Sunday, August 24, 2014

Best Double Dark Chocolate Pudding

This is for those times when I realize I have no ice cream in the house.

Big mistake. A close second to realizing there's no toilet paper in your stall when you're already squatting. Yeaaahhh....

This is my brain sequence in withdrawal mode:

                        All the shops are closed.
                                                       I have milk!
                But no more cream...
                                   Plenty of chocolate.
                                                           Eggs - of course.

Pudding will do the trick. It's cold, creamy, smooth and thick.

Pudding is custard at its core. The stuff that comes in plastic cups at the supermarket is thickened solely with corn starch, which is also what you pay for in those instant pudding packets.

Try making your own - it's gold. It's also easy and here's how to get 'er done.

It starts with a whole heap of delicious dark chocolate - go for 70%, bittersweet, bitter-awesome. Chop it up fine and set it aside with a dash of vanilla extract in a bowl.

Place most of the milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer.

Combine sugar, cocoa, salt and cornstarch in a separate bowl.

Egg yolks make this pudding glorious - so much richer, thicker and creamier. Add the yolks and a bit of milk to the cornstarch/cocoa/sugar premix and whisk it together. It will look like wet sand at this point, but combining the ingredients in these stages ensures that the cornstarch will be evenly distributed.

Slowly adding the warm milk to this mixture while constantly stirring is called tempering because it slowly brings up the temperature of the yolks so that they don't curdle. It's a gentle method.

The whole mixture goes back into the saucepan and cooked over low heat until it reaches a boil. We need it to come to a boil in order to be confident that the starch has reached its full thickening potential. That's because corn starch needs to reach around 80 degrees Celcius in order to swell up sufficiently with water and do its job. Without a thermometer and with some common sense, boiling tells us that we've reached at least that temperature.

The time at boiling is important too.

Since egg yolks are involved, its a good idea to boil for about 30 seconds to deactivate an enzyme called amylase that can actually break down the starch and make to turn runny over time. But, if you boil it too long then the intense cooking will break down the starch itself. I doubt you intend to keep this pudding hanging around for more than a couple of days though, so it doesn't have to get complicated - just bring it to a boil, sing a verse from Chandelier and then tip the mixture out into the chocolate-filled bowl.

It only takes a minute for the hot pudding to melt the chocolate. This is where things get sexy.

Stir it together, watch it turn dark and decadent, and then test your will power - can you really resist warm chocolate custard like this? I failed that test.

It's not chocolate ice cream, but it made me stop thinking about chocolate ice cream, so it must be close enough!

Go nuts.

Best Double Dark Chocolate Pudding
Makes about 3 cups

113 g/4 oz bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups (535 ml) whole milk, divided
2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
3 tbsp (25 g) corn starch
3 tbsp (18 g) cocoa powder
3 large egg yolks
1/8 tsp salt
sliced almonds for topping (optional)

Combine chopped chocolate and vanilla extract in a medium bowl and set aside. 

Place 2 cups of milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.

Meanwhile, whisk sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt together in a bowl until evenly blended. Add yolks and remaining ¼ cup of milk and whisk vigorously until the mixture resembles wet sand.

Gradually pour in the warm milk while whisking constantly and then transfer the entire mixture back to the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat heat until thickened and it comes to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 30 seconds and then immediately pour through a sieve and into the bowl of chocolate. Let stand for a minute and then stir until smooth. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Serve in small chilled bowls and top with flaked almonds.

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