Dalai Mama Dishes

by Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman cooks for the family

Dalai Mama Dishes

Catherine Newman cooks for the family

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Chocolate Pudding

Posted April 20, 2009
Find more about chocolate , dalai mama , PUDDING
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Ben talked me into buying these tiny glass cups at IKEA and every time I use them--usually to offer the kids a wee preview of something yummy--he says, "See? Thank goodness you got those!" Indeed.

Proof that I'm not a pudding snob. There's something so wonderfully old-fashioned about this box.

Plus, I had the Wacky Pack. 1974 7th series. I can still smell that wintergreeny-hard stick of pink gum.

Ben breaking up chocolate in the pot. And my first-ever cookbook: The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen. I still have so much fondness for it, even though most of the recipes begin: "Melt 4 sticks of butter then stir in a pound of grated cheese." Those were the days.

Adding the milk. If you want your kids to help you cook, just get out the camera! Or so I've found.

Whisking some of the hot chocolate mixture into the cornstarch.

The large glasses of pudding and an eager Birdy.

Mmmmm.

Pudding on the swings.

A friend of mine once appeared especially exhausted during an afternoon play date when the children were babies, and when I asked about it, she said, "Oh, yeah--I stayed up after the kids went to sleep to make goldfish crackers." And then she pointed to a bowl of what looked really, exactly, like Pepperidge Farms Goldfish Crackers.

Which is to say: when it comes to homemade, I think it's important to pick your battles. The idea of wrangling cheddar dough with a guppy-shaped aspic cutter makes me want to lie down on the floor with a bottle of cold duck. And yet I'm the very person who thinks it's worthwhile to make macaroni and cheese from scratch and who is about to recommend that you devote 15 minutes of your life to whisking milk and chocolate and cornstarch at the stove, when you could buy any number of boxes of perfectly acceptable cook-and-serve pudding at the supermarket. And while I find fully instant pudding too slippery to be worthwhile (plus, what's that weird oily layer that always separates out?) I love cook-and-serve pudding: My-T-Fine Butterscotch was a staple of my own childhood (remember the Wacky Pack version of it?) and is a staple of my children's. But chocolate pudding? It just tastes so much better when you make it yourself. And it is, I know I always say this, very, very easy.

It is also, as my children said a million times while they were eating it--which they did outside on the swing set because it is springtime and gorgeous--very, very rich. I gobbled mine and then felt like I'd eaten a stick of butter. Not in a good way. Use a small spoon and take your time.

And I must insist: don't try to double or otherwise multiply this recipe. I once tried to multiply the recipe by six--back when Michael and I lived in our vegetarian co-op--and let me just say: first my arm fell off from whisking, and then the bottom of the pudding scorched. In that order. And there was probably a patchouli-scented riot when no dessert was served. Cornstarch is strange stuff. If you don't believe it, stir cornstarch and water together until it's paste-thick and let your kids squeeze the mixture in their hands. Ooblek. What is that about?

Chocolate Pudding
4 servings
Total time: 20 minutes, plus a couple hours for chilling.

This recipe is adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook by Mollie Katzen. You will wish there were more, but don't try doubling it, as it tends to set erratically in larger batches.

4 ounces semisweet chocolate (chips are easiest, but we use a 4-ounce bar of Ghiradelli, broken up)
3 packed tablespoons light brown sugar
2 cups whole milk (or a combination of low-fat milk and either cream and half and half: I used 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk and 1/2 cup cream)
a dash of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, combine the chocolate, sugar, and milk. Heat very gently over low heat, whisking constantly, until all the chocolate is melted, and the mixture is uniform. This will take about 5 minutes, and then it will look like hot chocolate, which is what you're going for. It should feel hot to the touch, but it mustn't boil.

Combine the salt and cornstarch in a small bowl. Pour about 3/4 cup of the hot mixture into it, and whisk vigorously until the cornstarch is dissolved, then pour this solution back into the pot. Keep whisking and cook the pudding over very low heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until it is thick and glossy. For some reason ours was done in 5 minutes this time, which is funny because I have a note in my handwriting that says "Up to a half an hour!" next to "8-10 minutes." Cornstarch can be finicky stuff. You may want to switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon as the pudding thickens. Don't imagine it will thicken much as it cools: it will, but only if it's already thick, if you get what I'm saying. Also, once it starts to set, don't mess with it or it will liquefy. Honestly, it's easy though, I swear.

Stir in the vanilla, then pour into serving dishes and chill at least one hour before eating. We didn't happen to have any, but a dollop of whipped cream wouldn't hurt.

Get a printable version of this recipe.

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Chocolate Pudding

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About Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman is the author of the memoir, Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family, available online and in bookstores nationwide.

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