Wednesday, September 05, 2007


So much of what we see today consists of pallid, knockabout imitations of the things we knew and loved as children.

Coke Classic, for example. It’s a reasonable facsimile of the Coke we used to drink back in our Snot-Nose Days, but not exactly…for the Real Thing of the elder days was sweetened with sucrose - cane or beet sugar - and today the horribly ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup is used in its stead. It just ain’t the same. Don’t believe me? Try Coca-Cola in the springtime, when kosher-for-Passover Coke is available in certain select metropolitan markets. Since corn products are forbidden to observant Jews during the eight days of Passover, Coca-Cola bottlers use sucrose. (Look for the bottles with the yellow caps.)

And then there’s Chocolate Pudding.

Back in the day, if you wanted chocolate pudding, you’d get out a box of My-T-Fine chocolate pudding mix, some milk - whole milk if you please: none of this wimpy latter-day 1% or 2% stuff - and you’d cook yourself a batch of pudding. (Jell-O also offered their own version, but where I come from, it is considered to be a Johnny-come-lately to the world of Pudding. Stick to gelatin, was (and is) our advice to Jell-O.)

You would stand there, stirring the pot, watching as the powdery pudding mixture slowly dissolved, forming a uniform blend with the slowly warming milk. You would watch as the first tendrils of steam began to rise from the liquid’s surface. You’d keep stirring and scraping the pot, waiting for that magic moment when bubbles would begin to break the surface of the steaming, magically thickening mixture. And then, suddenly, pudding happened.

You would pour the hot pudding into dishes or jelly-glasses, inhaling the fragrant steam, then eagerly scraping and licking the pot. After the pudding-dishes cooled, you would stick them in the fridge to chill. And when the blessed time came to eat the pudding - with or without a thin layer of milk or cream poured on top - you would peel away the leathery skin that would form on its surface. Aaahhh.

Then, one sad day, along came Instant Pudding.

Never was the trade-off between the opposing poles of Convenience and Quality more sharply drawn than with Instant Pudding. For to make Instant Pudding was simplicity itself - all you had to do was combine the powdered mix with cold milk and beat for a few minutes - but the taste was a mere facsimile of the cooked version, thin and having a vaguely chemical pong. I could not abide Instant Pudding, but, alas, it took over the Pudding World with startling alacrity, to the point that you could no longer find a decent cooked pudding in a restaurant. Feh, alas.

The good news is, you don’t have to put up with shitty Instant Chocolate Pudding. You can still get the kind that requires cooking, although it is my-t-hard to find My-T-Fine around these parts nowadays.

And if you want to put in a little more effort, you can make chocolate pudding from scratch, the Real Old-Fashioned Way.

Chocolate Pudding - The Real Deal

2¼ cups milk
½ cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Lindt Excellence 99% Cacao)
3 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt Excellence 70% Cacao)
1 egg (large or extra-large) plus two yolks
2 tbsp cornstarch (unsifted)
3 tbsp Dutch-process cocoa (unsifted)
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, at room temperature, cut in small pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp dark rum or Grand Marnier

Beat the egg and the yolks to mix.

Chop up the chocolates and put them in a heavy saucepan over medium heat with 2 cups of the milk (reserve the remaining ¼ cup) and ¼ cup of the sugar (reserve the remaining ¼ cup plus one tbsp). Heat, whisking regularly, until the mixture just comes to a boil, at which point the chocolate should be completely dissolved with no flecks remaining on the surface of the milk.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, sift together the remaining ¼ cup plus one tbsp sugar, the cornstarch, the cocoa, and and the salt. Add the remaining ¼ cup of milk and whisk together until blended.

Ladle about a cup of the hot chocolate milk into the cocoa-cornstarch mixture, whisking as you do so; then take the cocoa-cornstarch mixture and add it all to the pot of chocolate milk. With a rubber spatula, stir and scrape the pot over low heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Turn the heat down to low and continue to stir and scrape for two minutes.

Now take about a cup of the hot mixture and dump it into the eggs, stirring as you do so. Then dump the egg mixture into the pot and stir well.

Over low heat, stir and scrape for another two minutes. Do not let the mixture boil. Now take it off the heat and mix in the butter until thoroughly incorporated. Add the vanilla and the (optional) rum or Grand Marnier. I used Grand Marnier as I like the interplay of the orange and chocolate flavors - Cointreau works well too if you like a slightly more assertive bitter orange taste.

Pour into goblets or serving dishes - you should have enough for four portions. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours. Serve with sweetened whipped cream if desired.

[Yes, this stuff will develop a skin on top as you chill it. That’s never been an issue with us Jews, who have no problem removing inconvenient circular bits of skin.]

Serious Pudding
None of that “instant” crap.

This stuff is emphatically Not For Kiddies. It is bittersweet, serious chocolate, with enough Concentrated Calorific Punch to impress even a Steve H. But - if you’re old enough - it will remind you of the days when pudding was pudding, a banana was just a banana, and a good cigar was a smoke.

No comments: