I started my pudding adventure wondering if I could make a pudding with nonfat milk that tasted creamy and rich. I made one from the Cooking Light web site and was sadly disappointed. The pudding was flat in both texture and taste. The wonderful creaminess you get from milk fat was missing and although I used a nice bittersweet chocolate, its nuances were drowned out. After a few bites, my husband and I agreed it wasn't worth eating so we threw the whole thing out and made ice cream sundaes. If you're interested in trying this nonfat milk pudding, here's the recipe, and I wish you better luck.
Whole Milk Pudding Made with Cornstarch
The next night I made a chocolate pudding using a recipe on the New York Times web site by Mark Bittman. I am quite a fan of Mr. Bittman's and so wanted to try his version. The recipe called for whole milk, sugar, cornstarch, chocolate, and not much else. I used a nice Michel Cluizel Mangaro Lait milk chocolate, because I thought my daughters would like it. When I make this pudding again, however, I will use a bittersweet chocolate instead as the milk chocolate lost its character once it was added to milk and sugar. Don't get me wrong; it was still lovely with a nice caramel undertone. It just wasn't chocolaty enough for my tastes. The recipe itself was smooth and rich, although with the occasional gelatinous blob of cornstarch even though I tried to thoroughly whisk it into the cold milk. Here's the recipe. If you'd like to make a first-rate pudding and don't want to deal with eggs, this is the one for you.
The final pudding would actually be considered a custard by some, although for me it had the best flavor of the bunch and seemed the most pudding-like. I used egg yolks, whole milk, cornstarch, bittersweet chocolate, and a few other minor ingredients. After looking at about fifteen custard and pudding recipes, I ended up cobbling this one together on my own as the others seemed to use either too many egg yolks or called for heavy cream, while I wanted to use milk. Others required a double boiler, which seemed like a lot of work for what is supposed to be a simple dessert. This pudding was the most time intensive, but it still took under 12 minutes to make from start to finish. The texture was velvety; the taste complex yet balanced. I used a combination of cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate, melting them in at different times to give the pudding a fuller chocolaty flavor. I used a nice cocoa powder along with some Grenada Organic Dark Chocolate. This one definitely hit the spot.
I asked some friends over for a blind taste test and all agreed that although the New York Times recipe was quite good, the custard pudding was superior. We felt the Times recipe was a great choice for parents who wanted to make good and fast pudding for kids, but that the custard pudding had better consistency and flavor. One of my friends called it a pudding for grownups, which seemed to sum it up nicely.
So, please, get rid of the Jell-O box and try some homemade pudding. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy and fast it is to make, and much happier with the results.
Velvety Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding
Makes 2 - 4 servings
2 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
3 Tbsp corn starch
Dash of salt
2 Tbsp good cocoa powder
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp butter
3 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate