My Challenge: Homemade Chocolate Pudding

I got Joanne Chang’s cookbook Flour the first day it was available at the New England Book Fair in Newton.  Although I have not had the time I wished to read the book and recipes page after page of tempting offerings, I decided the first thing I would make is chocolate pudding from scratch.  I had only made chocolate pudding from a box and my favorite part was to add cream to the little left over in the pot and enjoy the chocolate pudding hot off the stove!  I like my chocolate pudding warm to hot with cream on top for me it is the only way to eat it!

As a home baker, I realize the importance of exact measuring and following the recipe exactly as it appears.  But the two times I made the chocolate pudding at home, when it cooled it had the thickness of a ganache and not of chocolate pudding.   What was I doing wrong?

I got in contact with my friends at Flour who thought I was overcooking the chocolate pudding even though it wasn’t bubbling away like a box mix would.  On a Sunday not too long ago I went to the Flour in Cambridge where Pastry Chef Heather showed me how to make chocolate pudding.  I put my hair back, put on a Flour apron and my lesson began.

I learned a few tricks from Heather; the wider the pot or pan when heating the cream and adding the chocolate, the quicker and easier for the chocolate pudding to cook since it has a wider bottom surface to cook on.   Heather’s pudding which was maybe 3 times as much as the home recipe would make cooked much faster than when I tried it at home. When Heather did the spoon test of doneness, the chocolate pudding was a thinner consistency than a box mix would be. So I guess I did over cook the pudding!

Then I learned the reason the recipe calls for a 3 hour period  before serving for it is in this time period where the chocolate pudding with all the chocolate, cream and egg yolks will thicken to become the creamy wonderful and sinful chocolate pudding which is rightly named in the book the Best Ever Chocolate pudding ever!

Of course when cooking in a professional kitchen the pots and pans are much bigger and lucky for Heather there is someone to clean the numerous bowls and pots needed to make chocolate pudding.  Did I say numerous, yes this recipe calls for many pots, pans and bowls and at home I am the lucky one to have to clean them!

When you read the recipe I share with you below you will understand what I am going to say now when you test to see if the pudding is done, you slide your finger down the wooden spoon you are using to make sure the chocolate pudding does not refill where your finger marked the spoon. Then the pudding is done.  It will be thinner than you might think but it is ready.  I did cook the pudding a little longer to make sure that my finger mark on the spoon did not have any chocolate pudding sliding back and did not realize that it was suppose to be a thinner consistency.

I finished my lesson, took home some of the chocolate pudding  Heather and I made, got back in line to get some goodies to bring home, yes all were excellent and off I went.  When I checked the pudding I took home from Flour the consistency was what chocolate pudding should be nice and creamy and tasted like the best ever chocolate pudding.

Here is the dilemma, since I like my chocolate pudding hot with cream on top when I heated the chocolate pudding I took home, it became soupy.  Lesson learned, if you like your chocolate pudding cold and creamy and want to use it for a pie filling follow the recipe and don’t overcook it.  If you like your chocolate pudding hot, overcook it a bit because when you heat the ganache thick mixture in the microwave, the pudding will become a creamy, warm chocolate pudding  perfect with cream on top.

But whether you make the recipe cooked perfectly or overcooked, the flavors need 3 hours to meld together.  Eating the pudding hot out of the pot will not taste as good as if you wait the 3 hours.

Best Ever Chocolate Pudding

Joanne Chang

Flour

1 ½ cups half and half

1 ¾ heavy cream

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped (70-77% cacao) I used my I phone to help me convert ounces to pound

7 egg yolks

¾ cup vanilla sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Unsweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings for serving, optional

Vanilla sugar:  Save the vanilla pod you are using for something else and rinse and air dry it.  Place in 4 cups of sugar for a week in an airtight container.

I learned wider pots and pans will help making this chocolate pudding as well as bigger bowls!

In a medium saucepan combine the half and half and the heavy cream and scald over medium-high heat, bubbles will start to form around the edge of the pan, but the liquid is not boiling. Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and place over but not touching barely simmering water and heat, stirring occasionally until completely melted and smooth, remove from the heat.  Pour the hot cream mixture over the melted chocolate and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Place the egg yolks in medium bowl and slowly whisk in the vanilla sugar.  Slowly pour the hot cream-chocolate mixture into the egg-sugar mixture a little at a time, whisking constantly.  When all of the cream-chocolate mixture has been incorporated, return the contents of the bowl into the saucepan (use wide bottom pan and it will cook evenly and quicker as shown to me at Flour.) Return the pan to medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan often to prevent scorching for 5-6 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coat the back of the spoon thickly. To test, draw your finger along the back of the spoon, the custard should hold the trail for a couple of seconds before it fills.  First the mixture will be liquid and loose and then become thicker at the bottom of the pan.  As it continues to thicken, it will start to let off a little steam.  When you see wisps of steam steadily rising from the pan you will know the pudding is almost done.

When the pudding is ready, immediately strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and stir in the vanilla extract and salt.  Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until cold. The pudding can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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