After my disparaging comment earlier about pudding snacks, I realize that I may be called out here. Allow me, if you will, to clarify before we begin the content of this post. I do not dislike pudding as a principle: in fact, I am rather fond of pudding. I do, however, dislike packaged pudding products laden with corn syrup and stabilizers which are found lurking in the cold foods aisle. Pudding and mousse are wonderful, truly splendid things, which should not be sullied by being compared with products that have “Jello” in their name.
That said, let us proceed.
Last night was cold and rainy, as it was for many residents of California. It is, apparently, wet again, and although the weather was not severe, it did seem to call for some precautionary measures such as baking cookies. I also decided to try and made some pudding, a dessert food which I remembered fondly from my youth at the Tin Palace. My father used to make this insanely good chocolate pudding with this rich Indonesian cocoa that was so dark it came out black. The pudding was chocolately and dark and delicious, and all of my friends hated it because it wasn’t nearly sweet enough for them. I, on the other hand, loved it.
I know that my father used the Joy of Cooking for his recipe, and despite my disappointment with my own “revised” Joy, I thought it might be possible to find a passable pudding recipe. (Which reminds me: any reader who is particularly fond of me is welcome to send me a copy of the 75th anniversary Joy, which is supposed to be a vast improvement on my revised edition. Readers unsure about how to get it to me can contact me via comments at meloukhia dot net.) At any rate, I found a pudding recipe which resembled the one of my youth, and set out to make Mexican Chocolate Pudding. I have made a few changes, and list the recipe as I made it below:
Grate one round of Mexican chocolate (I prefer Ibarra) into a heavy saucepan and add a pinch of salt and 1/3 cup warm water. Stir into a brisk paste, adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and chili powder to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat, stirring constantly, and remove from heat.
Add one ounce of bittersweet chocolate, broken into bits. Stir until the chocolate melts.
Add 1 3/4 cup half and half, stirring carefully to integrate it fully.
Place three tablespoons of cornstarch in a small bowl and mix with 1/4 cup half and half to form a smooth paste. Stir this into the chocolate mixture, and whisk it to make sure that it is well mixed.
Put the pan back onto medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want to use a heat proof spatula and slowly move it around the whole pan, scraping down the sides, bringing stuff up from the bottom, and keeping the pudding in motion.
It will start to thicken. Turn the heat down as low as it can go (take it off the burner if you are unfortunate enough to have an electric stove) and stir briskly for one minute, eliminating lumps. Add one tablespoon of vanilla.
Pour the pudding into receptacles. I used wine glasses, but, you know, whatever.
To avoid the formation of a skin, put a piece of cling wrap over the top, pressing it down against the pudding to form a seal. Put the pudding in the fridge to cool for at least two hours.
Do not mess with the pudding.
Let the pudding do its own thing. The mixture well set and firm up if you leave well enough alone—do not stir it, jiggle it, or otherwise muck about with it. Especially do not try to sneak a bit, because it will mess up the entire setting process and create a runny mess.
The pudding can hang out for up to two days, on the off chance that you don’t eat it before then.
I greatly enjoyed my pudding—I had one as soon as it had set and another for breakfast. Mmm.
Here’s what I liked about it:
- Texture: the pudding had a firm, creamy texture without any lumps. Yes, it resembled commercial pudding, but the spices and cacao nibs from the Mexican chocolate gave it a hint of crunch and graininess which I really liked. Using the cling film to eliminate the skin turned out to be awesome.
- Flavour: the pudding was more complex than a standard chocolate. The chili added a little bit of heat, while the cinnamon and nutmeg provided spicy background notes. The addition of bittersweet chocolate made it even more rich and chocolately, although it could have been darker for my taste. The decision not to add sugar turned out to be a good one: Mexican chocolate is sweet enough to use plain.
- Fun factor: I had forgotten how enjoyable it was to scoop things out of glasses.
There are a few things I would like to experiment with, including using heavy cream instead of half and half, and maybe trying to make a layered pudding…ideally one with a flan like layer and a Mexican chocolate layer. I imagine that it would also be really good topped with fresh whipped cream and fruit or grated semisweet chocolate.
All in all, a fun food adventure, and one I think I will be making more often.
[Mexican chocolate pudding]