old-fashioned chocolate pudding, courtesy of an antique store find
The other day, when I had a serious case of writer’s block, I realized I needed some culinary therapy. So I pulled out my favorite pudding recipe.
This pudding is one of the first things I learned how to cook. I know I was, at the oldest, 14 when I first made chocolate pudding using the recipe my mom’s old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It was delicious, despite my culinary ineptitude. And I made it several times in high school, always proud that I’d pulled off such a “complicated” recipe (it’s not actually very complicated).
My dad got me a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook of my own sometime during my teenage years, but there was one problem: it was new. The chocolate pudding recipe had changed and suddenly called for cocoa powder instead of unsweetened chocolate. Unacceptable.
So in college I found myself calling my mom to see if she could find that old chocolate pudding recipe in her cookbook, but she’d since either switched a newer version of the cookbook or gotten rid of the cookbook. I found a substitution formula online and proceeded, but I had my heart set on finding that old recipe, because I was pretty sure there was still something different (I’m not at all sure if that’s true).
Enter, antique stores. My mom and I were antique shopping a year or so later when I came across an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It was in pretty horrible condition, but it was old enough to have the original chocolate pudding recipe that called for unsweetened chocolate instead of cocoa. And of course, I went home with it. That, and a John F. Kennedy for President pin. I’m pretty sure my mom paid for all of that, so thanks again, Mom!
Adapted slightly from Better Homes & Garden; Serves 4 to 6
- 1 cup sugar (scant 1 cup sugar if you don’t want it to be very sweet – you can go as low as 3/4 cup)
- 2 TBSP cornstarch
- rounded 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups milk (skim works fine, but I’m sure the higher the fat content, the yummier it is)
- 2 oz (usually 2 squares) of unsweetened Baker’s chocolate
- 2 egg yolks, well-beaten
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Roughly chop the 2 squares / 2 oz of unsweetened chocolate.
In a 2 quart or larger saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together. Use a fork to sort of sift it and make sure it’s all well-blended.
Add in the chopped chocolate and the 2 cups milk. Stir well, and then heat over medium heat until it gets thick and bubbly. Stir constantly while it’s heating, because milk burns crazy easily–but if you can tell there’s a burned patch on the bottom, let it go. Do not scrape it up and let the burned flavor affect everything else. Let by-gones be by-gones. I have a difficult time with this, can you tell?
It’ll take about 5 to 10 minutes to get thick and bubbly, at which point, keep stirring and letting it bubble for 2 minutes more.
Then remove from heat.
Crack your 2 egg yolks into a small bowl (or the measuring cup that you measured the milk with, to reduce dirty dishes). Beat them well. Better Homes and Gardens tells you to beat them slightly, but I disagree. Anyway, add a little bit (about two tablespoons) of the hot milk/chocolate/cornstarch/etc mixture to the egg and stir it. Then pour this egg mixture into the pudding, stir well, and return to heat.
Cook for another two minutes, stirring constantly.
Off-heat, add in the butter and stir until it’s well-blended. Add the vanilla extract.
Transfer the pudding to a heat-safe bowl, or, if you want to get fancy, into individual little ramekins or bowls. Let cool for about fifteen to twenty minutes, until it’s room temperature.
Cover the bowl(s) with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for several hours or until the pudding has set. Then consume happily. And maybe share with other people.
Do you hate the skin that forms on the top of homemade pudding? Well, it hates you right back double. In all seriousness, I love pudding skin. Ew, that sounds gross. But I do. However, if you want to avoid this, I’m told (though I’ve never tried it), that you can prevent skin from forming by pressing plastic wrap directly onto the top of the pudding rather than just putting it over the top of the bowl.