yay, pudding!

I know that I confessed that I don't like milk chocolate. It's true. My heart belongs to dark chocolate. 62% and up. You know what they say-- once you go black...

Ahem. Anyway. I also love pudding. (And pastry cream, and mousse...) Smitten Kitchen posted an easy pudding recipe that I couldn't resist, especially after Justin gave me two bars of Scharffenberger baking chocolate for Valentine's (does he know me or what?). So I chopped up the chocolate and got to stirrin'.

I was rewarded with delicious pudding. Not too thick, perfectly chocolatey, and gone all too quickly. The only problem I'd had with the pudding was that it was a bit lumpy, because I was too lazy to waste time straining it before I let it chill. So I decided to make it again--and a vanilla version!--and try to eliminate the lumps.

That time, I used a tip from one of Smitten Kitchen's commenters, who said that you could mix the cornstarch up with some milk to make a slurry (put in small tupperware and shake) before adding it to the sugar/milk and that would prevent lumps. I did that, for both the chocolate and vanilla versions. Unfortunately, neither of these puddings ever thickened up properly. They thickened a little, but no one could ever call them pudding. Of course, we ate it anyway. Mmm, chocolate. Waste not want not and all that.

Tonight, I decided to give it a third go. I wanted pudding! I made it just like the first time. For the vanilla version, I scraped out a vanilla bean and added the bean and insides after I added the milk. At the end I pulled out the bean. Both versions are currently chilling, and I've got my fingers crossed.

Silky Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from John Scharffenberger, via Wednesday Chef, via Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
6 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use whatever I have on hand)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer (or not, if you don't mind lumps) into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes. (Or just keep it in its bowl.)

3. If you like pudding skin, pull plastic wrap over the top of the serving dish(es) before refrigerating. If you dislike pudding skin, place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

If something goes wrong and the pudding ends up runny, here are some reasons why.

update 3/6/08: My pudding went all soft and gooey. So I stuck it in the freezer and now I have the best bowl of popsicle *ever*. Yum. The vanilla one tastes just like ice cream.

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