Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pudding, two ways

I have a thing for pudding. It is comforting and creamy and delicious. I grew up with pudding out of a box, and never really had anything outside of it. Of course, I preferred the cooked over the instant, which I find has an odd, gritty, fake flavor about it.

The first homemade pudding I had was made by MB, my college roommate, in the tiny galley kitchen of the apartment we rented. Little did I know, MB was about to change my view of pudding forever. There were eggs in her pudding, which apparently is more of a cooked custard, but it was lush and silky and delicious. I loved the stuff. I also had no idea how to make it. Since the hallmark of the starving college student is a lack of cashflow, I wasn't about to waste precious quantities of milk on the chance that I'd make chocolate scrambled eggs.

It wasn't until I was searching for a from-scratch recipe for banana pudding that I came across something that resembled MB's recipe ingredients, which she refused to share. I tweaked it and whatnot, and came up with the silky glorious result that will follow your constant stirring.

The uses of pudding are nearly endless. Use it to drench torn layers of pound cake topped with berries (for the vanilla) or dribbles of salted caramel (for the chocolate). Tuck it into the soft folds of a baked meringue. Put it into the ice cream maker after it cools for a dense, frozen custard. Or, do what I'm doing today; sit by the fire with a still-warm bowl of pudding on a chilly, rainy sort of day.

The Pudding

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar for vanilla, or 1/3 cup sugar for chocolate
2 large eggs
1/4 plus 2 tsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

In a 2-qt, heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk sugar and eggs together until well blended. Add flour, and whisk until no visible lumps remain. Slowly add the milk until all is incorporated. Turn the heat to medium, and whisking constantly, stir the pudding mixture until it is thickened and coats the whisk, about 5 minutes. As the mixture begins to thicken, turn the heat to low. It is important to stir the pudding mixture the entire time, or else it will begin to curdle on the bottom of the pan, and will result in a grainy texture. Once the pudding coats the tines of the whisk, turn off and remove from heat. Add vanilla. Add chocolate, if desired, and whisk until all of the chocolate is melted. Pour into a heat-safe bowl and lay plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.