((or, an enduring love affair with the dark bean))
Gourmet snuck in a little recipe on its February table of contents that immediately caught my eye: Milk Chocolate Pudding, lightly tossed with whipped cream. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I can think of few things that are better than chocolate, and for a milk chocolate-lover such as myself, there was no way I’d let this easy recipe slip by unmade.
I even had the necessary ingredients: some leftover whipping cream, some milk (rare, because I only use it for baking these days, being more of the soy persuasion), a bit of cornstarch and cocao powder, and milk chocolate. I live in the land of Ghiradelli and Scharffen Berger and have a mother who adores Lindt, but all I had was my trusty Trader Joe’s Pound Plus in the cabinet — so that’s what I used. True chocolate coinesseurs might be disgusted by my use of a store-brand chocolate, but I don’t think it made much of a difference in overall taste quality.
This pudding was all melty, chocolate-y goodness through and through, and while a fancier brand might have made for a more discerning muddle of cream and cacao, it was pretty darn good all the same. And I have never been one to turn up my nose at Trader Joe’s; I’ve been enjoying their chocolate ever since I can remember cadging little tastes from an open bar in the cupboard.
I started by chopping up my Pound Plus as finely as possible
and consulted this very simplest of recipes as necessary
tasting every so often
and devoured a sample as soon as it was properly chilled.
[this bowl earned an unqualified yum.]
If February is the month for chocolate — and why not every month, say? — this is definitely one for the recipe books. I love chocolate passionately (I do; I am not exaggerating), but only as the mood strikes me. I have a funny relationship with sweets: sometimes I’ll start thinking about dessert even before I’ve finished cooking the main meal, but at other times I’ll spend hours baking a confection only to take a nibble and leave the rest for the mice. Chocolate I must have in moderation; perhaps, then, I’d should have a tapas of chocolate treats rather than embarking on a whole plate.
This little pudding makes about four servings and keeps for a few days — perfect for taking small portions and coming back for more every so often. Next time I might try with Scharffen Berger’s 44% cacao milk bar just to see if there truly is any taste difference, but I have a soft spot for the TJ after going without for so long (as I was leaving the East Coast, it was just arriving, and now back in Northern California I am rediscovering its bounty) that I doubt will fade. Chocolate elitism aside, all that really matters is that you should not let February slide by without making this unassuming gem.
Milk Chocolate Pudding [Gourmet, February 2007 with one small adaption]
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz. fine-quality milk chocolate, chopped (or whatever you have in the pantry)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan, then whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking, 2 minutes (mixture should be thick). Remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and chill at least 2 hours, until cold (surface may be covered with wax paper to prevent skin from forming, or, if you’re like me who tends to buy the bare necessities, plastic wrap). Can be chilled, covered, up to 3 days.
Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream, or plain. Try to limit yourself to just one generous helping (it’s difficult, I know).
Next up: Potato-leek and spinach soup seasoned with Inverness Ridge bay leaves, and a meditation on the origins of such.