do the same today).

My ideal chocolate pudding is a little rich, with a very pronounced chocolate flavor from two sources—cocoa powder and a little melted chocolate. The real secret to this recipe is the addition of salt and vanilla extract. Both of these ingredients provide a contrasting flavor to the sweet chocolate, and the combination of the three takes the flavor of the pudding from one-dimensional to downright delicious.

This chocolate pudding may be simple, but simplicity is often just what we need.

Chocolate pudding is surprisingly easy to make, and takes only fifteen minutes to whip up from start to finish. The pudding is thickened with a combination of cornstarch and egg yolks, which gives it a real custard-like quality. A mixture of cocoa powder and melted chocolate lends a proper chocolate touch, while whole milk lends the pudding a rich and creamy flavor. Two-percent milk is a great alternative for a less rich pudding, but I would not use a milk lower in fat or the pudding may lose a little of its magic.

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Chocolate Pudding

Yields 6 1/2-cup servings

3 cups (710 ml) whole or 2% milk, divided
1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 ounces (85 grams) dark or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup of milk with the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. When well blended, whisk in the egg yolks. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the remaining 2 cups of milk to a boil over medium heat. Stir frequently as to not scorch the bottom. As soon as milk comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Gradually whisk in egg mixture, stirring quickly to incorporate. Continue cooking and stirring until pudding thickens enough to thickly coat the back of a spoon, about 3-5 minutes or more.

Remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until the pudding is smooth and completely melted. If there are any small lumps, you may optionally run the pudding through a fine mesh strainer to remove them. Stir in vanilla extract.

Serve the pudding warm or cold, with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream. The pudding will thicken up quite a bit when cooled.