The End, At Last
Jill Santopietro's Cornmeal-Cranberry Pancakes

John Scharffenberger's Silky Chocolate Pudding



Hello? Yes? I'm still here. I can't seem to tear myself away from my blog. Or my kitchen. It's just, well, as Deb points out, old habits die hard. Even if those habits aren't very old at all. In fact, only 30 days old.

But it's Friday, and since I promise to stay away from the computer all weekend, let me just get this one little item in. After all, it's about chocolate pudding! Silky chocolate pudding. It's so good that before leaving for work this morning, Monosyllabic Morning Ben told me we had a date to eat more of it tonight together.

The recipe comes from John Scharffenberger's new book, The Essence of Chocolate, which is elegant and beautiful and offers lots of interesting recipes. But I found myself bookmarking only the homiest of recipes, this pudding and the Chocolate-Marbled Gingerbread (the combination of chocolate and gingerbread being, in my opinion, the best December flavor there is). I got to work on the pudding last night and realized, as I was stirring the milk into the cornstarch, that I've never made pudding from scratch before. Well, to be fair, I've never made it from a packet either. Mousse, yes. Panna cotta, too. But pudding? This would be my first time.

And what a time it was. Since I didn't have vanilla extract, I used half a vanilla bean, scraped clean, and mixed it in at the beginning with the milk, sugar and cornstarch. It took exactly 20 minutes for this mixture to thicken as promised. I only had two ounces of Scharffenberger 70% chocolate and supplemented the rest with an equally dark Italian chocolate bought for me by my mother because of its name. After stirring in the chopped chocolate, the mixture transformed into this glossy, voluptuous, vanilla-specked puddle of pudding.

It took quite a bit of willpower not to eat the pudding warm, for dinner, and I think Ben would have been okay with that. But we dutifully ate our turbot (too fishy) and our salad while the pudding chilled. And then. Pure deliciousness. It was silky, yes, almost velvety. Blooming with chocolate flavor and an absolute delight to eat. It's like love and comfort in spoonable form. The pudding was a just reward for all the hard work, and thankfully, I've got a hot date tonight for more.

And that's it! That's all you'll get from me! For at least, um, ... two days.

Silky Chocolate Pudding
Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
6 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smoooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.

3. If you like pudding skin, pull plastic wrap over the top of the serving dish(es) before refrigerating. If you dislike pudding skin, place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.